Pieces or songs
For this section of the exam, you play three pieces or sing three songs chosen from the relevant syllabus lists.
We want you to experience different styles of music, so our syllabuses are designed to include a wide range of repertoire to choose from. You should find music that inspires you, and that you enjoy learning and performing.
How do we choose the pieces and songs?
We have a panel of expert specialist consultants – examiners, teachers and performers – who help us to refresh and renew our syllabuses.
Using guidelines for each subject and grade, they put together an initial list of repertoire ideas. They also take into account suggestions or feedback from teachers and candidates, and look at statistics showing the popularity of previously listed music. This means our syllabus lists include music that we're sure you'll enjoy playing, suiting a wide range of tastes and approaches.
After a thorough moderation process to make sure that the level of challenge matches evenly across the lists, we check the availability of the music selected and then approve the final lists that will appear in our syllabuses.
Video: Trombone Grade 3 Piece B (previous syllabus)
Scales and arpeggios
If you play an instrument, you'll need to play scales, arpeggios and other relevant patterns in the selection of keys, ranges and variants specified in the relevant syllabus.
Scales and arpeggios provide strong foundations for good technical skills and musical understanding. Through learning and playing them, you'll become more familiar with your instrument and develop many key aspects of technique including articulation, tone and intonation.
Playing scales and arpeggios also helps you to understand a number of vital musical ingredients, especially keys and tonality. This develops your confidence and security when sight-reading, learning new pieces and performing – from notation or from memory, as a solo musician or with others.
Video: Clarinet Grade 6 scales and arpeggios
Unaccompanied traditional song
If you’re a singer, instead of playing scales and arpeggios, for this section of the exam you'll perform from memory an unaccompanied traditional song of your choice.
Learning to sing unaccompanied helps you to build your sense of key and pulse without referring to an accompanying instrument, and develops your ability to hold your pitch. It also encourages a sense of rhythm, a varied use of tonal colour, effective musical communication and reliable memory skills.
Video: Unaccompanied traditional song
This section of the exam requires you to play or sing at sight a short piece that you haven't seen before. In Singing exams, this is accompanied by the examiner.
Sight-reading is a valuable skill with many benefits. It helps you to perform new music with confidence, and to learn music more quickly. Good musical reading skills are also very valuable when it comes to making music with others, so singing in a choir or playing in an ensemble becomes more accessible, rewarding and enjoyable.
If you're taking a Horn, Trumpet or Organ exam at Grades 6 to 8, you'll also be required to take a transposition test. If you're taking a Harpsichord exam, you'll take a figured-bass realisation test. More information about this can be found in the syllabus.
Video: Alto Saxophone Grade 4 sight-reading
In the aural tests, examiners assess your listening skills and musical perception. The tests cover awareness of pitch, pulse, rhythm, melody, harmony and other musical features.
Developing good musical listening skills is a vital part of any music education, and the ability to hear how music works helps with all aspects of your music making and progress. Aural tests are the same for all instruments and singing.
Video: Grade 1 aural tests
You can find detailed information about exam requirements in our syllabuses, which are available on this website and in a range of printed booklets.