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FAILED - Should I Appeal?

Is it worth appealing an ABRSM result?

Is it worth appealing an ABRSM Result

So the result arrived and to your disappointment the mark was considerably less than what you expected. Should you appeal and what are the chances of your appeal being upheld?

This situation actually happened to a whole batch of my students back in the Autumn of 2014. I always give my students little mock exams before the big day, and so far I have been pretty close, usually plus or minus 5 marks what they got on the day. However on this one occasion the marks came back with the whole group consistently about 10 marks below what I expected. Fair enough, one student may have had an off day, nerves got the better of them, but all 9 of the students from that batch. To me it seemed more than a coincidence and so I decided to appeal.

Today, I will explain how I went about it, how YOU can appeal an ABRSM result and what the outcome was in my case. 

In those days, that is before 2016, you had to pay a fee for a Practical Exam Appeal, so one needed to be extra sure that the mark was indeed unfair. Now no fee is charged, so you have nothing to lose.

First of all, you need to download an appeal form and the links are below. Note that it is a slightly different form for UK students and international students, but both will be needed to be posted back to the quality assurance department in London, the address being on the form, as soon as possible and no later than 6 weeks after the exam for UK students or 4 weeks after results were issued for international students.

This form has two uses, one is for Formal Appeal and the other for Informal Feedback. The way in which your complaint will be treated is different depending on which box you tick.

To stand a reasonable chance of your appeal being upheld you will need to show that there's an obvious discrepancy between comments, marks and official marking criteria. With this in mind you should then study in detail the marksheet you received from ABRSM and compare it with their published marking criteria which can be found on the link below.

ABRSM Marking Criteria

Try to identify any discrepancies you can find between the marks and comments you were awarded and the criteria they publish and note these in as much detail as you can on the appeal form.

This form should then be posted back to ABRSM with the original mark form and in the case of international students an unedited
recording of the candidate performing the exam pieces and a selection of scales and arpeggios as well as a letter verifying that the candidate is the performer and the recording is unedited, stating the date of the recording. UK students may still be asked to provide such a recording at a future date, but this is not necessary initially.

Then you cross your fingers. If your appeal is upheld the ABRSM will either give you
  • a voucher equivalent to the value of the original exam (this can be used to enter for the same grade exam free of charge within one year of issue or as part payment towards a higher grade within the same timeframe); or
  • a full refund of the original entry fee. 
However, they will NOT amend retrospectively any marks as a result of a formal marking appeal. That means your result won't be changed but you can take the exam again for free and more importantly in my opinion, you will personally feel justified in saying that the mark was unfair.
In my case I received a very long letter which initially seemed to be backing up their examiner, but right at the end, the following paragraph was key:
Regarding the mark form comments for the supporting tests we did sympathise with your concerns over the quality of the comments. Some choices of phrase were not wholly supportive of the mark awarded, they were not also as explanatory or clear as they could have been and in the light of the disappointing standard of the mark form comments, we are happy to uphold your appeals on this occasion.
If you are interested, a copy of the letter is below (with personal details removed) for you to view.

Appeal Response letter

So in answer to the original question  - "Should I appeal?" if you really believe that your marks on the day are not in line with the ABRSM marking criteria or that the supporting comments on the mark sheet don't tally with the marks, then YES. Please leave a comment below if there is anything about this process you want clarifying more.


  1. Thank you for your well-written post. I notice that the link 'Appeal Response letter' is empty. Is it possible for you to provide both a copy of your original appeal letter and the appeal response letter, for the benefit of both music teachers and students?

    1. Thank you for pointing out the broken link. Fixed now. Unfortunately it is only the response letter as I do not have my original appeal letter, but clues as to it's content are referred to in the response.

    2. Thank you very much for promptly fixing the broken link. This is very much appreciated, and will certainly benefit many music teachers and students.

  2. Thank you for sharing this! What you have shared is very helpful and informative. Would love to see more updates from you.

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