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Monday, February 16, 2009

ABRSM Grade 1 Piano Trial Exam for Scales

My girl was supposed to sit for her ABRSM Grade 1 Piano Scales Trial Exam just before CNY but I felt that she was far from prepared so I informed the school that we could not make it..... twice!

Finally, she sat for her trial on Sunday. We could not delay it any further. :P The examiner said that she was good, her fingers nicely curved and she played with confidence. There were only some small mistakes here and there to watch out for.

The teacher had informed us on Wednesday that she was to sit for her trial on Sunday. That gave us 3-4 days of "intensive" practise. "Intensive" means 30 minutes to 45 minutes each day. Thats all we can afford with school and homework being given priority. We had practised here and there after Chinese New Year but not very seriously because I wanted to give her more time to adjust to school.

I am afraid that I did not know enough of what was invoved in the examinations and should have found out more about it. During the end of last year when the teacher approached us to sign my girl up for the exams, we asked the teacher what was her recommendation and whether she felt that my girl was ready. The teacher said yes and we relied on her recommendation.

However, on hindsight, with my girl having to adjust to Chinese primary school, lots of homework etc, I would probably have waited longer before allowing her to sit for any examinations. She's not yet 7 and just started learning in July last year, so whats the hurry? Sigh.

Anyway we have already signed up and paid for it so we will make the most of it without too much pressure. She will have some more trial exams to sit for in April and June plus a concert in June for kids taking the exam. Then she will sit for the exam in July. That is a lot of work that needs to be managed well without pressuring her too much.

I do not want to pressure her when she is not ready, that is why I turned down the first two trial exams. The teacher said its ok, its only a trial, its ok even if she fails but to me, that is not ok. Even if it is only a trial, I would like her to go into the trial prepared so that she feels confident. The trial is to boost her confidence, not put a dent to it from failure. I think the teacher fails to understand that. She also gives us very short notice about the exams giving us very little time to prepare.

Fortunately, after delaying it twice and pushing it as far back as we could, we had enough time to be more prepared and it boosted my girl's confidence that she did well.

She has finished learning her scales and broken chords so she just needs to practise them. She has just started to learn the first piece from her exam pieces. Initially I was panicked when I saw 9 pieces in all. How was she going to complete all of that and sit for a trial in April, I thought. However, after checking the ABRSM website I realised she only needs to play 3 pieces. Phew! I did mention that I know very little of whats involved.

This week she will start Aural training. There are 4 parts to the exam, Scales, Aural, Sight Reading and Exam Pieces. I wonder what is the importance of each section for the examination ie how many marks will be given for each section. Does anyone know?

I am not very happy that the teacher makes recommendations without explaining to us what is involved and discussing with us how much work is required. She also gives us very short notice about the exams and I feel that she has not prepared my girl enough for it. She had just begun to teach my girl the scales for a couple of lessons when she asked my girl to sit for the Scales Trials. And she gave us a few days notice for it. I had to step in with my little knowledge to help my girl with her practise. And I was annoyed that they got my girl's name wrong for the exams despite me pointing it out to them specifically not to get it wrong because they had got it wrong in several occassions. Now they need the birth cert, need to apply to the Ministry of Education etc etc. Hmmm.... Sorry, I'm ranting.


  1. Wow, I didn't know that extra lesson for leisure is turning to be so competitive too. I don't remember going for exam just less than a year of playing.

    One of my friend told me this , perhaps you want to tell the music teacher too. Let your girl only take exam every alternate year, but skip a grade when taking the exam. That will be less stressful and will give her more opportunity to play more songs.

    Seriously with 30 - 45 min session per week, drilling for exam (exam pieces, scale, boring sight reading) and music theory, there is hardly any chance to learn to play those beautiful pieces. ( My personal experience..I HATE practicing scale!)

  2. The ABRSM exams are as follows:-
    a) Three exam pieces worth 30 marks EACH. Candidates need to score a minimum of 20 marks for EACH piece to pass.

    b) Scales & Arpeggios worth 21 marks in total. Candidates need to score a minimum of 14 marks to pass.

    c) Sight-reading worth 21 marks in total. Candidates need to score a minimum of 14 marks to pass.

    d) Aural Tests worth 18 marks. Candidates need to score a minimum of 12 marks to pass.

    This totals up to a maximum of 150 marks. The passing mark is 100. A MERIT pass would be 120 and above. DISTINCTIONS are from 130.

    A general exam trick is to make sure that the candidate practises the scales and arpeggios so well that they are literally on auto-pilot mode during the actual exam.

    Any other information you might need? ayahl AT hotmail.com

  3. Elaine,
    Yah lor. I did not know this. Fortunately my girl actually enjoys playing the exam piece. She's just started on her first one. Perhaps she still enjoys because its only been a year so she has not had a chance to be bored yet. She didn't attend any music appreciation classes before that.

    Thank you so much for the info. Its very helpful indeed. Thanks again. :)

  4. MG, your girl is able to play the grade 1 scales and exam pieces at age 6 with less than a year of learning, is showing that she is very good with piano/talented in this area. Documentary I watched about talented musician, it is not that they are born and able to play straight away, but it is their deep interest and doesn't feel bored to practise and improve that help them to succeed. Keep it up!

  5. Mg, I have 3 sheets about ABRSM examination in piano, but in Indonesian (I think you can read, almost the same with Malay).Those were really helpful to give me another perspective about ABRSM. I've got from my kid's piano teacher. If you would like to read it, I'll send you by email, just let me know or email me. At least after read that, I know and understand the most important for our kids is not the ABRSM exam, but his skill and many more....

  6. Annie,
    So far she does not show any sign of boredom so there is no pressure appart from the exams!

    Oh thanks! Can you email me please?


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