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15 October 2019

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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

The full appraisal of Dennis's performance is shown below

ABRSM style comment
Despite a few slips with notes there was good dynamic shaping and good tonal control, the tempo was appropriate for the dance like character of this piece, however maybe a little less legato in the middle section would have suited this style better.
Overall expected mark 25/30

Marks Breakdown

Pitch 4/6
Time 6/6
Tone 5/6
Shape 5/6
Performance 5/6

Additional comments

Don’t worry too much about the note slips, as you can see the marking criteria is based on many different factors as I hinted at in the short comment. It was commendable that you kept the rhythm/tempo going despite this.

Try to observe the articulation marks in the 2nd half a little more closely -
e.g. Lift the quavers at the end of each slurred group in bars 9, 14 and 19


  1. I thought you start with 30 and it keeps going down so just to clarify this is how ABRSM exams work right?(shown above)

  2. No start with 20 and goes up (or down)

  3. This was very helpful thank you! I have an upcoming piano exam on due on the 19th because all I've been getting is very high passes or a high merit. I also recently had an oboe exam and this gained me much more marks, Thank YOU!

  4. This actually comforted me in my exam (not recorded) so thanks!

  5. Hi you're really helpful you got me a 149 for my last piano exam!


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