Latest exam updates

Practical Session 2 Update – Germany

We appreciate how much the cancellation of our exams has affected learners and we’re working hard on solutions to ensure they can gain their qualifications at the earliest opportunity.

Provided travel and COVID restrictions remain lifted, we will open a booking period from 11 August– 21 August September with exams to be held November - December. We will continue to keep this under review as our ability to accept bookings remains conditional on the restrictions continuing to be lifted. An update to Applicants will be announced as soon as we can and our Representatives will provide further guidance in due course. We are looking forward to providing candidates with exams again and thank you for your loyalty and support at this difficult time.

Exam information

Same standards. Different format.

With a focus on creating a more reliable and accessible assessment, Online Music Theory exams give candidates the best opportunity to demonstrate their musical knowledge and understanding.

To support the format of these new online exams, we have updated some of the Grade 1 to 5 questions to bring them in line with a style of assessment commonly used across the education sector.

Although the way in which you take your exam has changed, and some of the questions have been updated, we are still testing the same musical knowledge and understanding, to the same standards.

When can I take this new assessment?

The first opportunity to take an online Music Theory exam varies across markets. The following markets will have online Music Theory exams for Grades 1 to 5 in November or December 2020:

  • UK, Republic of Ireland, Singapore, India, Czech Republic, Russia, Slovakia, Malta

The roll-out of the new online Music Theory exams for all other markets will take place during 2021, with preparations being made during the rest of 2020.

Please check your Exam Date and Fees pages for the latest information. For exams in 2021, we be uploading new date and fee information on this page before the end of the year.

How will I take this new assessment?

Candidates take their exam in any location where they have access to a laptop or desktop computer with a webcam and the internet.

Our exam guidelines provide more information on the requirements for booking, preparing for, and taking an Online Music Theory exam at Grades 1 to 5.

Grade 1 to 5 – what’s changing?

You can view a summary of the updated syllabus here. This applies from 2020 for online exams, where they are available. All paper-based exams in 2020 and 2021 will continue to use the ‘from 2018’ syllabus.

  • We have adapted the style of some questions for use in an online exam. If you are familiar with our paper exams, the online version of some questions will look different. Candidates who have been entered for an exam will have the opportunity to practice some sample online questions before the exam day.
  • There are new question types including more multiple-choice. This is to ensure objective, reliable and robust, assessment.
  • The knowledge required for each grade will be tested in full in every individual exam paper.
  • We are removing the requirement to demonstrate accurate copying of music. Candidates will still demonstrate their knowledge of how to write music.
  • There will be a total of 75 marks available rather than 100 marks. Candidates will need 50 marks for a Pass, 60 marks for a Merit and 65 marks for a Distinction.
  • Grade 2: candidates currently have a choice of the harmonic or melodic form of minor scales. This is changing to harmonic.
  • Grade 3: questions about phrase structure are no longer included.
  • Grade 5: identifying the progression 6/4 5/3 (Ic-V) on the dominant note in any of the keys set for this grade is no longer be required.
  • Grade 5: we are adding the requirement that candidates can recognise and name perfect, plagal and imperfect cadences. Currently candidates have to indicate suitable chord progressions for two cadences – it makes sense that they should also be able to name those cadences. You can see some example questions here: Grade 5 Cadence Question Examples.
  • We have reduced the number of terms and signs, removing any that musicians are unlikely to experience in their practical/performance learning at the same grade. This supports better progression from grade to grade and ensures the required knowledge is more relevant and useful to learners. An updated list of terms and signs is available here: Terms and Signs for Grades 1 to 5 from 2020
  • We are removing the requirement to transpose an entire melody between clefs, but are still assessing fundamental knowledge of transposition between clefs and keys.
  • We are not making any changes to the core musical understanding that candidates will be asked to demonstrate in their exam at Grades 1 to 5.
  • The level and value of the exams is staying the same.
  • We are not changing the duration of the exams.
  • We are not making any changes to the questions or syllabus at Grades 6 to 8.

Got a question?

What are the changes?

How do the updated exams better support our learners?

What is ABRSM’s process for updating the Music Theory syllabus and assessment?

How have we ensured the exam is robust and maintains standards?

Why are we using multiple-choice questions?

How have we ensured the exam is accessible for neurodiverse learners?

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