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2020 Examiner Advice

Advice from the source! Here are some pro tips from our Examiners.

We asked our Examiners about some of the common "errors" in exams. These are their observations from 2020, and include some great suggestions for teachers wanting to give their students the edge in their next exam.

Some are instrument-specific but would certainly relate to many candidates. All comments are general in nature and are provided as a resource for exam preparation - we all want to see you do your best, after all!


Technical Work This is an important aspect of musicianship, not just exams. Examiners would love to have given higher grades in some cases but the Technical Work didn't always match the time and attention given to what was otherwise a truly beautiful repertoire performance.

Starting in the Right Position
Candidates could benefit from a reminder to find middle C before commencing their pieces in order to ensure works are performed in the octave notated.


Technical Work Details
The articulation and dynamic changes that are specified in the syllabus are important. Make sure you play more than just the notes and use these markings to create music.

Exam Presentation
It would be really great if teachers could prepare candidates in how to position themselves in relation to the piano and examiner. Ideally, upper string player should bow directly AT the examiner, not standing face on to the examiner. This gives the Examiner the best opportunity to hear all that the Candidate is capable of. An Examiner may need to request that the Candidate move to facilitate this, which can be off-putting for their performance.

General Knowledge
This area is very often underprepared in the string world and it is such a shame, often pushing a result down when the playing was good and a higher grading was considered. This seems to be particularly relevant to the Lower grades, with young players needing more guidance on the basics, from the title of their pieces to keys, terms etc. The syllabus outlines the requirements for each grade, and is the best place to refer to for guidance in this area.


Ensure candidates’ instruments are tuned prior to entering the room. The only exception should be to double check tuning with the piano in the exam room.

Double check the new syllabuses. It is essential that the whole exam is one or the other (not a combination) during the transitional period where old syllabuses are still available.

A reminder that accompanists must leave the room for unaccompanied works. The only exception is if the Examiner has requested assistance with the aural test.

A reminder to please ensure all conversations around exams are positive, and refrain from making comment on other teachers.

Repertoire exams continue to increase in popularity and this option is now available across all syllabuses (except Band) – please contact the office if you’ve not heard about this and would like to know more.

Published on: 09 Feb 2021 9:54am