How to help your child succeed in a music exam RSS

Parents / 08/11/2017
How to help your child succeed in a music exam

Music Parent Guide: Part 9

How to help your child succeed in music exams

Focused practice is essential for all sections of the examination and involves mindful concentration and clear objectives. You can help your child by making sure she understands what skills need to be practised and in what proportion. When the decision has been made to enter an exam, practice will focus mainly on the elements to be assessed. As well as the pieces or songs, exams include additional supporting tests, all of which need to be practised. Typically the supporting tests are: 

  • scales / technical work
  • sight reading
  • aural tests 

A sensible balance for practice might be to devote roughly the same amount of time to each skill as the weighting each one attracts in the exam mark scheme. The chart below shows the suggested balance between pieces and the supporting tests for Henry, who is preparing to take an ABRSM examination. 

How to practise the pieces

Your child needs clear objectives in respect of what needs to be learned, then practised and refined prior to the examination. The teacher will go through each stage of learning during the lessons, working on small sections at a time which your child then needs to practise at home. Hearing the music before starting to learn it is really useful for showing the ideal performance.  Having access to a reliable recording, such as this video of Survivor played by Jessica O'Leary, can keep your child inspired and on track during the weeks leading up to the exam.


It is important for your child to practise performing ahead of the exam so, once she is playing or singing with reasonable accuracy and fluency, it's time to ask your friends and relatives if they could be a practice audience. Some parents imagine that people will think they are showing off their child's achievements but, as long as you frame the request to listen as a huge favour that will help your child on the big day, I'm sure they will feel honoured to help.

The supporting tests

Although the pieces carry the most marks and are the main focus for pre-exam preparation, the supporting tests should be practised too for maximum chance of success. So often, exam candidates play the pieces or sing the songs well but their mark is held at a bare pass level because their supporting tests are insecure. Your child's teacher will explain how to work on scales or technical work and may also recommend a good sight reading book to use at home. Lesson time is often too short to cover adequately everything that is tested in the exam but it is easy to practise the aural tests at home now that we have online Aural Test Training to help.

Sandy Holland

Photography by Leexoos on Unsplash

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