Preparing for an exam, especially if it is your first grade, can be daunting and it is hard to know what to expect! It is important to remember that the examiner is there to give useful information about your playing and to look at things that could be improved as well as commenting on aspects of your playing that are successful and positive. Performing beforehand on lots of different pianos will help you become accustomed to the feel of different upright and grand pianos as they all have a very different feel. It is also a good idea to perform to as many friends and family as possible. This will help nerves as it can feel very different performing in an exam situation compared with the relaxed nature of a piano lesson. Above all, it is important to enjoy your exam and see it as a positive performance opportunity! Regular practise will help you become comfortable when playing your pieces and scales and your teacher will practice the aural tests and sight reading with you on a regular basis.
For more information on the preparation involved in taking your graded exams, follow this link: http://www.abrsm.org/resources/theseMusicExams0607.pdf
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: