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 switch between boards as you progress up the grades. As always, the best advice will come from your teacher.

Organising Exam Entries

Your child’s teacher will advise you when you child is ready to take a practical exam, select an appropriate Board, Grade and pieces from the syllabus, and generally prepare the child for the exam.

EMS Exam Entry Service for Face-to-Face Exams at Local Examination Centres

Under normal circumstances,  exams are held in local exam centres in Ealing, which children attend with a parent or carer to perform their examination pieces in person (‘face-to-face’) for the examiner. For younger children making possibly their first public performance, this is a big event!

Most practical exams require an accompanist, the exceptions being piano/keyboard and percussion. Arranging for an accompanist can be as much a challenge for parents as the exam is for the child, and so to make things simpler, EMS offers an ‘Exam Entry Service’, a ‘one stop shop’ where EMS takes care of all the admin, registers the child for the exam and an accompanist where required. EMS accompanists are highly experienced in working with young musicians and will help put them at their ease so they can deliver their best performance. on the day.

Direct Entry for Exams with Remote Assessment (Spring Term 2021)

Whilst the schools are in lockdown due to COVID, exam Boards have introduced exams with ‘remote assessment’ using recordings of the child’s performances. These records are usually made in the home with the support of the child’s parent /carer with instrumental accompaniment, where required, provided by a backing track.

For these ‘remotely assessed’ exams, the child’s parent or carer registers for the exam directly through the Board website and in due course submits it through the Board website.

The exam Boards provide lots of advice and guidance on how to enter the exams, make recordings, etc. through their websites, and your child’s teacher will guide you through the process – EMS teachers are very experienced in making recordings of performances as part of their online teaching practice – and help provide backing tracks and other materials as required as part of the process of preparing the child for the exam.

Trinity Digital Grade and Diploma Exams

The Trinity ‘remote assessed’ exam is called the Digital Grades and Diploma (DGD). Exam ‘appointments’ are available throughout the year. Once the appointment has been made you then have two week to submitted the performances for marking.

To enter a DGD exam, please visit Classical & Jazz Digital Grades | Trinity College London

ABRSM ‘Remote Assessment’ Exams

ABRSM has introduced ‘Remote Assessment’ as an option for practical exams taken during the current (Spring) term. Entries are organised by’ booking session’  as shown in the table below. Please note that you cannot make an appointment until the Booking Period opens.

Session Booking Period Exam Dates
Three 1-8 February 2021 1-21 March 2021
Four 1-8 March 2021 6-26 April 2021

For further details and advice on how to enter, please visit ABRSM: Exam appointments

For more information see:

Exam Board Fees

The exam Board fees are paid through the exam Board website when registering for the exam. The fees are:

Board/Grade Pre 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
TRINITY £38 £43 £47 £52 £59 £66 £73 £81 £91
ABRSM £40 £44 £50 £58 £63 £69 £80 £85 £101