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15,000 musicians sign up for innovative new music exam

2 years ago

Remote performance exam success shows music learning revolution here to stay, UK’s leading music exam board says.

Demand for an innovative new music exam which focuses on students’ performance, lets them choose what they play and is 100% assessed online via video recordings has outstripped all expectations after almost 15,000 students -  triple the expected number - signed up.

ABRSM, which developed the new Performance Grade, says the scale of interest comes despite strong demand for traditional face-to-face exams and points to a permanent post COVID-19 shift in UK music learning. 

The new exam breaks with 131 years of ABRSM tradition by assessing students entirely on their performance of their chosen music and how they bring it to life, including the essential skills of communication, interpretation and storytelling. The exam room comes to the candidate, who chooses where and when to make their recording, and each video is then assessed by an ABRSM examiner.

ABRSM chief executive Michael Elliott said: “We’ve been working on a wide range of digital resources and opportunities for a long time but accelerated our efforts when COVID-19 emerged.

“The Performance Grade is part of this and, whilst maintaining our commitment to excellence, is a major departure from anything we’ve done before.  The fantastic response reflects the extent to which teachers and learners have been open to try something different, but equally valuable. It also seems to reflect a deeper and more sustained appetite, both for exams which have a different focus, and for digital learning and assessment methods.”

ABRSM launched digital sheet music downloads and a popular online platform, Play On, to support learners during and beyond lockdown and conducted a survey which showed that 87% of music teaching had moved online within weeks of lockdown taking effect.

Mr Elliott added: “The Performance Grade is all about sharing the thrill of performance, putting students in control and giving them the chance to share their love of performing by communicating their musical interests, tastes, strengths and personality. 

“It’s a very exciting addition to what we already offer because it complements our Practical Grades and gives students an additional progression route. 

“Curating a programme of music is a fundamental part of this, which is why we’ve placed such an emphasis on choice. Candidates are able to select three pieces or songs from lists which we provide and given free rein to choose the fourth piece. They also choose how to arrange their four pieces or songs into a programme and take responsibility for giving a convincing overall performance.”

The Performance Grade is a regulated qualification and is available at Grades 1 to 8. It carries the same value as traditional Practical Grades and students are able to switch between Practical and Performance Grades as they progress. Candidates will be awarded the same UCAS points for Performance Grades at Grades 6 to 8 as they would have received for Practical Grades for the same levels.


Note to editors

Established in 1889, ABRSM is one of the UK’s leading music education organisations, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams, offering assessments to more than 600,000 candidates in over 90 countries every year. ABRSM’s mission is to inspire achievement in music. It does this globally by supporting music teaching and learning worldwide in partnership with four Royal Schools of Music: the Royal Academy of Music; Royal College of Music; Royal Northern College of Music and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Media enquiries to Jon Flinn on 07811 397122

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