Latest exam updates

Exam refunds

To support customers affected by ongoing COVID restrictions, for Practical and Performance Grade exams from 1st January to 31st May 2021 any absent candidate will automatically receive a refund. This includes Performance Grades where the candidate has been unable to record and upload their video. You do not need to contact us to request a refund. However, it will help us if you can log in to your account and cancel the exam. Find out more:

For Online Music Theory exams and any paper based exams taking place outside of the UK/Ireland we anticipate COVID restrictions will not prevent candidates from sitting their exam so absentee candidate will not automatically receive a refund and our normal Withdrawal, non-attendance and fee refunds policy still applies.

Music Theory exams – March 2021

  • Online Music Theory exams (Grades 1 to 5) – we are cancelling the online exams planned for 16 March. Exams in May and June will go ahead as planned.
  • Paper Music Theory exams (Grades 6 to 8) – the next exams will take place in June. Please note, dates and booking periods for Grades 1-5 and Grades 6-8 may be different from now on. For full details, see our dates and fees page.
  • Grade 5 Music Theory requirement - from 1 January to 30 April 2021 only, candidates can take Grade 6 to 8 Performance or Practical exams without first passing Grade 5 Music Theory. From 1 May 2021, the Grade 5 Music Theory requirement will return with flexibility about timing. If you receive an email asking for your proof of prerequisite, please ignore this. We will still release any results in line with the arrangements outlined here.

For more information click here.

We will be offering Performance Grade exams every month for the remainder of 2021. Exact dates will be announced soon. Please check here for more information. We are extending the introductory 15% discount for these exams so that it applies to all remotely-assessed Performance Grade and ARSM exams in 2021. Just enter code ABPG15MO when you book using our online service. Please also read our discount information and terms and conditions here.

Pieces or songs

For this section of the exam, you play three pieces or sing three songs chosen from the relevant syllabus lists.

We want you to experience different styles of music, so our syllabuses are designed to include a wide range of repertoire to choose from. You should find music that inspires you, and that you enjoy learning and performing.

How do we choose the pieces and songs?

We have a panel of expert specialist consultants – examiners, teachers and performers – who help us to refresh and renew our syllabuses.

Using guidelines for each subject and grade, they put together an initial list of repertoire ideas. They also take into account suggestions or feedback from teachers and candidates, and look at statistics showing the popularity of previously listed music. This means our syllabus lists include music that we're sure you'll enjoy playing, suiting a wide range of tastes and approaches.

After a thorough moderation process to make sure that the level of challenge matches evenly across the lists, we check the availability of the music selected and then approve the final lists that will appear in our syllabuses.

Video: Trombone Grade 3 Piece B (previous syllabus)

Scales and arpeggios

If you play an instrument, you'll need to play scales, arpeggios and other relevant patterns in the selection of keys, ranges and variants specified in the relevant syllabus.

Scales and arpeggios provide strong foundations for good technical skills and musical understanding. Through learning and playing them, you'll become more familiar with your instrument and develop many key aspects of technique including articulation, tone and intonation.

Playing scales and arpeggios also helps you to understand a number of vital musical ingredients, especially keys and tonality. This develops your confidence and security when sight-reading, learning new pieces and performing – from notation or from memory, as a solo musician or with others.

Video: Clarinet Grade 6 scales and arpeggios

Unaccompanied traditional song

If you’re a singer, instead of playing scales and arpeggios, for this section of the exam you'll perform from memory an unaccompanied traditional song of your choice.

Learning to sing unaccompanied helps you to build your sense of key and pulse without referring to an accompanying instrument, and develops your ability to hold your pitch. It also encourages a sense of rhythm, a varied use of tonal colour, effective musical communication and reliable memory skills.

Video: Unaccompanied traditional song


This section of the exam requires you to play or sing at sight a short piece that you haven't seen before. In Singing exams, this is accompanied by the examiner.

Sight-reading is a valuable skill with many benefits. It helps you to perform new music with confidence, and to learn music more quickly. Good musical reading skills are also very valuable when it comes to making music with others, so singing in a choir or playing in an ensemble becomes more accessible, rewarding and enjoyable.

If you're taking a Horn, Trumpet or Organ exam at Grades 6 to 8, you'll also be required to take a transposition test. If you're taking a Harpsichord exam, you'll take a figured-bass realisation test. More information about this can be found in the syllabus.

Video: Alto Saxophone Grade 4 sight-reading

Aural tests

In the aural tests, examiners assess your listening skills and musical perception. The tests cover awareness of pitch, pulse, rhythm, melody, harmony and other musical features.

Developing good musical listening skills is a vital part of any music education, and the ability to hear how music works helps with all aspects of your music making and progress. Aural tests are the same for all instruments and singing.

Video: Grade 1 aural tests

You can find detailed information about exam requirements in our syllabuses, which are available on this website and in a range of printed booklets.

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