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ABRSM is the UK’s largest music education body, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams, offering assessments to over 600,000 candidates in over 90 countries every year.

ABRSM’s mission is to inspire achievement in music. In partnership with the Royal Schools of Music, we support high-quality music-making and learning around the world. We offer pathways and resources for learners and teachers that help build musical skills, provide goals and encourage progress.

ABRSM: Music Theory

Theory GRADE 1

1. Note values of semibreve, minim, crotchet, quaver and semiquaver, and their equivalent rests (candidates may use the terms ‘whole note’, ‘half note’, etc.). Tied notes. Single-dotted notes and rests.

2. Simple time signatures of 2/4 3/4 4/4, bar-lines and the grouping of the notes listed above within these times.

3. The stave. Treble (G) and bass (F) clefs. Names of notes on the stave, including middle C in both clefs. Sharp, flat and natural signs, and their cancellation.

4. Construction of the major scale, including the position of the tones and semitones. Scales and key signatures of the major keys of C, G, D and F in both clefs, with their tonic triads (root position), degrees (number only), and intervals above the tonic (by number only).

5. Some frequently used terms and signs concerning tempo, dynamics, performance directions and articulation marks. Simple questions will be asked about a melody written in either treble or bass clef.

Theory GRADE 2

As in Grade 1, with the addition of:

1. Simple time signatures of 2/2 3/2 4/2 3/8 and the grouping of notes and rests within these times. Triplets, and triplet note groups with rests.

2. Extension of the stave to include two ledger lines below and above each stave.

3. Construction of the minor scale (harmonic or melodic at candidate’s choice, but candidates will be expected to know which form they are using). Scales and key signatures of the major keys of A, Bb and Eb, and the minor keys of A, E and D, with their tonic triads (root position), degrees (number only), and intervals above the tonic (by number only

Theory GRADE 3

As in preceding grades, with the addition of:

1. Compound time signatures of 6/8 9/8 12/8 and the grouping of notes and rests within these times. The demisemiquaver (32nd note) and its equivalent rest.

2. Extension of the stave beyond two ledger lines. The transposition of a simple melody from the treble clef to the bass clef, or vice versa, at the octave.

3. Scales and key signatures of all major and minor keys up to and including four sharps and flats, including both harmonic and melodic forms of minor scales, with their tonic triads (root position), degrees (number only), and intervals above the tonic (number and type).

4. More terms and signs. The simple questions about a melody may include one on its phrase structure

 

Theory GRADE 4

As in preceding grades, with the addition of:

1. All simple and compound duple, triple and quadruple time signatures, and the grouping of notes and rests within these times. The breve and its equivalent rest. Double-dotted notes and rests. Duplets.2 Alto clef (C clef centred on 3rd line). The identification of notes in the alto clef in any of the keys set for this grade (see below), and the transcription at the same pitch of a simple melody from the treble or the
bass clef to the alto clef, and vice versa. Double sharp and double flat signs, and their cancellation. Enharmonic equivalents.

3.  Scales and key signatures of all major and minor keys up to and including five sharps and flats, with both forms of minor scales. Technical names for the notes of the diatonic scale (tonic, supertonic, etc.). Construction of the chromatic scale. All intervals, not exceeding an octave, between any two diatonic notes in any of the keys set for this grade.

4. The identification and writing of triads (root position) on the tonic, subdominant and dominant notes in any of the keys set for this grade. The recognition of 5

3.  (root position) chords on the tonic, subdominant and dominant notes in any of the keys set for this grade (the harmonic form of the scale will be used in minor keys).

5.  More terms and signs, including the recognition and naming (but not writing out) of the trill, turn, upper and lower mordent, acciaccatura and appoggiatura. Questions about a passage of music will include simple related questions about standard orchestral instruments.

Theory GRADE 5

As in preceding grades, with the addition of:

1. Irregular time signatures of 5/4 7/4 5/8 7/8 and the grouping of notes and rests within these times. Irregular divisions of simple time values.

