Music exams


Most students will be offered the chance to take a music exam after they have been learning for a while. Your teacher will help you prepare and make an entry for you to take the exam. Exams provide an excellent recognition of your hard work and success and reassurance that you are on the right road.

The most popular exam boards are

Visit their websites to find out more about what you have to play, how much it costs to take an exam, when exams take place, and lots more information.

ABRSM have put together a useful guide These Music Exams. Trinity have just launched a YouTube channel to support you as you prepare for a music exam.

What is a music exam?

  • Exam Boards send examiners around the world to assess developing musicians. The Boards each produce a syllabus that explains what is expected – usually a list of pieces you can choose from and other tests such as sight reading, listening tests, technical work and musical knowledge.
  • Most Exam Boards offer an introductory ‘preliminary level’ assessment for players who have not been playing for long and then a series of Grade Exams from 1 up to 8. After Grade 8 many musicians choose to take diploma examinations which if passed mean they can use letters after their name. Associate diplomas are the first level after Grade 8, followed by Licentiate and finally Fellowship diplomas.
  • If you want to study music at Music Conservatoire or University, a good mark at Grade 8 is required. For most young players achieving a good pass at Grade 8 by the time they leave school at aged 18 is a challenging but realistic goal.
  • Do you have to take exams if you have singing or instrumental lessons? No! You certainly do not. Passing an exam is an excellent way to measure your progress and musical development. For many it is also a very useful target to work towards. Goals can be really useful motivation to practise and improve.
  • It is also worth noting that the higher Grades carry UCAS points which can also come in useful even if not applying for a music course.