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Trinity vs ABRSM - The new syllabus 2018-2020

Trinity vs ABRSM - The new syllabus 2018-2020

Compare the differences between Trinity vs ABRSM
Grade 1 Trinity Piano 2018-2020
This summer the new 2018-2020 piano syllabus was published by Trinity College London and out of curiosity I thought I'd take a look. I've always been an ABRSM person, took their exams many years ago and now teach their syllabus to my own students. However in this post I would like to point out some of the differences between ABRSM and Trinity College and I would be interested in your thoughts, so please leave a comment below. 

Gr1  Gr2  Gr3  Gr4  Gr5  Gr6  Gr7  Gr8

First of all, ABRSM is much bigger worldwide than Trinity College and by many it is considered better. Being bigger, it has more exam centres and so unless you live in a big city like London, you might find yourself having to travel a long way to take your exam. 


Regarding the exam itself, the biggest difference I noticed is in the supporting tests. In ABRSM as you probably know, you have to play three pieces, do scales, aural tests and sight reading. In Trinity there is a choice. You pick only TWO of the following four supporting tests: 

 Sight Reading; Aural; Improvisation; 
Musical Knowledge about a piece you are playing. 

This means that a student can focus on his strengths - for example if you really find the aural difficult, you won’t be penalised. Then again, does the ABRSM approach make for a more all round musician? Should everyone, for example, be able to sight read or is it a cop out to let the student decide if he wants to avoid sight reading through his entire studies on an instrument? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

The scales seem of a similar difficulty, but there are less of them in Trinity. Many students, especially in the higher grades feel inundated by the sheer number of scales they need to know for ABRSM. Is knowing the complete cycle of fifths both major and minor at Grade 5 piano a good thing or a bad thing in your opinion?  
To make up for the fewer number of scales, Trinity College has additional Technical exercises, short little pieces which test things like tone, balance, coordination flexibility whereas ABRSM tests this in the main pieces. 

Then there are the pieces themselves. My first impression is that they are a little easier especially at the early grades. I’ve made some video recordings of both the new Trinity College Piano syllabus and that of ABRSM.  Have a listen and tell me if you think they are in fact easier than ABRSM. However, the difficulty of the pieces is not the only difference. In ABRSM you need to choose three pieces one from each of three lists A, B and C. In Trinity College, again you need to choose three pieces, but these can be ANY three from the whole book. There is even an option where one of the pieces is a duet, where your teacher would accompany you in the exam. You can even offer you OWN composition as an alternative to one of the pieces. The idea behind the ABRSM forcing you to play from three different lists, I guess, is that you will get experience of playing different styles of  music. In my opinion, although the Trinity option might be more popular with students, that of the ABRSM in the long run might produce better all round musicians. What do you think? 

So in summary, my initial little curiosity has opened up a lot of questions as to the PROs and CONS of these two examining boards so please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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