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13 December 2017

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The Examiner's Marksheet - INVESTIGATED

By looking carefully at the comments of the examiner's mark sheet, we can get a good insight into the ABRSM marking criteria  thus helping you to get a better mark in future exams.

Here is one such mark sheet from an exam recently taken by one of my students
By analyzing the examiner's mark sheetwe can get an insight into what they are looking for in the ABRSM marking criteria

Let's analyze it section by section.


For those of you who find it difficult to decipher the examiner's handwriting which can at times be like that of a doctor's prescription let me translate:
First piece - A bright and stylish tempo with a good sense of pulse and played with even tone and contrasted dynamics. Briefly "something" (even I cannot decipher this word so if anyone can help please let me know in the comments below) rhythm only.  
You will notice that there is nothing in this comment about playing the correct notes, but rather, how the tempo, tone and dynamics resulted in a bright and stylish performance.

For the second piece there were similar remarks made;
The character was well conveyed at a confident tempo with well controlled and contrasted tone. 
Notice here however he adds, that there was
Just an occasional small slip and stumble
Even so, this piece still got a very high merit mark. If any of you saw to my post from last week, you will remember that I  mentioned how many students come out of the exam remembering just the wrong note or two they may have played and then think that the whole thing was terrible.

For the third piece, which incidentally gained FULL MARKS, again notice what things apart from just getting the right notes gained this excellent mark. He writes

A flowing and well chosen speed for the style. Hands were consistently well balanced and it was fully accurate in notes, with well contrasted dynamics.
So in summary, with regard to pieces, try to NOT just focus on getting the notes correct, but try to learn the piece as a piece of music


Here again, it's not just getting the right notes, notice how the examiner mentions the speed, musicality and tone. He writes

One slip in the broken chords but otherwise all fluently played with even tone at a musical speed. 
If you want to check the speed for your grade you can do so here

Sight Reading

What many students don't understand is that sight reading is not just a matter of getting all the notes correct, especially at the expense of losing the sense of pulse. Notice in the remark how much the examiner hints at keeping the momentum going
A slightly hesitant ending, but otherwise fully accurate at a musical speed with firm pulse.

May I say that this student used my Sight Reading Trainer to help with this habit of keeping the pulse going  and again, here is a link  for you to practice this yourself

Aural Tests

For this section, notice again how the examiner doesn't just remark on the fact that the answers were correct, he says

All accurate and musical responses

...and may I add that in their marking criteria for Aural tests the ABRSM official guidelines mention that they are looking for confident rather than hesitant responses. You could lose marks, even with the correct answer if you answer hesitantly.

So I hope that was an interesting journey through an examiner's mark sheet. Maybe you would like to dig out  one of your recent ones and let us know in the comments below some of the things mentioned that might give other readers more of a clue what they are looking for and how to get a better mark in a future exam.

Feel free also to use our new FORUM to start any music education related discussion and you can even share with us your recent exam successes there.


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