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What is an ABRSM graded music exam?

Focusing on all-round musicianship

Bowed StringsWe 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.

ABRSM exams are music exams rather than instrumental or singing exams. Examiners are assessing the quality of the music-making, not how it is achieved. For this reason we do not restrict examiners to assessing only their own instrument but require them to examine all instruments.

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.

What is included in the exam?

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;
  • notation skills through a sight-reading test;
  • and listening skills and musical perception through aural tests.

How many marks are available?

Total marks in all individual Practical exams are 150.

  • 100 marks are required to achieve a pass
  • 120 marks are required to pass with merit
  • 130 marks are required to pass with distinction

Find out more about each part of the exam:

Three pieces
(each marked out of 30)

Experiencing a selection of good music is an essential part of musical learning.

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Sight-reading
(marked out of 21)

Being able to sight-read enables students to explore new pieces with increased confidence.

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Scales & arpeggios
(marked out of 21)

Students can develop many aspects of technique through scale practice, including familiarity with the physicality of their instrument or voice, articulation, tone and intonation.

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Aural tests
(marked out of 18)

Listening is the basis of all good music making. ABRSM aural tests are designed to strengthen the vital connection between listening and performing.

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Other key exam information:

Our examiners

Our examining panels consist of over 700 musicians, all highly qualified and skilled in their own field.

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Our exam syllabuses

We offer graded instrumental and singing exams for over 35 subjects

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