Exam Information for Students and Parents

When you are entered for an exam, you will be entered for some time in a 1 month period (always during school term time). We will not find out the exact date until a few weeks before the exam.

There are 4 parts to the ABRSM exams: scales, pieces, sight reading and aural. Pieces are worth 30 marks each, for a total of 90 marks. Scales are worth 21 marks. Sight reading is also worth 21 marks. The aural test is worth 18 marks. The total number of marks available is 150. 100 marks are needed to pass, 120 for a merit, and 130 for a distinction.

1) Scales

You will be asked to play some of the scales and arpeggios you have been learning. You will either be asked to play them legato (slurred) or tongued.

Take your time when asked to play, and think through both the speed of the scale/arpeggio and also the key signature (# and b's). Make sure you have a big breath of air and enough support to play the whole scale. Ideally scales should be played in one breath.

Scales should be practised every day.

2) Pieces

You will perform 3 pieces in your exam, 2 will be accompanied by the piano. One piece is unaccompanied. I do not offer exam accompaniment, so you must find your own accompanist who is willing to rehearse the pieces with you, and if possible help with the aural practice part (see below). I can help with finding a pianist if needed. It is also worth noting the pianist will charge you for rehearsals and the exam. Make sure your pianist is available for the exam period for which you are entered.

Pieces are worth the majority of your marks, so this is where most of your practice should be focused.

3) Sight Reading

You will be given a short piece of music which you have never seen before. You will be given 30 seconds to look at the music and practise any difficult passages. After this time the examiner will expect a prompt response.

Tips for sight reading:

  • Look at the key signature, try to remember what sharps and flats, if any, need to be played.
  • Look at the tempo marking at the start of the piece and try and stick to a steady speed.
  • Consider the time signature - how many beats are in the bar? You will need to keep this in mind as you play.
  • Look at the dynamics. Try and pay close attention to these as you play.
  • Look out for difficult rhythms/jumps in the music. Find the most difficult bar and practise this first. What speed can you comfortably manage to play this?
  • Finally, keep going, and don't stop if you make a mistake.

4) Aural Test

These are variable depending on the grade you are taking. Practise as much as you can before the exam. A prompt response is required here, and knowledge of Italian terms is encouraged, particularly where dynamics are being discussed.

Information From the Exam Board

If you have an apple ipad or iPod, this aural training app may be of use.

In-depth guide to exams (PDF file).

Brief guide to exams (PDF file).