Latest exam updates

Exam refunds

To support customers affected by ongoing COVID restrictions, for Practical and Performance Grade exams from 1 January to 31 May 2021 any absent candidate will automatically receive a refund. This includes Performance Grades where the candidate has been unable to record and upload their video. You do not need to contact us to request a refund. However, it will help us if you can log in to your account and cancel the exam.

For Online Music Theory exams and any paper based exams taking place outside of the UK/Ireland we anticipate COVID restrictions will not prevent candidates from sitting their exam so absentee candidates will not automatically receive a refund and our normal Withdrawal, Non-attendance and Fee Refunds Policy still applies.

Performance Grade booking

We will be offering Performance Grade exams every month for the remainder of 2021. Please check here for dates and fees.

Music Theory exams – March 2021

  • Online Music Theory exams (Grades 1 to 5) – we are cancelling the online exams planned for 16 March. Exams in May and June will go ahead as planned.
  • Paper Music Theory exams (Grades 6 to 8) – the next exams will take place in June. Please note, dates and booking periods for Grades 1-5 and Grades 6-8 may be different from now on. For full details, see our dates and fees page.
  • Grade 5 Music Theory requirement - from 1 January to 30 April 2021 only, candidates can take Grade 6 to 8 Performance or Practical exams without first passing Grade 5 Music Theory. From 1 May 2021, the Grade 5 Music Theory requirement will return with flexibility about timing. If you receive an email asking for your proof of prerequisite, please ignore this. We will still release any results in line with the arrangements outlined here.

For more information click here.

Exam information

Same standards. Different format.

With a focus on creating a more reliable and accessible assessment, online Music Theory exams give candidates the best opportunity to demonstrate their musical knowledge and understanding.

To support the format of these new online exams, we have updated some of the Grade 1 to 5 questions to bring them in line with a style of assessment commonly used across the education sector.

Although the way in which you take your exam has changed, and some of the questions have been updated, we are still testing the same musical knowledge and understanding, to the same standards.

When can I take this new assessment?

Online Music Theory exams at Grades 1 to 5 are now available worldwide. From May onwards we will also be introducing a more flexible service so that candidates have more choice over when they can take their exam.

The next opportunity to take an exam is between 26 May and 23 June 2021.

  • Candidates can take their exam on any date/time during the 26 May to 23 June exam window.
  • You do not have to select a specific date when you book.

The booking period for this exam widow is from 26 April to 4 May 2021.

  • This is when you can book an online Music Theory exam at Grade 1 to 5 using our online booking service.
  • Each candidate will only be able to book one exam during this exam window.

At the moment, we can only offer these exams in English, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. We hope to provide translations into other languages in the future.

From August 2021 we will be introducing further improvements so that candidates can book and take their exams on any date/time during the year. We will provide more information about this as soon as we can.

For the most up to date information, please check our Exam Date and Fees pages for the latest information.

How will I take this new assessment?

Candidates take their exam in any location where they have access to a laptop or desktop computer with a webcam and the internet. You can find detailed system requirements here and we will publish further guidance on taking an online exam soon.

Grade 1 to 5 – what’s changing?

You can view a summary of the updated syllabus here. This applies from 2020 for online exams, where they are available. All paper-based exams in 2020 and 2021 will continue to use the ‘from 2018’ syllabus.

  • We have adapted the style of some questions for use in an online exam. If you are familiar with our paper exams, the online version of some questions will look different. Candidates can try the new format here.
  • There are new question types including more multiple-choice. This is to ensure objective, reliable and robust, assessment.
  • The knowledge required for each grade will be tested in full in every individual exam paper.
  • We are removing the requirement to demonstrate accurate copying of music. Candidates will still demonstrate their knowledge of how to write music.
  • There will be a total of 75 marks available rather than 100 marks. Candidates will need 50 marks for a Pass, 60 marks for a Merit and 65 marks for a Distinction.
  • Grade 2: candidates currently have a choice of the harmonic or melodic form of minor scales. This is changing to harmonic.
  • Grade 3: questions about phrase structure are no longer included.
  • Grade 5: identifying the progression 6/4 5/3 (Ic-V) on the dominant note in any of the keys set for this grade is no longer be required.
  • Grade 5: we are adding the requirement that candidates can recognise and name perfect, plagal and imperfect cadences. Currently candidates have to indicate suitable chord progressions for two cadences – it makes sense that they should also be able to name those cadences. You can see some example questions here: Grade 5 Cadence Question Examples.
  • We have reduced the number of terms and signs, removing any that musicians are unlikely to experience in their practical/performance learning at the same grade. This supports better progression from grade to grade and ensures the required knowledge is more relevant and useful to learners. An updated list of terms and signs is available here: Terms and Signs for Grades 1 to 5 from 2020
  • We are removing the requirement to transpose an entire melody between clefs, but are still assessing fundamental knowledge of transposition between clefs and keys.
  • We are not making any changes to the core musical understanding that candidates will be asked to demonstrate in their exam at Grades 1 to 5.
  • The level and value of the exams is staying the same.
  • We are not changing the duration of the exams.
  • We are not making any changes to the questions or syllabus at Grades 6 to 8.

Got a question?

What are the changes?

How do the updated exams better support our learners?

What is ABRSM’s process for updating the Music Theory syllabus and assessment?

How have we ensured the exam is robust and maintains standards?

Why are we using multiple-choice questions?

How have we ensured the exam is accessible for neurodiverse learners?

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