How to Take an Official Exam If You Study Privately

It is given and mandatory for the students of state music schools to take an exam each semester in-house, thus they receive an official certificate. How about the students of private music education, how can their studies be recognized? We talked about such a possibility with Eszter Németh, Hungarian Representative of ABRSM in brief.

What is ABRSM, how and since when does it operate?

ABRSM – The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music – is the largest musical examination board based in the UK, its mission is to examine students of different nations, ages and instruments according to a unified system worldwide. The board operates since 1889, gives good feedback for students about their musical achievements and hands diplomas recognizing their studies.

How international is the board's operation, in how many countries do they organize graded music exams?

This system became very popular all over the world during its more than 125 years’ running, presently supports 93 countries. It is especially popular in the Far East, examination runs there all year round whith a little break only.

How long does the representation of ABRSM works in Hungary?

It was me who opened Hungary for ABRSM about 20 years ago.

How popular is this examination system in Hungary?

Students of international schools typically know this examination system, 80% of them apply for an exam on a Grade accordig to their knowledge level.

How is the examination system built up?

There is a Prep Test organized for beginners where there is no chance to fail, all candidates receive a diploma with opinions for further studies. This way the examining system can be tried without any risk. Further exams run from Grade 1 to Grade 8, naturally with the risk of failure. These grades can be fulfilled with 3 classification according to the earned marks: simple „Pass”, „Pass with Merit”, „Pass with Distiction”. There is no need to pass all Grades in sequential order however after a successful Grade 8 there is a possibilityto take a graduation exam. Beside the instrumental exams there are also written Music Theory Exams.

Why is it important to prove theoretical knowledge beside the instrumental performance?

Like in all music education institutions, ABRSM highlights the importance of understanding music deeply. It is required for a quality instrumental or singing performance to know theory well. Students should be aware of phrasing and harmonic structure of the played opuses.

How do a Music Theory Exam look like?

It is a written test, performable from Grade 1 to Grade 8. Language can be chosen on the entry form. 90 minutes are available on Grades 1 to 3, 120 minutes on Grades 4 to 5, 180 minutes on Grades 6 to 8 for answering all questions. The most popular Theory Exam is Grade 5 since its fulfilment is required before applying for higher grade instrumental exams. There are serious tasks on this grade, it is required to transpose melodies, to recognize and to replace harmonies, to biuld modal scales.

How is an instrumental exam going?

It runs quickly and resourcefully. It is required to know all scales, broken chords and arpeggios of current grade, the examiner asks some of them randomly. Thel all the three pieces should be played / sung chosen from the list A, B and C. There is an aural part of the exam, it’s like solfeggio or or harmonics on higher grades. The last task is sightreading where the candidate can analyze the given and so far unknown musical detail for half a minute, than it should be performed in the correct tempo, keeping the most of the instructions.

Who can take part at the exams?

This examination system is open for everybody, a five-year-old can apply the same way as a ninety-year-old. Everyone is given the opportunity to prepare for the likeable grade on the chosen instrument, there is only the Syllabus to keep its restrictions.

What kind of certificate will receive the successful candidate?

All successful candidates receive a certificate from ABRSM marking the instrument, Grade and the classification of fulfilment.

What advantages do these papers signify?

From Grade 6, successful exams give UCAS marks, more marks for higher classification. These marks may be counted while applying for a university (mainly international universities and a few Hungarian universities). Some universities mention ABRSM exams as an application requirement or option. Foreign musical employers may ask for the ABRSM Diploma.

You can find further information on the official ABRSM website, Facebook page, and information page in Hungarian and Facebook page if you speak Hungarian. Eszter Németh will answer further questions, mainly in email.

UPDATE: In the United Kingdom at the end of 2020, and in Hungary from January 2021, Practical Grades was replaced by Performance Grades, we also have an article about it.