Latest exam updates

Music Theory Exam update – session one

On the basis of government advice, we are cancelling the Music Theory exams due to take place later in 2020. We are sorry for any inconvenience and thank you for your ongoing loyalty and support.

Remotely-assessed Performance Grades and ARSM – what’s involved

This page provides a summary of what’s involved in booking and taking a remotely-assessed Performance Grade or ARSM exam. We will publish a full guidance document and support materials soon, in advance of the first exam booking period later this year. You must read the full guidance document before recording a Performance Grade video.

If your question isn’t answered here, you may find the information you need in our FAQs.

For detailed information about the exam requirements, please read the Qualification Specification and relevant syllabus. 

  • Candidates taking a remotely-assessed exam make a continuous video recording of their performance, which they submit using our online exam booking service.
  • For Performance Grades, candidates perform four pieces – three from the syllabus and a fourth of their own choice. See the relevant syllabus for full information.
  • For the ARSM diploma, candidates perform a 30-minute programme of music with at least 20 minutes chosen from the repertoire list while the remainder can be their own choice. See the ARSM syllabus for full information. 
  • Once uploaded, the exam recording is assessed and marked by a member of our examiner panel. We then issue the result and mark form online, followed by a certificate in the post for successful candidates.

Booking an exam

  • Remotely-assessed Performance Grades and ARSM exams take place within distinct exam sessions preceded by a set booking period. We will publish booking period and exam session dates on our website once we’ve confirmed them.
  • Exams are booked through our online booking service. If you haven’t used it before, you’ll need to register and create an account before booking an exam. The person making the booking (the applicant) must be aged 18 or over.  
  • Before booking, you will need to have the following candidate information ready:
    • Contact ID (if known), name and date of birth
    • Grade and subject
    • Any access arrangements or reasonable adjustments
    • Email address for the candidate or parent/carer (compulsory for remotely-assessed exams)
  • When you book you can log in to select an ‘exam date’ from a list of available options. This ‘exam date’ is the final day on which you can submit the video recording through our online exam booking service.
  • While you must upload the recording by the time given on the ‘exam date’, you do not have to record the exam on that day. The candidate/applicant can choose when to record their exam performance.
  • Once the booking period has closed, the applicant (or candidate, if they have an ABRSM account) can log in, search for alternatives and reschedule an ‘exam date’. They can do this up to 48 hours before an exam date, as long as there is space available in the schedule for the day.

Taking the exam

  • The candidate/applicant chooses when and where to record the exam. This can be on any date, as long as the recording is ready to submit by the ‘exam date’ deadline.
  • The exam can take place in any suitable location with enough space and the necessary instruments available, including a piano for any accompaniments.
  • Piano candidates may use a digital piano as described on page 2 of the Performance Grades Piano Syllabus at abrsm.org/performancegrades.
  • For candidates under 18, a responsible adult oversees the recording of the exam performance to make sure it takes place according to our Exam Regulations.
  • The responsible adult must be aged 18 or over. They could be the applicant (who booked the exam), teacher, parent/carer or the accompanist.
  • The responsible adult can help the candidate with the video-recording device and, if the candidate wishes, help with showing the programme form and own-choice repertoire to the camera and announcing the pieces/songs.
  • Candidates taking Grades 6, 7, 8 and ARSM will need to provide a form of photo ID as outlined in our Candidate Identification Policy.
  • They should show their photo ID to the camera at the beginning of the recording (before they begin their performance).
  • The candidate completes a programme form listing the pieces/songs they are performing which they show to the camera at the start of the recording.  They also show the opening of their own-choice repertoire. 
    • Details of what candidates need to include on the programme form, as well as downloadable forms to print and complete, will be available well in advance of the first booking period.
    • The candidate also announces the following information before their performance: their name, exam subject (instrument), grade, and the title, composer and syllabus details (where applicable) for each piece/song in the order they are going to perform them.
  • For the exam, candidates perform their pieces/songs in one continuous performance in the order of their choice.

Unless social distancing restrictions or other government guidelines are in place due to COVID-19, our standard accompaniment requirements apply. This means that for all pieces/songs published with an accompaniment, candidates must perform with a live accompaniment and recorded accompaniments of any kind are not allowed. You can find full guidance for standard accompaniment requirements in our syllabuses for Performance Grades and ARSM.

If social distancing requirements are in place, we will accept the following:

  • Live accompaniment (including adapted for another instrument) if someone is available to provide this
  • Unaccompanied performance with short rests ‘played’ as written and several consecutive bars’ rest shortened.
  • Live accompaniment using video conferencing software such as Skype or Zoom
  • Pre-recorded accompaniment (prepared by the teacher or accompanist) or commercial backing track.
  • A mix of the above approaches
  • In addition, singers have the option to accompany themselves.

Recording the exam performance

  • The exam should be recorded as an audio-visual file in one continuous ‘take’.
  • The recording must not be edited in any way after the exam.
  • Most smartphones, tablets and laptops will be suitable for recording the exam.
  • You should set the camera resolution at 720p – a lower resolution (e.g. 480p) may produce an unclear, grainy picture and higher resolutions are likely to result in files that are too large to upload.
  • You can record in landscape or portrait view.
  • Recordings must be in one of the following formats: MP4, WMV, MOV or MPG.
  • The file size must not be more than 2GB. If the resolution of the video is too high, the file may be too large or may be slow to upload. In these circumstances, you will need to compress the file to make sure it uploads successfully.
  • The camera should be static, with candidate and instruments clearly in view.
  • For accompanied exams, the accompanist should also be in view, although the candidate should be the main focus.

  • We advise you to test the recording device and make a trial recording before the exam, to check the quality of the recording, the balance between instrumentalists/singers and their accompanist and that the programme form, own-choice music and ID (where applicable) are legible. 
  • Before making the exam recording, check that any distracting notifications are disabled on the device and that it is well charged and has enough storage space.

Submitting the recording

  • To submit an exam recording, the candidate or applicant uploads it via our online exam booking service. They must do this by the published time on the ‘exam date’.
  • As part of the upload process, the candidate (if 18 or over) or the responsible adult (present at the time of the recording) completes a declaration to confirm that the recording was made in accordance with our regulations.
  • If the responsible adult is not also the applicant who made the booking, they must be present when the recording is uploaded so that they can complete the declaration.
  • The recording is made for the sole purpose of our assessment of the Performance Grade exam. It must not be shared for any other purpose or with any other person, or uploaded to file sharing or social media websites such as Facebook or YouTube.

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