2. Tenor clef (C clef centred on 4th line). The identification of notes in the four clefs in any of the keys set for this grade (see below), and the transposition at the octave of a simple melody from any clef to another. The writing at concert pitch of a melody notated for an instrument in Bb, A or F, and vice versa (the interval of transposition up or down will be given).

3. Scales and key signatures of all major and minor keys up to and including six sharps and flats. All simple and compound intervals from any note.

4. The identification of the 5/6/3 and 6/4 forms of the tonic, supertonic, subdominant and dominant chords in any of the keys set for this grade. The identification of the progression 6/4 5/3 (Ic-V) on the dominant note in any of the keys set for this grade. The choice of suitable chords at cadential points of a simple melody in the major key of C, G, D or F.

5. More terms and signs. The recognition of ornaments, including the replacement of written-out ornamentation with the appropriate signs, but not vice versa. Questions about a passage of music written for voices or instruments appropriate to the grade will include questions on the types of voice and names of instruments, the clefs they use, instrument family groups and the basic way by which they produce sound, as well as points of general musical observation designed to test the candidate’s ability to apply theoretical knowledge to actual music

Theory GRADE 6

As in preceding grades. The harmonic vocabulary expected will include: the use of 5/6/3 and 6/4 chords on any degree of the major or minor (harmonic and melodic) scale; the recognition of the dominant seventh chord in root position, first, second and third inversions, and the supertonic seventh chord in root position and first inversion, in any major or minor key; and the figuring for all these chords. An understanding of the principles of modulation and a knowledge of cadences, ornamentation and melodic decoration (which might include passing notes, auxiliary notes, appoggiaturas, changing notes and notes of anticipation) will also be expected. Questions will cover:

1 Writing specified chords for voices in four parts or for keyboard (at the candidate’s choice) above a given bass part of about four bars.

2 The indication of suitable chords for the accompaniment of a diatonic melody of about eight bars in any key, using any recognized method of notation, or, at the candidate’s choice, the provision of a bass to a given melody, adding figures to indicate the intended harmonies.

3 Composition of a melody for a specified instrument (a choice will be given), using a given opening. Modulation to the dominant, subdominant, relative major or relative minor may be required.

4 Questions on short extracts of music written for piano or in open score for voices or for any combination of instruments and/or voices, designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of the elements and notation of music, including the realization of ornaments, the identification and notation of underlying harmonic structure, phrase structure, style, performance, and on the voices and instruments for which the works were written.

Theory GRADE 7

As in preceding grades, with the addition of recognition of all diatonic secondary seventh chords and their inversions, the Neapolitan sixth and the diminished seventh chords, and of all figures commonly used by composers during the period c.1620–1790 to indicate harmonies above a bass part. Questions will cover:

1. The indication of chords and movement of the inner parts by figuring the bass in a passage in which both the melody and bass are given.

2. Rewriting a given passage to include appropriate suspensions and notes of melodic decoration.

3. Continuation of a given opening for solo instrument with keyboard accompaniment, which will be given in full throughout the passage, by completing the solo part, or, at the candidate’s choice, composition ofa melody for a specified instrument (a choice will be given) based on a given progression of chords or melodic figure.

4. Questions on short extracts of music written for piano or in open score for voices or for any combination of instruments and/or voices, designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of the elements and notation of music, including the realization of ornaments, the identification and notation of underlying harmonic structure, phrase structure, style, performance, and on the voices and instruments for which the works were written.

Theory GRADE 8

As in preceding grades. The harmonic vocabulary expected will include all standard diatonic and chromatic chords. Questions will cover:

1. Continuation of a given opening of a passage from a Baroque trio sonata for two treble instruments and basso continuo. The basso continuo part will be given throughout and fully figured (but a realization for keyboard will not be required).

2. Completion of an outline of a short passage for keyboard. Some knowledge of the styles practised by composers from the time of Haydn onwards will be assumed.

