At some stage in your piano lessons, you will be given the option of taking graded music exams with the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM). These range from the Preparatory Test right through to grade 8 and eventually the performance Diplomas. In the Prep Test, there are two short pieces of music to play along with a selection of finger exercises. There are also some musical questions about rhythm and dynamics etc. There is no “pass” or “fail” for this exam. Instead, the examiner writes a detailed assessment of the student’s performance and gives advice and tips for improving your piano playing. A lot of pupils find it helpful to learn the Prep Test music even if they are not intending to take the exam as it is a useful way to establish how you are progressing.
After the Prep Test, there are the graded exams (1-8). In all of these exams, you will learn three pieces from a selection of music published in the ABRSM books. You also have to learn all the scales and arpeggios for the grade. Finally, there is a sight reading test and aural tests which your piano teacher will help you with in the run up to the exam. The results are out of 150 possible marks; 100 will give you a pass, 120 will give you a merit and 130 will give you a distinction.
The exciting news for 2011 is that a new syllabus has been created by the board! There is a wide range of music including baroque, classical and romantic pieces as well as American spirituals, jazz pieces and contemporary music. For more information about the new syllabus and where to find the exam centres in Brighton and Hove, follow this link: