Examinations and Qualifications

Looking to get recognition for your musical efforts? There’s a huge range of exams and qualifications available that can do just this. Even better, I have an excellent track record for exam results from all my students, which have recently included:

  • LCM Music Theatre Grade 5 with Distinction
  • Trinity Music Theory Grade 8 with Merit
  • ABRSM Singing Grade 3 with Merit

If you’re interested in taking music exams, here’s a quick guide to the types of exams I am able to prepare candidates for:

Types of Qualifications

There are four main types of qualifications for music:

 

ABRSM Exam Certificates

Preparatory exams – Each board approaches testing absolute beginners differently. ABRSM offers an un-graded prep test. Trinity offers a marked “initial” exam and LCM has two marked “step” exams. These exams are aimed at young performers just starting to take formal music exams.

Graded exams – All boards offer these progressive exams from grades 1 (for beginners) to grade 8 (advanced) for practical subjects like singing, as well as written theory exams. There’s no requirement to take all the exams, so more experienced or adult students may start at grades 3-5. The majority of these exams carry UCAS points at Grades 6-8.

Diploma exams – Diploma exams are offered by all the main examination boards, and these are professional qualifications, rather than an extension of the graded system. In addition to a range of performing and theory qualifications, all three main exam boards offer diplomas in teaching and conducting. Sucess at these levels comes with the right to put letters after your name.

School exams – Music is offered as a subject by the SQA at all examination levels, including National 3-5, Higher and Advanced Higher. I offer specialist tutoring to support students taking these exams, as well as preparation for the performance aspect for existing students.

The Big Three: The Exam Boards

In the UK, there are three main exam boards which provide music qualifications:

All these boards are registered with Qfqual and they all provide some exams which are recognised and accredited by UCAS.

The Exams I Offer

ABRSM Mark SheetsPreparatory Exams (ABRSM/Trinity)For young and/or nervous singers, I offer both the ABRSM’s unmarked prep test, and Trinity’s Initial Exam. Both require candidates to sing a few short, simple songs and complete supporting tests. [Click for Prep test information] [Click for Initial exam syllabus]

Classical Singing Graded Exams/Diplomas (ABRSM) – Candidates are asked to present three songs at grades 1 to 5, and four songs at grades 6-8. Unlike the other boards, one song must be chosen from each list in the board’s syllabus. The lists are extensive, ranging from around 25 items to 40+. Each of the lists has a different style of music. ABRSM also requires candidates to present one unaccompanied song in place of scale requirements. There are two supporting tests: sight-reading and aural tests. Grade 5 theory is required to take practical exams at Grades 6-8. [UCAS Accredited] [Click for syllabus]

Music Theatre Performance Graded Exams/Diplomas (LCM) – Rather than having candidates pick from pre-defined lists, the LCM Music Theatre Performance exams (Step 1- Grade 8) use date ranges to encourage candidates to put together a “well balanced” programme. This gives great scope for creativity. There are no supporting tests, but candidates are expected to show acting and movement skills. There are also marks for appropriate use of props and costumes. Each exam concludes with a short marked viva (discussion) about the songs presented. [UCAS Accredited] [Click for syllabus]

Music Literacy Graded Exams/Diplomas (Trinity Guildhall) – Although ABRSM are the only board to require a theory exam for higher graded exams, Trinity offer the most up-to-date and well rounded theory syllabus. These exams support wider musicianship and learning by helping candidates to understand both how to read and write music and how to make music sound good (i.e. the construction of Western harmony). [UCAS Accredited] [Click for syllabus]

Composition Graded Exams [2, 4, 6 & 8 only] (LCM) – For students studying more advanced theory, there is the option to expand into exploring composition. LCM offer graded exams by postal submission which cover both original composition and arranging. [Click for syllabus]

Practical Musicianship Graded Exams (ABRSM) – An alternative to Grade 5 theory exams, candidates can choose to focus on aural skills and study for a qualification in practical musicianship. These exams draw on the aural tests used by ABRSM and expand into skills such as improvisation and score reading. [Click for syllabus]

I also offer coaching for a range of church music exams, which are outlined on the church music page.