3. Continuation of a given opening of a melody for a specified instrument (a choice will be given).

4. Questions on short extracts of music written for piano or in open score for voices or for anyncombination of instruments and/or voices, designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of the elements and notation of music, including the realization of ornaments, the identification and notation of underlying harmonic structure, phrase structure, style, performance, and on the voices and instruments for which the works were written.

Music Theory fees

Music Theory exams (session one)

Last date of entry: Friday 12 January

Exam date

VietnamSaturday 3 March

Music Theory exams (session two)

Last date of entry: Friday 13 April

Exam date

VietnamSaturday 16 June

Music Theory exams (session three)

Last date of entry: Friday 7 September

Exam date

VietnamSaturday 3 November

#GradePrice
1Grade 1690,000 VND
2Grade 2760,000 VND
3Grade 3850,000 VND
4Grade 41,130,000 VND
5Grade 51,280,000 VND
6Grade 61,660,000 VND
7Grade 71,850,000 VND
8Grade 81,970,000 VND

ABRSM: Piano

Programme planning: Candidates must choose one piece from each of the three lists (A, B and C) in each grade. In the exam, they should inform the examiner which pieces they are performing, and they are welcome to use the form on pp. 43/45 for this purpose.

Exam music & editions: Wherever the syllabus includes an arrangement or transcription, the edition listed in the syllabus must be used in the exam; in all such cases the abbreviation ‘arr.’ or ‘trans.’ appears in the syllabus entry. For all other pieces, the editions quoted in the syllabus are given for guidance only and candidates may use any edition of their choice (in- or out-of-print
or downloadable). Information on obtaining exam music is given on p. 12.

Interpreting the score: Printed editorial suggestions such as fingering, metronome marks, realization of ornaments etc. need not be strictly observed. Whether the piece contains musical indications or not, candidates are always encouraged to interpret the score in a stylistically appropriate manner. Ultimately, examiners’ marking will be determined by consideration of pitch, time, tone, shape and performance, and how control of these contributes to the overall musical outcome.

Pedalling: The use and control of pedalling, and its effect on tone and shape, will be taken int account by examiners, who will be assessing the overall musical outcome rather than the strict observance of any printed pedal indications (which may therefore be adapted or omitted, as appropriate). Pieces whose full musical effect is heavily reliant on pedalling (whether marked in the music or not) should be avoided if appropriate pedalling cannot be managed.

Hand stretch: Candidates should choose the most suitable pieces for their hand size from the syllabus lists. If necessary, they may occasionally adapt the music by ‘spreading’ chords or omitting notes at wide stretches, provided the result is musically satisfactory.

Repeats: All da capo and dal segno indications should be observed but all other repeats (including first-time bars) should be omitted unless they are very brief (i.e. of a few bars) or unless the syllabus specifies otherwise.

Performing from memory: Candidates are free to perform any of their pieces from memory; in such cases they must ensure that a copy of the music is available for the examiner to refer to if necessary. No additional marks are awarded for playing from memory.

Page-turns: Examiners will be understanding if a page-turn causes a lack of continuity during a piece, and this will not affect the marking. A variety of solutions for awkward page-turns exists, including the use of an additional copy of the music or a photocopy of a section of the piece (but see ‘Photocopies’ on p. 10). In cases where candidates believe there is no solution to a particularly awkward page-turn, they may apply to bring a page-turner to the exam. The request must be made to syllabus@abrsm.ac.uk no later than the closing date for entry, and details of the piece, edition and nature of the difficulty should be given. If permission is granted, a confirmation letter will be issued which must be taken to the exam as verification. Examiners are unable to help with page-turning.

Piano grades: requirements and information

Photocopies: Performing from unauthorized photocopies (or other kinds of copies) of copyright editions is not allowed. ABRSM may withhold the exam result where it has evidence of an illegal copy (or copies) being used. In the UK, copies may be used in certain limited circumstances – for full details, see the MPA’s Code of Fair Practice at www.mpaonline.org.uk. In all other cases, application should be made to the copyright holder before any copy is made, and evidence of permission received should be brought to the exam.

