Search This Site


Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

How many marks would a lose for a few wrong notes - Example Musette in D Grade 2 Piano

Have you ever come out of an exam after messing up a few notes and then stressed out thinking “I’ve failed” ?

Before I go into how many marks one might lose for playing a few wrong notes, I want you to listen to this performance of a Musette in D for Grade 2, bravely sent to me for Appraisal, by Dennis, one of my subscribers - which does contain a few slips - and have a guess how many marks you think it is worth.

We always seem to concentrate on the negative when we come out of exams and seem to forget that the examiner is marking based on 5 criteria, Pitch, Time, Tone, Shape and Performance. You go into the exam with 20 marks before you have even played a note and then can gain a possible two extra marks in each of these categories thus giving a potential full mark of 30.

So if you make a few slips, but generally you have correct notes you would only lose 2 marks.

If you listen again to the performance you just heard notice this time how commendably Dennis kept the rhythm and tempo going despite the mistakes, how there was dynamic shaping and the dance like character of this piece was conveyed, giving an overall mark of probably around 25 marks out of 30 a MERIT

So if you make a mistake in an exam - don’t panic. Try to keep the rhythm going and concentrate on the other musical factors that give a piece its character and by the way if you too would like an appraisal of your own performance click the card on the left or to watch more appraisals - click the card HERE


Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

E Aural Trainer - Weekly Aural Training Podcast

In this podcast you are going to practice recognising musical features - a question that comes into all of the grades 1-8, but the questions asked will be different for each grade. Click the "play" button below to listen.

Click the button below if you would like to subscribe to weekly aural training podcasts like this one



Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

Music Theory Practice - A Complete Course

Music Theory Practice - A Complete Course

 An invaluable resource for those taking a Music Theory Exam at both ABRSM and Trinity College, Grades 1 to 5. 

Music Theory Practice - A Complete Course is an invaluable resource for those taking a Music Theory Exam at both ABRSM and Trinity College, Grade 1 to 5.
Music Theory Practice A Complete Course

This book (also available as 5 separate books for each grade level if you do not need to start from absolute basics), contains not only a detailed explanation of each topic, but practice questions complete with answers for you to test your understanding. As a music teacher of over 35 years of experience, I have never had a student fail a theory exam. 

Through my own understanding of what works best for students and how some of the alternative material on the market can sometimes be a very tedious method of learning, I have developed this course as a compliment to my video series on YouTube and I am confident that you will find success in your exam by going through this course. So are you ready to get started on your road to Music Theory understanding.....

Topics covered:

Lesson 1.1 Time Values, Bar Lines and Time Signatures
Lesson 1.2 Notes on the Stave
Lesson 1.3 Treble and Bass Clefs
Lesson 1.4 Beaming Notes
Lesson 1.5 Rests
Lesson 1.6 Tied Notes
Lesson 1.7 Dotted Notes
Lesson 1.8 Accidentals
Lesson 1.9 Major Scales
Lesson 1.10 Degrees of the Scale and Intervals
Lesson 1.11 The Tonic Triad
Lesson 1.12 Basic Terms and Signs

Lesson 2.1 Ledger Lines
Lesson 2.2 More Time Signatures
Lesson 2.3 More Major Keys
Lesson 2.4 Triplets
Lesson 2.5 Minor Keys
Lesson 2.6 Grouping of Notes
Lesson 2.7 Grouping of Rests
Lesson 2.8  Grade 2 Musical Terms and Signs

Lesson 3.1 Demisemiquavers
Lesson 3.2 Major Keys to 4 sharps or flats
Lesson 3.3 More than two ledger lines
Lesson 3.4 Transposition
Lesson 3.5 Compound Time
Lesson 3.6 Minor Keys to 4 sharps or flats
Lesson 3.7 Intervals (Major, Minor and Perfect
Lesson 3.8 Simple Phrase Structure
Lesson 3.9 Grade 3 Musical Terms

Lesson 4.1 Time Signatures - REVIEW
Lesson 4.2 Breves and Double Dotting
Lesson 4.3 Duplets
Lesson 4.4 Alto Clef
Lesson 4.5 Double Sharps and Double Flats
Lesson 4.6 Keys to 5 Sharps or Flats
Lesson 4.7 Technical names for Degrees of the Scale
Lesson 4.8 Writing Chromatic Scales
Lesson 4.9 Intervals (Augmented and Diminished)
Lesson 4.10 Writing and Recognizing Chords
Lesson 4.11 Ornaments
Lesson 4.12 Orchestral Instruments
Lesson 4.13 Grade 4 Musical Terms (Italian and French)

