We receive a steady stream of questions covering a vast range of topics, from whether you can use an electric cello in an exam to whether we're considering assessments for drum kit ('no' and 'yes' respectively).
Many of the most common issues are dealt with in the relevant syllabus, in our exam information and regulations or in our guide to ABRSM exams (this resource is packed with advice on all aspects of preparing for and taking an exam, and should be the first thing to turn to when you have a query).
See our separate exam booking FAQ for queries about entering an exam.
The syllabus I’ve been working on has changed. Can I use pieces from last year’s syllabus in my exam this year?
In the first year of a new Practical exam syllabus, we offer an overlap period in which candidates may follow specific requirements from the preceding syllabus. Information on the length of the overlap period and the requirements that it applies to are given at abrsm.org/overlap.
Candidates at Grades 6–8 can bring a page-turner to assist with any awkward page-turns in their music. Prior permission from ABRSM isn't required. Accompanists for Grade 6–8 exams are also welcome to bring a page-turner.
Da capo (DC) and dal segno (DS) indications should be followed but other repeats (including first-time bars) shouldn't be played unless stipulated in the syllabus. However, very short repeats can be played at the discretion of the teacher or candidate.
Your student could either hum or whistle – the examiner won't be assessing vocal quality. Candidates with a limited vocal range should feel free to tell the examiner, who'll endeavour (but not guarantee) to find tests within the range specified.
Cadenzas shouldn't be played unless specified in the syllabus. Tuttis aren't usually required, other than those specifically stated in the syllabus. Candidates should arrange in advance with their accompanists which tuttis might be omitted.
I have a copy of a piece in the syllabus but it’s a different edition from the one listed. Can I use my copy for the exam?
You can use any edition of the music unless the syllabus specifies a particular arrangement or transcription. Always check the syllabus.
No, all Jazz syllabuses remain in force until further notice. We currently offer Jazz exams at Grades 1–5 for Piano, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet and Trombone. Also available are Jazz Ensemble exams and Performance Assessment in Jazz.
I’m having trouble playing the ornaments as they're written in the music. Will I be penalised in my exam?
There's no single correct way to play ornaments and you should use your musical discretion. If you need to, it's better to simplify the ornaments. Examiners would rather hear a confident simplified version of an ornament than a performance that suffers because you're struggling to perform the suggested interpretation.
You shouldn't make or use photocopies unless you have written permission from the publisher. You're allowed to photocopy individual pages to avoid a tricky page turn, but only if the publisher of the piece is signed up to the Music Publishers’ Association (MPA) Code of Fair Practice. The Code of Fair Practice is available at mpaonline.org.uk and participating publishers are listed in Appendix B.
I'd like to take a high-grade (6–8) Practical exam but don’t have Grade 5 Theory. I do have an A-level in Music/a Music degree. Can I be exempt from taking the Theory exam?
For enquiries like this, please contact our Learning & Qualifications team.
If your question isn't answered on this page, please contact our Learning & Qualifications team using this form.
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