Music exams – What are they for?
While certificates may look great adorning your wall, the best way to view music exams is as a tool to achieve your goals: namely to play fluently, develop speed and accuracy, extend your repertoire, play music at sight, or develop your musical ear. Different examining boards offer music exams providing enough variety in their approach to allow students to target the skills that matter to them.
Accredited exams are best
The leading music exam boards, which include ABRSM, Trinity, Rockschool, and RGT all enjoy accreditation, meaning among other things that you can amass useful UCAS points when you take either practical or music theory exams. This can be most useful, as your UCAS points can help you to get into the University of your choice.
A quick overview
ABRSM (or the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) offers traditional music exams in a wide variety of practical subjects (ie instruments or voice) and theory. Additionally, ABRSM also offer Jazz exams from grades 1 to 5 in piano, saxophone, clarinet, flute, trumpet/cornet and trombone.
Trinity College London take a different slant from the ABRSM. Although still quite traditional, the flavour is noticeably different, with pieces in different styles, and a different emphasis with the tests, typically with less scale playing and more focus on relevant background knowledge. Uniquely, Trinity College also offer real scope for creative musicians, with room for inclusion of a student’s own composition in place of one of the set pieces.