Music Exams! What do you think?

December 13, 2016



Music Exams


After being asked many times about music exams and what I think about them I decided to write about the subject in a blog post. I am going to talk from my own experience, as a student who went through the examination system and later as the a teacher.


There are some teachers, and some parents, who think that learning to play an instrument is simply a matter of moving from one grade examination to the next, and that if you don't do this you can't be making any progress. This is quite wrong. It is not a good idea to let the pursuit of the grade stop your children enjoying music.


As a teacher I try not to allow myself or my students to get stuck with examinations. We do recitals, compositions, and other activities during lessons. I use exams for what they are; tests that give me and my students a target to meet.





Pros of music exams:

  • Working within a frame of a carefully and professionally prepared syllabus towards a well defined goal.


  • Continuous measurement of progress by an internationally recognized grading system.


  • Assessment by well recognized and respected musician.


  • Boosting confidence by giving the opportunity to perform in front of a stranger for a real sense of achievement. This can be later transferred to other areas of life.


  • Obtain certification that will aid towards university acceptance and gaining university entrance points.



Cons of music exams:

  • They may not help foster a love of music itself when used to pile on pressure on the children instead of being used as a relaxation and a fun hobby to have.


  • The examination mainly consists, of playing three pieces of music and some scales. It means that you could go all the way up to Grade 8 (the highest) with only have learnt 24 short pieces. Not satisfactory sort of progress!


  • There is the risk of learning only the exam syllabus and ignoring developing as a musician and enjoying music for its own sake.




I am for doing music exams in the condition that they are kept as part of the picture, but NOT the whole picture.

A heavy reliance on the examination system will result in teaching the end goal instead of thinking in a broad context about what the students really need to learn.




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