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03 June 2020

ABRSM Online Exams - Your Questions Answered

Following the announcement of performance focus online exams, the ABRSM have been clarifying some common questions that have arisen regarding these exams.

Are the performance-focused grades a replacement for the existing practical grades?

These performance-focused grades offer an additional and permanent pathway. They don’t replace their existing grades, and they are not a temporary arrangement. They will have their own identity.

Recognising the disruption caused by Covid-19, ABRSM have accelerated their plans to offer an additional route for graded exams, one that focuses on performance and on the submission of a recording. These grades will be a permanent and distinctive part of their offer. They recognise the need for flexibility, choice and convenience that learners and teachers welcome.
The performance-focused grades will therefore become an additional choice within any learner’s journey, with the freedom to switch between these grades and the existing practical grades depending on their goals and choices, especially given the constraints on in-person activity during the coronavirus pandemic.

What is the marking Criteria for these new Performance Grades?

This is discussed in our separate blog post HERE

Will these grades be equal to existing ones?
Yes – the performance-focused grades and the certificates  awarded will have the same value as their existing grades. They are equivalent in demand, but with a different emphasis. They are based on the same repertoire and syllabuses, assessment criteria and quality assurance measures as  existing exams and will be assessed by the same highly-trained examiners.

Candidates will achieve success in  performance-focused grades by demonstrating a set of skills taking in performance, communication, interpretation and delivery. They need to achieve their best from their pieces and deliver a sustained performance of a programme that they have devised while showing focus, stamina and effective musical communication across a range of repertoire.
 The performance-focused grades require the candidate to achieve their best from their chosen programme of pieces. Candidates will need to deliver a sustained performance of a programme that they have devised, demonstrating the focus and stamina necessary for effective musical communication across a range of repertoire.

This is where credit is earned, with a higher proportion of marks gained for the pieces than in the existing practical exams, using the established criteria (assessing pitch, time, tone, shape and performance), plus a specific set of additional marks for achieving a successful performance as a whole. The criteria for this component of the exam will be similar in approach to those already applied in our ARSM diploma exam but adapted appropriately for the different grades. The marking criteria can be viewed HERE
A high result in a performance-focused grade will signal a high level of achievement in demonstrating a set of skills founded on performance, communication, interpretation and delivery.

How will these exams be assessed?

Candidates will need to make a continuous video recording of their exam performance and submit this to the ABRSM for marking by their examiner panel.

When will they be available in all countries?

The exams will be available initially in the UK in August. ABRSM will then begin to roll them out to other countries from October 2020 onwards.

Is it fair that candidates taking performance grades can record their best performance and submit that, while candidates taking practical grades only get one chance ‘in the room’?

It is not a question of fairness, but of the different emphasis of the two types of qualification. With the existing grades the criticality lies in the learner being able to respond to the examiner, who guides the candidate through each element of the exam - in having it all “in the room” at once. 

With the performance-focused grades, the criticality lies in the learner taking ownership of a sustained performance of four pieces, including managing the transitions from one to another, in a programme that they have designed themselves, and delivered in one take.

How should I select the fourth piece?

The first thing to say here is that learners should above all choose music that they enjoy, that chimes with their musical personality, and that they can play confidently. Choosing one piece from each list already gives a breadth of musical content and style. The newly-arranged and extended lists, already available for Bowed Strings, and being rolled out to all other syllabuses as they refresh, starting with Piano on 9 July 2020, give learners an ever-wider choice of music.

The fourth piece can be a choice of another piece from the ABRSM syllabus. Beyond that, learners can also choose any published piece of a similar level. There are plenty of ways to identify suitable music here, from looking at exam listings past and present, to the guidance publishers give on their publications, to the judgement of teachers who can advise on this.

The aim here should always be to choose a piece that completes the set of four in a musically satisfying way. Pieces can be presented in any order (as currently) and in these performance-focused exams the candidate will want to order them according to how they feel the pieces will work best as a performance. Further advice on how to achieve a balanced programme can be found HERE

Pieces must all be of a level appropriate for the grade being examined, but there is no credit for playing what might be subjectively viewed as a “harder” piece. The onus here is on the learner as performer to make confident musical decisions, and to present themselves in the best light.

1 comment:

  1. As we all know, most teachers are teaching online during the Covid19 and therefore the instrumentalist is at home. After embarking on this experience for 10 weeks, I've heard many different performances on pianos from digital, acoustic and even touch sensitive keyboards. Because they all sound different, how will this affect the marking criteria with the comparison from a Yamaha grand to a cheaper digital or touch sensitive instrument? Some pianos I hear are also badly out of tune with no option for tuners to enter their homes during the current crisis.
    I have several pupils at the moment who would love to take this 'performance' opportunity but wonder how viable it is in view of the instrument on which they practise and the recordings submitted.


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