Lesson 5.1 Irregular Time Signatures
Lesson 5.2 - Tenor Clef
Lesson 5.3 - Transposition
Lesson 5.4 - The Cycle of Fifths
Lesson 5.5 - Irregular Time Divisions
Lesson 5.6 - Intervals Greater than an Octave
Lesson 5.7 - Naming Chords
Lesson 5.8 - Chords at Cadence Points
Lesson 5.9 - Grade 5 Musical Terms (Italian and German)

Also available as separate grades


Alternatively you can buy a PDF version of this book for you to print out yourself HERE


Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

How ABRSM Exam Pieces are marked - An Example Debussy Voiles for Grade 8 Piano.

This video below will use a performance of Debussy’s Voiles for Grade 8 Piano to demonstrate how the ABRSM marking scheme works for pieces, performed by a student Bernadino.

Before you even play a note in an ABRSM exam, you have the baseline 20 pass mark and then you can add or subtract marks to bring your total up to the maximum of 30 marks, or down to the minimum of 10 marks. By the way, you can only get zero if you don’t play a note. Theoretically you can get 10 marks for just playing the first note and then stopping. 

That leaves a margin of 10 marks either side of the pass mark and interestingly there are five categories which the examiner uses to assess you: Pitch; Time; Tone; Shape; Performance. Logically it follows that there are two marks to be gained or lost either side of the pass mark for each of these categories. And if you look at the official marking criteria on the ABRSM website, there are two descriptions of various levels above the pass mark for each of these categories.

Lets take “Performance” for example. For the performance you just heard, I would suggest that it fits the description, “Assured, Fully committed, Vivid communication of character and style” and so the basic pass mark is brought up to 22

Regarding pitch, again the description , “Highly accurate notes” would gain another 2 marks bringing the total up to 24

Regarding “Time” Debussy’s marking is "In a rhythm without strictness" and at times there could have been room for a little more rubato and less metronomic playing. So in this case  an extra credit of one mark brings the total up to 25.

Again, in the area of tonal control this performance generally achieved a good balance between the hands, bringing out the melody where appropriate, but just now and again it all got a little muddy. So like the previous category only one credit mark would be gained bring the total to 26.

Finally, we turn our attention to the category “shape” which refers largely to the use of dynamics. In general this performance involved a wide range of effectively used dynamics, however, there were moments when maybe it was just a little too loud for the ethereal quality of this piece, so again, just one extra mark, bringing the final total to 27 marks out of 30.


Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

New Photo ID Requirement for UK Exams

According to a recent notification sent out to teachers in the UK, the ABRSM are introducing a new "Candidate Identification Policy" from January 2020. 

This will be required for those taking many of the higher level exams i.e:
Practical Exams - Grades 6-8
Jazz exams - Grade 5
Theory Exams Grades 5-8
ARSM diploma
 I assume the thinking behind this is to combat cheating. It is possible, for example to get someone else to do an exam for you, although the value of this seems to be illogical. Maybe the reason for using it in just the higher grades is that they are used for UCAS points for university entry and some less scrupulous students might try to cheat the system that way. 

By the way, the unusual inclusion of the Grade 5 Jazz exam would seem to be that it is an alternative to Grade 5 Theory as a prerequisite to doing Grades 6-8 Practical.

So, because of the unethical actions of a very small minority, there will an extra burden placed on the vast majority, not only with an extra layer of red tape, but also financially. 

From my own teaching experience, the majority of my students are under 18 and many do not have any form of photo ID. There will be many of course with passports, but that seems to discriminate against those who don't. There are optional ID cards available such as from, but this service costs an extra £15 on top of the already expensive exam fees.

Additionally, this process is not as easy as it sounds as they require two documents, one of which should  confirm your name and address, ie utility bill/bank statement/government issued letter such as HMRC or DWP/NHS letter. 
How many 12 year olds have a gas bill or tax letter in their name???
From my research, I note that this requirement is already in place in a few countries that offer ABRSM exams, such as Hong Kong and Malaysia, but there, minors already need to carry some form of photo id from the age of 12. 

At this moment in time, the exact form of ID has not been specified by the ABRSM and they will be publishing more details later in the year. Rest assured that I will keep you up to date on any developments and so that you don't miss the news you can subscribe to future posts on this blog with the form below

So what your your thoughts on this new requirement? An unnecessary layer of bureaucracy or a necessary step to stop a minority of those who would cheat the system? Please leave a comment below.