Examinations are now so much an important part of education and a students experience that music and the piano are no exception, in fact many parents and pupils insist on only taking exams. Personally I think this is disappointing, as learning to play the piano is about appreciating a wider experience of different musical styles, and developing a deeper understanding of music than can be gained by only learning only three pieces of music for each level of attainment. It is about discovery and developing a deeper understanding of music, it's history, stylistic developments and it's place within a wider historical, artistic and philosophical context. But it is also the case, that despite my own preference for teaching non-examination music, there are pupils and parents who only wish to pursue the examination route, often to attain UCAS points or because they feel that this is the purpose of learning an instrument, or sometimes there are pupils who will only practise if they working to an exam deadline. So all types must be catered for!
Having taken ABRSM exams when I was younger and therefore being familiar to their system, these are the exams I study with my pupils. There are other examination boards, such as Trinity College and London College of Music, but so far I have not used them, although are a number attractions to each system. Exams are useful in the teaching of pupils as they are a positive goal to aim for, and a widely accepted and understood measure of progress and attainment.
All my pupils, unless they specifically request not too, are entered for the graded ABRSM exams at the appropriate moment in their develpment as piano players and musicians. Fot some years now, working with local instrumental teachers, I run ABRSM Special Visit exams at my house, three times a year. These take place shortly after the normal exam period for exams at the Liverpool Centre, at the Friends Meeting House next to Bluecoat Chambers. This means, not only do pupils and teachers know the date for the exams some 3 months in advance, but also for my own pupils then take their exam on the samepiano as they have their piano lessons. Exams take place just before Christmas, shortly after Easter and in July at the end of the school year.
The marking scheme for ABRSM exams is as follows: Pass ............... 100
Merit ............. 120
Distinction ... 130
Total ............. 150
For more details go to the ABRSM website.
I also prepare pupils and accompany pupils for their GCSE, AS and A Level performances, for which information should be obtained from your school and relevant music department. I am always prepared and happy to discuss individual requirements as necessary.
When pupils take the ABRSM exams, after Grade 5 Practical, in order to proceed to Grade 6 and above, ie. those exams that accrue UCAS points, they have to pass the Theory Grade 5 exam. I teach Grade 5 Theory at a suitable moment in the any students development, whether my pupils or others, and I have achieved a 100% pass rate.
There has recently been a change to the allocation of UCAS Points for Grades 6-8, which will come into effect for University applications for courses starting 2017/18. A full breakdown of Graded exam equivalence and UCAS allocation can be found by clicking here.