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These music exams
A guide to ABRSM exams forcandidates, teachers and parents
These music examsA guide to ABRSM exams forcandidates, teachers and parents
Clara TaylorChief Examiner
First published in 1982
This edition published in 1998, with amendments 2001, 2005 and 2009,by ABRSM, 24 Portland Place, London W1B 1LU, United Kingdom
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be stored in a retrieval system,or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
Cover design by kvik DesignPrinted in England by Headley Brothers Ltd, The Invicta Press, Ashford, Kent
Outline plan 6
1 Why take a music exam? 9
2 Before the exam 10Preparation tips 11
for candidates 11 mainly for teachers 13 for both teachers and parents 14
Helpful hints AZ 15Access 15Accompanists 15Age limits 16Aural tests 16Date of exams 16Editions of music 17Grade 5 Theory, Practical Musicianship 18
or Jazz as a prerequisiteMetronome marks 19Order of exam 19Ornaments 20Page-turns 20Playing from memory 21Repeats and da capo 21Scale requirements 21Sight-reading 21
Other tests, other exams 22Prep Test 22Performance Assessment 22Jazz exams 22Ensembles 23Choral singing 23Music Medals 24
3 On the day 25Nerves 25Warming up, tuning up 26
For piano candidates 27For other instrumentalists 27
Who will the examiner be? 28Exam timings 29Practical exam elements 29
Pieces 30Technical requirements 30Recommended minimum speeds 31
for scales and arpeggiosSight-reading 33Aural tests 33
Hints and tips for candidates 34Practical exams 34
How do examiners assess performance? 36Assessment objectives 36Assessment criteria 38
The view from the examiners chair 43Theory exams 44
Hints and tips for candidates 44How do markers assess theory papers? 45
4 After the exam 48The examiners mark form 48The results and after 48
But what if I fail? 50Next steps 51Diplomas 51Professional development 52
Certificate of Teaching (CT ABRSM) course 52Teaching Music Effectively 53Introduction to Instrumental and Vocal Teaching 54Jazz courses 54
5 Getting in touch 55
At the very heart of ABRSMs work lie three convictions: first, that thejourney towards musical accomplishment is of great intrinsic value tothose who embark purposefully upon it; secondly, that milestonesenable most travellers to travel faster and further; and, thirdly, thatABRSM exams are the best milestones for this particular journey.
There is no need to use this Introduction to argue the first of thesepropositions. Almost every reader of this booklet will already beconvinced of the immense educational benefits, fulfilment and joywhich the development of musical skills can generate.
Milestones should not be misused. Reaching the next one is never theultimate purpose of a journey. Their dual function is to provide animmediate goal and a measure of progress to date; and most of usneed both of these at regular intervals to help us on our way. This istrue irrespective of our starting point, the length of journeyundertaken, or the speed at which we travel.
ABRSM exams have exactly these characteristics and qualities in thecontext of learning a musical instrument. They are the outcome oflong experience and a continuing collaborative and consultativeprocess amongst leading musicians, both teachers and performers,ensuring that each element of musicianship is fully explored andaccurately measured at each grade.
ABRSMs graded music exams for individual instruments, singing andtheory, as well as diplomas and Music Medals, are accredited by theregulatory authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland andare part of the National Qualifications Framework. The Universitiesand Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) includes Grades 68 in thetariff for university and college entrance.
The examinations are now undertaken by over 600,000 studentsthroughout the world each year and so provide the internationalbenchmarks for the measurement of musical achievement. We remaindeeply conscious of our resultant responsibilities to teachers andcandidates and strive to maintain the highest levels of integrity andconsistency in our professional work.
These Music Exams, written by ABRSMs Chief Examiner, Clara Taylor,provides expert practical advice to candidates, teachers and parentsand seeks to show the Boards professional work in as transparent away as possible. I commend it to you.
