Graded Music Exams:

Music examinations provide a formal assessment of the accomplishments of pupils learning musical instruments. The exams are graded from 1 to 8, with Grade 1 being the entry level, and Grade 8 being the standard required for entry to higher study in a music college. Most exam boards also offer Initial level qualifications as a useful preparation before the Grade 1 exam.

Music exams are set in both theory and practical aspects. The theory examinations are taken by pupils of all instruments and typically cover areas such as musical notation, construction of scales and composition. The practical exams concentrate on the particular instrument favoured by the pupil, for example piano, guitar or flute. They cover elements such as playing set pieces, technical work including scales, sight reading, aural, musical knowledge and improvisation.

There are a number of organisations who provide assessment in musical ability which are open to all. All exam boards are different and the process of selecting an Exam Board and organising the exam entry can be quite daunting for a new pupil, parent and even teacher.

Click the graphics below for more information about each Exam Board.


No one board is better or harder than another; they just test different things in different ways and you can swap between boards as you progress up the grades. As always, the best advice will come from your teacher, although we hope to give you some help here.

Things to remember once you have chosen which board and exam to go for:

  • Organise an accompanist: For most instruments, you will need an accompanist to play the piano part of the pieces during the exam. Your teacher may well be able and willing to do this, and if not, they should be responsible for finding an accompanist for the exam. There will be an extra charge for this service. Some ideas on finding an accompanist can be found at the bottom of this page.
  • Don’t miss the deadline: Each exam board has specific exam windows of about 5 weeks. These are normally towards the end of each term. Therefore, the deadline for exam entries being received is normally in the first couple of weeks of each term.
  • Information: Make sure you have all the information needed from your child’s teacher before going to book the exam (what grade, which exam, etc.). Your teacher may book it for you if you are lucky!

Booking your exam through Ealing Music Service:

Ealing Music Service is relaunching its ‘Exam Entry’ service ready the Summer term. This new service has been developed to provide a ‘one stop shop’ to simplify the process of entering practical and theory exams for singing, and for orchestral and contemporary instruments.

This includes providing advance notice of exam dates and venues; managing exam entries; arranging for accompanists, and other materials and support that may be needed.

Click here for an information sheet detailing venues, dates and costs

Use the links below to submit your application for an EMS Supported Exam.

Exam Entry Deadline: Thursday May 9

Exams Dates: June 24 – 29, 2019

Exam Venue: Havens Green, Ealing

Online Booking: https://www.trybooking.co.uk/6825

Exam Entry Deadline: Thursday May 20

Exams Dates: June 23 – Jul 7, 2019

Exam Venue: Kew, Richmond

Online Booking: https://www.trybooking.co.uk/6837

Booking an accompanist:

If you have booked an exam during one of the EMS exam sessions and have not already booked your accompanist Please click here

If you have booked an exam directly through the Exam Board and would like EMS to provide an accompanist please contact EMS for advice before proceeding. 


Why not check out Music Case, the free app from ABRSM to support practice.

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