Examiners will usually ask for at least one of each type of scale/arpeggio/broken chord etc. required at each grade, as well as aiming to hear, in Grades 6–8, a balance of the specified articulations. When asking for requirements, examiners will specify only:

• the key (including minor form – harmonic or melodic – in the Grade 6–8 scales) or the
starting note

• left hand or right hand, or hands together

• the articulation (Grades 6–8)

All scales, arpeggios and broken chords should:

• be played from memory

• ascend and descend according to the specified range (and pattern)

• be prepared legato, unless the syllabus specifies staccato (or both)

• be played without pedalling

• be played without undue accentuation and at a pace that is consistent with accuracy and distinctness

Candidates are free to use any fingering that produces a successful musical outcome.

Candidates are free to start at any octave, provided the required ranges are covered. For all ‘hands
together’ requirements, the hands should be one octave apart, unless otherwise indicated.

Arpeggios and dominant sevenths are required in root position only, except where otherwise indicated. Scales in thirds or a third apart should begin with the tonic as the lower note, while scales in sixths or a sixth apart should begin with the tonic as the upper note.

Books of scale requirements are published for Piano by ABRSM for each grade.

Listening lies at the heart of all good music-making. Developing aural awareness is fundamental to musical training because having a ‘musical ear’ impacts on all aspects of musicianship. Singing, both silently in the head and out loud, is one of the best ways to develop the ‘musical ear’. It connects the internal imagining of sound, the ‘inner ear’, with the external creation of it, without the necessity of mechanically having to ‘find the note’ on an instrument (important though that connection is). By integrating aural activities in imaginative ways in the lesson, preparation for the aural tests within an exam will be a natural extension of what is already an essential part of the learning experience.

In the exam 

Aural tests are an integral part of all Practical graded exams. The tests are administered by the examiner from the piano. For any test that requires a sung response, pitch rather than vocal quality is being assessed. The examiner will be happy to adapt to the vocal range of the candidate, whose responses may be sung to any vowel (or consonant followed by a vowel), hummed or whistled (and at a different octave, if appropriate). 

Assessment 

Some tests allow for a second attempt or for an additional playing by the examiner, if necessary. The examiner will also be ready to prompt, where helpful, although this may affect the assessment. Marks are not awarded for each individual test or deducted for mistakes; instead they reflect the candidate’s overall response in this section. The marking criteria for the aural tests are given on p. 43. 

Specimen tests

Examples of the tests are given in Specimen Aural Tests and Aural Training in Practice (from 2011), available for purchase from music retailers and from www.abrsm.org/shop.

Deaf or hearing-impaired candidates

Deaf or hearing-impaired candidates may choose alternative tests in place of the standard tests, if requested at the time of entry. Further information, including the syllabus for the alternative tests, is available at www.abrsm.org/specificneeds.

Candidates will be asked to play a short unaccompanied piece of music which they have not previously seen. They will be given up to half a minute in which to look though and, if they wish, try out all or any part of the test before they are required to play it for assessment. The table below shows the introduction of elements at each grade. Please note that these parameters are presented cumulatively, i.e. once introduced they apply for all subsequent grades (albeit within a logical progression of difficulty).

Practical exam fees

Practical exams (session one)

Last date of entry: Friday 16 February

All instruments and grades

VietnamJune

#GradePrice
1Prep Test1,470,000 VND
2Grade 1 1,810,000 VND
3Grade 22,090,000 VND
4Grade 3 2,130,000 VND
5Grade 42,200,000 VND
6Grade 52,520,000 VND
7Grade 6 3,130,000 VND
8Grade 7 3,410,000 VND
9Grade 8 4,390,000 VND
10Grade ARSM6,530,000 VND
11Performance Assessment2,520,000 VND
12Ensemble: Primary2,980,000 VND
13Ensemble: Intermediate3,250,000 VND
14Ensemble: Advanced 4,180,000 VND

 

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