Later today I will be publishing our ABRSM and Rockschool exam results from the July Summer session. In the meantime, here’s some interesting information taken from the ABRSM web site about the number of candidates entering for graded exams by instrument. You can see just how popular the piano is in the UK and also what grades candidates achieved at examinations. As a keen harpsichordist, it’s a shame that only 15 students entered exams in 2009. I’m hoping to boost those numbers by getting more pianists learning the harpsichord too! I organise harpsichord competitions for musicians of all ages and abilities as well as workshops at Handel House Museum and Peregrine’s Pianos.
I believe that the average age for a candidate taking Grade 1 piano is 10. I cannot find the exact reference for this, although there is mention of this in an old copy of ‘Libretto‘, a magazine published by the ABRSM. This also states that the ‘typical Grade 5 practical candidate is 14 years old’.
ABRSM’s graded music exams for individual instruments, singing and Theory as well as diplomas and Music Medals are accredited by the regulatory authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and are part of the National Qualifications Framework. In Australia, Canada and South Africa, ABRSM exams can be used for credit towards the relevant qualifications taken by students completing compulsory secondary education. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) includes Grades 6–8 in the tariff for UK university and college entrance.
Many students do not realise that they can practice the aural tests at home but there is a really fantastic web site that you can use to help you prepare. See this link – there are lots of free tests plus it’s very reasonably priced to subscribe:
I thought it may also be useful to see some of the comments sheets from examiners to compare and contrast this with the Marking Criteria. See below for the PDF with the breakdown of marks and the comments from actual exams ranging from Passes to Distinction.
Hannah talks about the importance of Mock Exams: I first sat a mock exam before my Grade 1 Piano exam. I was a very nervous student and whenever I played in front of other people I always made mistakes. Lorraine suggested I sit a mock exam with Graham Fitch who was the adjudicator at the Dulwich Piano Festival last year. The purpose of the mock exam was to ensure I was prepared for any mishaps that might happen on exam day and allow me the time to overcome these before the real exam. I still found the mock exam stressful and had butterflies in my tummy.
However he was very nice and put me at ease. He talked me through my performance and offered suggestions on areas to improve. This is really good for your confidence before doing the real exam. I now sit mocks for all exams and have sat them for my Grade 2 Piano and my Grade 1 Cello. I have done well in all three of my exams and I am sure sitting the mock has helped and I would encourage students to sit them.
Written by Hannah Wickham, age 10 (Dulwich Hamlets Junior School). Hannah is taking her Grade 3 exam next month and studies with Lorraine Liyanage.