Richard MorrisChief Executive
Grade 8 Practical (and, forTeaching, Grade 6 Theory) orsubstitutions must be passedbefore taking DipABRSM
Each level of diploma orits substitution must bepassed before proceedingto the next level
Piano, Jazz Piano, Organ,Harpsichord
Violin, Viola, Cello,Double Bass, Guitar, Harp
Recorder, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet,Jazz Clarinet, Bassoon,Saxophone, Jazz Sax
Horn, Trumpet, Jazz Trumpet,Cornet, Flugelhorn, Eb Horn,Trombone, Jazz Trombone, BassTrombone, Baritone,Euphonium, Tuba
Theory, Practical Musicianship
Graded music exams
Candidates may be entered in anygrade without previously havingtaken any other Practical grade
NB Jazz subjects:Grades 15 only
Grade 5 or above in Theory,Practical Musicianship or solo jazzsubject must be passed before takingPractical Grades 6 or above
Violin, Viola, Cello,Double Bass, Guitar
Descant Recorder, Flute, Oboe,Clarinet, Bassoon, Saxophone
Horn, Trumpet, Cornet,Flugelhorn, Eb Horn,Trombone, Baritone,Euphonium
Designed for pupils after69 months tuition.It can be used to preparepupils for the gradedmusic exams.
Outline plan 7
Set piece (or song)
Piece (or song) of candidatesown choice
Listening games/Aural tests
Three set pieces (or songs)(Singing Grades 68: four songs)
Scales & broken chords/arpeggios(Singing: unaccompanied traditionalsong)
Sight-reading(Solo jazz subjects: quick study)
Section 1:Performance(Teaching: viva voce demonstration)
Section 2:Viva voce including written work(Teaching: written submission)
Quick study(Music Direction: arrangement)
This outline plan is intended for generalguidance only. Please refer to the currentExamination Information & Regulationsbooklet and relevant syllabuses for exactdetails of all exams.
Ensembles:Primary, Intermediate & Advanced levels
Jazz Ensembles:Initial, Intermediate & Advanced levels
Choral Singing:Initial, Intermediate & Advanced levels
Performance Assessment:A non-graded and unmarked assessment foradults aged 21 or over and those below this agewith special needs.
Music Medals:Assessments for individual instrumental pupilstaught as part of a group (initially available inthe UK only). Five levels: Copper, Bronze, Silver,Gold and Platinum.
UK National Qualifications Framework
ABRSMs instrumental, singing andtheory graded exams, diploma exams andMusic Medals have been accredited atthe following levels within the NationalQualifications Framework:
ABRSMqualification NQF level
MusicMedalsCopper Entry level 3Bronze, Silver, Gold 1Platinum 2
Grades13 14 & 5 268 3
DiplomasDipABRSM 4LRSM 6FRSM 7
Your exam will be at 10.45 on 15 March.Please attend 10 minutes beforehand.
Candidates, teachers and parents will all feel the impact of those wordsin their own ways and it would be a rare being who did not experiencea quiver of anticipation. Whether you are a teacher, parent or candidate,you will find information, guidance and explanation in this booklet,which will help you through the preparation for the exam, the bigday itself and also the period just afterwards.
At all stages, it is well worth remembering that whilst nothing focusesall round practice as effectively as an exam, it is the progress madeduring this preparation period that really matters.
ABRSM has been giving structure and support and setting standardsfor over a hundred years. During that time much has been tried, testedand consolidated. We use that wealth of experience for the benefitand guidance of the many hundreds of thousands who regularly takethe grades, knowing that they are part of the most respected andvalued system of music exams in the world.
The mark form written during the exam and the impressive certificateare permanent reminders, but it is the quality of achievement thatmakes this particular musical journey so valuable for each individual.
Clara TaylorChief Examiner
1 Why take a music exam?
Enjoyment through achievement is a phrase that sums up ourphilosophy, and earning an ABRSM certificate is a rewardingexperience. If you are working hard to make progress with your musicyou need some way of recognising your success and reassurance thatyou are on the right road. This is exactly what music exams offer:
motivation and inspiration, worki