The process of taking graded exams will give you the option to master the technicalities of your musical instrument. Additionally you will also acquire the necessary theory linked to it. This is why people enjoy taking music exams.
There are three different exam boards in the UK that set music graded exams. These are the ABRSM, Trinity College London and London College of Music. The ABRSM or Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music is the largest and most popular.
In addition to practical exams, the ABRSM also offers things like jazz exams and musical theory exams. Nevertheless, it is the practical exams in specific musical instruments that have by far the biggest take-up. Beginners must start at the grade one exam. These exams go all the way up to grade eight.
Now let’s have a look at what occurs during the practical exam. The first thing you need to know is that the exam is comprised of 4 different sections. Section one is the set pieces section. A lot of students worry about this one because it carries the most marks out of all the sections. You must score at least 20 out of 30 to pass the set pieces section. The student is required to play three set pieces that they have chosen from the course syllabus. They will bring along the sheet music for these pieces to the exam.
Next up is scales and arpeggios. This is where the student must play a number of scales and arpeggios in turn. The examiner will request each one individually. The total number of marks for the scales section is 21 and you must score a minimum of 14 to pass it.
The third component of the exam is the aural. This is all based around listening and testing the musical ear. In order to do this, the examiner will play the instrument and then ask a series of questions about what he’s just played. A spoken, clapped or sung response will be required. Twelve marks out of eighteen is the minimum score needed to pass the aural section.
The last section is one that most students get scared about. It is the sight reading section and requires a pass mark of 14 out of 21. The reason why students get nervous about this is because here they must play from a piece of sheet music they have never seen before. The examiner will give them this sheet music and a half a minute to prepare and practice the piece.
All in all, the total number of marks you can score on a music exam is 150. You will need to get at least 100 to pass and be awarded the grade. There are two higher levels you can also attain. If you score 120 you will be awarded a special commendation known as a “pass with merit”. If you score 130 marks or more you will be awarded a “pass with distinction.”
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