I was more nervous than my kids on the way to the exam venue because I was worried we would be late and I was worried they would have last minute jitters
Yesterday, my children sat for the ABRSM Practical Piano Exam. They boy sat for his Grade 3 while his sister sat for Grade 5 exam. The boy had nervous coughs while waiting for his turn but skipped all the way down the corridor when it was over. The girl also had nervous tensions while waiting and had to go to the bathroom just before her turn. She then washed her hands which was cold with the cold water. I had to help her massage them to warm them up again.
Before the exam, I asked my facebook group: Malaysia Primary School Parents for tips.
The parents in the group were generous in sharing some of the following tips:
- Relax, greet and smile cheerfully to the examiner
- Observe the dress code
- When the examiner asks whether you would like to start with scales or exam pieces 1st, start with scales so you can have a better feel of the piano. Then, adjust accordingly (play softer or harder) for the exam pieces. (I like this tip. It gives the kids a chance to warm up first so they can play their pieces better)
This is the ABRSM exam dress code which was given to us
In addition to the above valuable tips, I also did the following:
- Let the children practise with their shoes on because they would be playing with their shoes at the exam centre
- Let the children watch the following ABRSM mock exam video so they can visualise themselves doing the exam
- We also did mock exams ourselves and role played at home with me acting as the examiner (they thought I was a lousy examiner because I didn't even know when they played badly)
Finally, you can read the ABRSM exam support, guide and advice from the ABRSM website starting with this article: On The Exam Day or print out the Mini Exam Guide from the ABRSM US Site. (Note: Scroll right to the bottom of that website to find the exam guide in pdf format).
You should also note that the total marks for the ABRSM exams are 150 and not 100 like in regular examinations 100 marks to pass, 120 marks for a merit and 130 marks for a distinction.
Last but not least, I don't pressure my kids to practise. I teach them to prioritize instead. When they have school tests, we go easy on the piano and we practise harder when piano exams are round the corner. Otherwise, they may feel too much pressure and begin to feel that learning music is a burden rather than a pleasure.
When they play, we sometimes sing along or dance along when they other plays and I tell them "How wonderful it is to be able to make music. How beautiful it is to be able to play music that people want to sing and dance to."