About our exams
We have designed our graded music exams to motivate instrumental and singing students of all ages and a wide range of abilities. They are available at eight levels – Grades 1 to 8 – and provide:
- progressive goals to aim for;
- recognition for achievement;
- carefully structured syllabus requirements;
- one-to-one assessment by an expert professional;
- an objective guide to a candidate’s skills and progress.
There are no age restrictions and students can start with any grade or skip grades if they want to.
We believe in the importance of all-round musicianship and this forms the basis of our exams. To become an all-round musician students need a range of interlocking skills – in performance, technique, notation, and listening and musical perception – as well as knowledge, understanding and creativity. These are the things we assess in our exams.
To succeed in our exams candidates need a combination of skills and understanding. Broadly, we assess:
- performance skills through pieces or songs;
- technical skills through scales and arpeggios (or unaccompanied traditional song for singers);
- notation skills through a sight-reading test;
- and listening skills and musical perception through aural tests.
How music works
We also encourage students to learn about the way music works. They can explore musical knowledge and understanding as well as creative skills through our Music Theory, Practical Musicianship and Jazz exams.
Understanding how music works helps students to make music with greater awareness, confidence and sensitivity. It also becomes increasingly important as they progress with their learning. So, candidates who want to take an instrumental or Singing exam at Grade 6 or above must first pass Grade 5 (or above) in Music Theory, Practical Musicianship or a solo Jazz instrument. This ensures they have the knowledge and understanding they need to successfully interpret and perform the music in our higher grade syllabuses.
To provide a more candidate-friendly experience, we will be moving the assessment of Music Theory at Grades 1 to 5 to an online exam.
With a focus on creating a more reliable and accessible assessment, our new Online Music Theory assessments give candidates the best opportunity to demonstrate their musical knowledge and understanding.
A holistic approach
This holistic approach helps students to understand, perform and enjoy music. It provides strong foundations for musical growth and a set of skills which students can use for the rest of their lives.