Latest exam updates

Music Theory June 2021 exam update

Unfortunately, in line with government guidelines, the Music Theory 6-8 paper exams have been cancelled for June 2021 due to COVID-19.

Performance Grade exams

We are pleased to confirm that we will be offering Performance Grade exams every month for the remainder of 2021. Please check our Dates and Fees page for details.

Grade 5 Music Theory waiver (not applicable in the UK & Ireland)

We are extending our Grade 5 Music Theory waiver until 23 May 2021. This means that candidates with a Grade 6 to 8 Performance Grade exam submission date up to and including 23 May can take their exam without first passing Grade 5 Music Theory. We are making this exceptional arrangement to allow candidates who have been unable to take an exam in recent months to progress with their learning. From 24 May, the Grade 5 Music Theory requirement will return. For exam dates/exam submission dates after 23 May, all candidates taking a Grade 6 to 8 Performance or Practical Grade must first pass Grade 5 Music Theory.

What are the benefits of learning scales and arpeggios?

Learning scales and arpeggios helps you to develop reliable muscle memory for common finger movements and improves your tone control across the full note range.

It helps you to develop your pitch and interval awareness, and become familiar with keys and their related patterns. It also helps to build an understanding of keys, giving you confidence when sight-reading, learning new pieces and performing.

You can develop many aspects of technique through scales practice, including:

  • Familiarity with the physicality of your instrument or voice
  • Articulation
  • Tone
  • Intonation
Video: Piano Grade 5 scales and arpeggios

What happens in the exam?

All scales and arpeggios are played from memory in the exam. Examiners will usually ask for at least one type of scale/arpeggio required at each grade and aim to hear a balance of the articulation requirements. Details of scales and arpeggios requirements for each grade can be found in the syllabus for your instrument.

Supporting resources

Scales and Arpeggios books are available for every instrument at every grade, which you might find useful when preparing. However, your scales and arpeggios must be performed by memory in the exam.

You can purchase these books from our online shop or from your local retailer. For Piano and Violin exams Grades 1–5, see our Scales Trainer app.

Marking

Download the marking criteria for scales and arpeggios.

Marking principles

In each element of the exam, ABRSM operates the principle of marking from the required pass mark positively or negatively, rather than awarding marks by deduction from the maximum or addition from zero.

All instruments (Singing not included) Grades 1–8:

Mark

Scales and arpeggios

Distinction
19–21

  • Highly accurate notes/pitch
  • Fluent and rhythmic
  • Musically shaped
  • Confident response

Merit
17–18

  • Largely accurate notes/pitch
  • Mostly regular flow
  • Mainly even tone
  • Secure response

Pass
14-16

  • Generally correct notes/pitch, despite errors
  • Continuity generally maintained
  • Generally reliable tone
  • Cautious response

Below Pass
11-13

  • Frequent errors in notes and/or pitch
  • Lacking continuity and/or some items incomplete
  • Unreliable tone
  • Uncertain response and/or some items not attempted

7-10

  • Very approximate notes and/or pitch
  • Sporadic and/or frequently incomplete
  • Serious lack of tonal control
  • Very uncertain response and/or several items not attempted

0

  • No work offered

Scales Trainer

Piano Scales Trainer

Piano Scales Trainer helps increase fluency with ABRSM scales and arpeggios requirements.

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