Latest exam updates

Practical Update 

We appreciate how much the cancellation of our exams has affected learners and we are working hard on solutions to ensure learners can gain their qualifications at the earliest opportunity.

However, on the basis of official and local advice due to COVID-19, we have made the decision to cancel all Practical exams in Macau until further notice. This decision affects all 2020 bookings for Graded Music Exams, ARSM, Diploma, Choral Singing and Ensemble exams, but does not currently affect any bookings for Music Theory exams. Following this decision, we will process 100% refunds for all existing Practical exam bookings and our Representatives will provide further guidance in due course.

We are sorry for the impact on teachers and candidates and thank you for your loyalty and support while these restrictions remain in place. We are continuing to review when live Practical exams can resume in Macau and will offer them again at the earliest possible opportunity.

Our new remotely-assessed Performance Grades provide an alternative progression route for students during this period of disruption. The Performance Grades are equivalent to our Practical Grades in demand, recognition and value. They are based on the same repertoire and syllabuses, assessment criteria and quality assurance measures as our existing exams and will be assessed by the same highly trained examiners. Booking will open in Macau before the end of the year and you can record your video submission any time from now on. Find out more here.

ABRSM new Bowed Strings syllabus 2020-2023

1 year ago
Jessica O’Leary

Jessica O’Leary

Strings consultant for our new Bowed Strings syllabus 2020-2023.

We asked Jessica O’Leary, one of the Strings consultants for our new Bowed Strings syllabus 2020-2023, to give us an insight into the new syllabus.

ABRSM new Bowed Strings syllabus

As a string consultant, suggesting music for the syllabus, weighing up each newly published piece alongside old favourites is both a joy and immensely time consuming! Is it excellent writing, engaging, good teaching material, a suitable length and in the right key, enough variety to examine on the day and would my students actually want to live with this music for a whole term (or much longer in some cases!)? I needed a new and interesting folk song when I found the Japanese piece Sakura on YouTube. Played and arranged by Maria Kaneko Millar, I was spellbound and instantly knew it was perfect! ABRSM contacted her and there were many discussions about how she could edit her version so it fitted comfortably into the Grade 8 list. Details were all highly considered and the final version is truthful to her original with just minor changes. Although it is an unaccompanied piece, there are frequent left-hand pizzicato notes played at the same time as bowing the tunes and they give harmony to the haunting melodies. This extended technique, allied with stylistic slides and double-stopping project a dramatic quality that is highly engaging and a real competition winner, and make the piece a perfect fit for ABRSM’s List C.

Repertoire highlights

On strings, you can play any type of music alone or with friends and choosing pieces you love has never been easier. I’m passionate about the new syllabus and can’t wait to share my favourites - there are now THIRTY pieces in each grade and the addition of an Initial Grade (pre-Grade 1) will give my first year learners a significant aim and reward just like their more experienced friends. Now everyone can get a certificate and mark sheet handed out in assembly! Who can resist old favourites like Nelson’s Fish Cakes and Apple Pie, Blackwells’ Rhythm Fever or Lumsden and Wedgwood’s Jungle Footprints (scream optional!) as excellent teaching pieces that all my students have loved. Lots of early pieces can be taught in mixed groups as they overlap on all string instruments and there is a selection of duets for student and teacher up to Grade 3. Some new additions for violin are arrangements of Pirates of the Caribbean, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I feel pretty, Singin’ in the Rain as well as Castle on a Cloud from Les Misérables and Bartók Duos. From Grade 5 up we have a selection from Corelli’s Folia variations, Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, Bach’s Concerto in A minor and the less familiar gem - Mendelssohn’s Concerto in D minor (not the treacherous audition one in E minor) as well as Musorgsky’s Gopak. The last time I played Gopak was in the Cork Youth Orchestra when I wasn’t advanced enough to play the violin line so I was ‘invited’ to play the tambourine instead. When asked what the violin means to me, I remember thinking that very Gopak day that I really wanted to play the tune so I might actually have to learn those scales after all….

ABRSM Violin Seminars

I’m delighted to have been chosen to give Violin seminars about the new syllabus in South East Asia this summer. Dates include Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong, and the autumn will see sessions in the UK from London to Glasgow. I hope to see lots of Violin teachers at these events - find out more.For more information about the Bowed Strings syllabus and supporting materials, visit



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