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17/08/2017

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How many scales in an ABRSM exam?

A question often wondered by students going into an exam is "How many scales will I be asked?"


This post is basically in answer to a question I received on one of my videos on my YouTube channel.

the absolute minimum would be one of each type of scale, and this number increases with the higher grades

In answer to this, I would say that the absolute minimum would be one of each type of scale, and this number increases with the higher grades. It seems from experience that there is usually an easy one at the beginning to settle the candidate down, followed by more difficult ones. If you make a complete mess of one, the examiner may give you a second chance by asking another similar one. The mark for the scales is based on an overall impression, not only of how well the candidate knows the various keys, but also fluency, evenness, how promptly the candidate responds and that the speed matches the grade. So the odd mistake or one disastrous scale won't necessarily lose that many marks. 




It is believed, that examiners are supposed to work their way through all the scales and arpeggios required for the grade over the course of various candidates - otherwise, it would quickly become known that a certain examiner  always asks for Bb minor etc. Experience suggest also, that they aim to ask a mix of easy and difficult scales for each person, so you would be pretty unlucky to get all the worst scales for a grade, but you are bound to get some of them.

Examiners are aware that nerves play a role in exams and may well give the candidate a second chance to repeat a scale. A  struggling 
candidate is usually given several chances to redeem themselves, but someone who is clearly floundering on every scale won't be asked every single one. There just isn't time, and the examiner will have made up their mind on the mark fairly early on in the process.

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