The ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) is an examinations board and registered charity based in London, UK, which provides examinations in music at centres around the world.

ABRSM is one of four examination boards accredited by Ofqual to award graded exams and diploma qualifications in music within the UK’s National Qualifications Framework (along with the London College of Music, Rockschool Ltd and Trinity College London). ‘The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music’ was established in 1889 and rebranded as ABRSM in 2009. The clarifying strapline “the exam board of the Royal Schools of Music” was introduced in 2012.


  • The Royal Academy of Music
  • The Royal College of Music
  • The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
  • The Royal Northern College of Music

More than 600,000 candidates take ABRSM exams each year in over 93 countries. ABRSM also provides a publishing house for music which produces syllabus booklets, sheet music and exam papers and runs professional development courses and seminars for teachers.

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Improvisation is an integral aspect of jazz performance. Candidates must sing an improvised solo on the chord changes of standard repertoire, even when solo changes are not specified, unless the work is through-composed.


All technical work must be sung:

  • From memory
  • Ascending and descending according to the specified range
  • Straight or swung or slurred, as requested by the examiner.


The recommended tempi for each grade should be observed, but accuracy, fluency and evenness of tone are most important.

All technical work to be performed in the performance style, mf.


Students must sing one sight-reading test. Sufficient time will be allowed to study the piece without singing it.


The requirements for each grade appear in a separate publication, available from the Directorate Music, free of charge. The practical musicianship requirements per grade are the same for all instruments (including voice). The examiner will play all practical musicianship tests on the piano. The candidate must sing the visualization test on syllables of his/her own choice.


There are no theoretical requirements for Performance Level Assessments (PLAs).

The Theory of Music examinations required for the various practical grade examinations are as follows:

Grade Examinations

Practical examination Theory of Music requirement
Pre-grade 1 to Grade 3 None
Grade 4 Grade 3
Grade 5 Grade 4
Grades 6, 7 & 8 Grade 5


If a Theory of Music examination is a requirement for a practical examination, and the candidate has not passed the required Theory of Music examination before the practical examination is played, the candidate must enter and pass the required Theory of Music examination. A candidate who passes a practical examination before the required Theory of Music examination will only receive the certificate once the relevant Theory of Music examination has been passed. If a candidate passed the required Theory of Music examination at the same or an earlier examination session, the practical certificate will be issued without delay. Grade 8 practical candidates who do not yet meet the Theory of Music requirement must register for the practical and theory components in the same calendar year. (Theory of Music may be written earlier.) Theory of Music Grades 6 and 7 examinations consist of two papers each. Candidates may enter for one or both papers (in any order) at any time and will retain credit for individual papers passed. Candidates entering for the Grade 7 and 8 Theory of Music will have to pass both the examination papers in order for the Theory of Music qualification to be awarded.

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Rockschool’s Guitar Syllabus 2018 has been designed to build upon the ever-popular 2012 qualification, expanding upon the original compositions with arrangements of six new ‘hit tunes’ at each grade. This has resulted in an even broader scope for learners at all levels to engage with repertoire which has been rigorously benchmarked against academic and industry standards.

Furthermore, students can gauge their progress via commensurate levels of technical exercises, prepared and unseen skills tests and questions relating to their studies at each grade. This specification guide serves three purposes:

  • To provide regulatory information surrounding the qualification
  • To provide an overview of examination structure and content
  • To provide content and assessment specification relevant to each graded examination Rockschool’s graded exams continue to provide a progressive mastery approach to music and an enjoyable experience for all learners.
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More than fifty years ago, Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki realized the implications of the fact that children the world over learn to speak their native language with ease. He began to apply the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music, and called his method the mother-tongue approach. The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, constant repetition, etc., are some of the special features of the Suzuki approach.


As when a child learns to talk, parents are involved in the musical learning of their child. They attend lessons with the child and serve as “home teachers” during the week. One parent often learns to play before the child, so that s/he understands what the child is expected to do. Parents work with the teacher to create an enjoyable learning environment.


The early years are crucial for developing mental processes and muscle coordination. Listening to music should begin at birth; formal training may begin at age three or four, but it is never too late to begin.


Children learn words after hearing them spoken hundreds of times by others. Listening to music every day is important, especially listening to pieces in the Suzuki repertoire so the child knows them immediately.


Constant repetition is essential in learning to play an instrument. Children do not learn a word or piece of music and then discard it. They add it to their vocabulary or repertoire, gradually using it in new and more sophisticated ways.


As with language, the child’s effort to learn an instrument should be met with sincere praise and encouragement. Each child learns at his/her own rate, building on small steps so that each one can be mastered. Children are also encouraged to support each other’s efforts, fostering an attitude of generosity and cooperation.


In addition to private lessons, children participate in regular group lessons and performance at which they learn from and are motivated by each other.


Children do not practice exercises to learn to talk, but use language for its natural purpose of communication and self-expression. Pieces in the Suzuki repertoire are designed to present technical problems to be learned in the context of the music rather than through dry technical exercises.


Children learn to read after their ability to talk has been well established. in the same way, children should develop basic technical competence on their instruments before being taught to read music.

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If exams or formal learning is something that doesn’t interest you, our teachers are equipped to teach with a milestone approach that keeps lessons engaging while ensuring progress throughout the experience.