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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.

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1 year ago
Alison Kelly

Alison Kelly

Alison Moncrieff-Kelly is a cellist, educator and ABRSM examiner in classical grades, jazz grades and Diplomas. She is also a Teacher Development Consultant for ABRSM, and has led workshops and presentations all over the world. Alison has been a syllabus consultant for ABRSM and also part of the team who prepared the cello sight-reading and scales. Alison teaches at City University London, Tonbridge School and also runs a highly successful private teaching practice.

The biggest differentiator between Grade 8 and an ARSM is the change in stamina requirement. This is not instantly visible to the candidate: it is a very different thing to play a programme lasting 30 minutes, than it is to play one lasting around 15 minutes, bookended with supporting tests. With this in mind, choice of repertoire is the foundation of good ARSM preparation.

Clearly, this is critical to the process, and has to be bespoke for each candidate. Each learners’ music tastes are different; I have pupils who would respond well to the challenge of learning some unaccompanied Bach, but who would resist any idea of playing a piece of, say, English music, with its sometimes rather coagulated harmonic language. On the other hand, I also have pupils who would love the latter and resist the former.

The beauty of the ARSM is that you can satisfy all candidates within a pretty wide-ranging list of choices. The challenge that all candidates will have to face at some point is the issue of pacing the programme. They will need to budget for how they will manage their stamina over that 30-minute performance.

One of the best examples of this kind of repertoire preparation is the issue of Baroque music. You can find examples of authentic performances on period instruments; and you can find examples of performances on modern/contemporary instruments in a more liberal style. I think it’s very important to encourage pupils to listen to both, and to make judgements about what the differences are. They can then decide how they plan to play, and make informed decisions about important issues like ornamentation.

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