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Parents' Guide to ABRSM Piano Practical Examination

Parents' Guide to ABRSM Piano Practical Examination

Every child fears examinations. This fear is no different for your child when they are heading into an ABRSM piano practical exam, sweaty palms are definitely the first thing you will notice about them. Biologically speaking, being anxious before an upcoming test or exam is perfectly normal; however, the degree of anxiety can be managed with the right amount of quality practice.


Before we dive into the different ways that you can help prepare your child for an ABRSM piano practical with tips from our knowledgeable teachers and students who have taken multiple ABRSM exams, let’s take a look at each component that forms the examination.


4 Main Areas
There are four main sections: performance of the 3 prepared examination pieces, the examiner-selected scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests.


The bulk of the points lies in the 3 piano pieces, covering approximately 60% of overall exam. Musical elements such as pitch, tone, variation, and tempo, in addition to individual interpretation of the piece will be taken into account during grading. Note that the examination syllabus differs every year; thus, it is imperative to ensure that the materials bought are in line with the year that your child has registered for the examination. The practical book contains 9 piano scores divided into 3 lists - A, B, and C. It gives the examinee the flexibility to choose one piece from each list.


The scales & arpeggios and sight-reading adds up to a total of 28%, each being worth 14% individually. Both portions test an individual’s fingering techniques and tempo consistency with other aspects such as musicality and style. For scales & arpeggios, candidates are required to play from memory. The examiner will request at least one type of scale, arpeggio, or broken chord to be played with both hands or hands separately. For sight-reading, a piece will be chosen at random. Individuals are granted thirty seconds to analyze the piece or play any part of the piece before the official assessment.


The aural tests form the last 12%. It examines the individual’s musical sense and theoretical knowledge. The assessment ranges from singing or playing from memory, identifying cadences, identifying chords, harmonizing with the examiner, identifying modulations, to describing characteristics of a piece played by the examiner.


After breaking down the different sections of the examination, we compiled a list of things to look out for during the examination.


Coping with nerves
Shaking fingers, butterflies in the stomach and general agitation are all old friends to professional musicians! Newcomers to performing may find these perfectly natural symptoms distressing and need help in coping with them. Parents, teachers and examinees should remember that these feelings are entirely normal. Accepting signs of heightened preparation for the activity to come is half the battle and using the extra adrenalin to good purpose is the next step.


Warming Up
Examinees should have a thorough warm-up session before leaving home or school to attend the exam. Once at the exam centre, there is still much that an examinee can do to prepare in the few minutes before their exam, including:
▪ loosening and exercising fingers,
▪ blowing silently through wind/brass instruments to bring them up to temperature,
▪ warming up embouchure and mouthpiece,
▪ quietly humming a few scales if a singer,
▪ mentally running through the music.


Where there is a warm-up room, examinees will have a brief chance to warm up aloud. Sometimes the room will have a piano and the steward will indicate the length of time available to each examinee. This time is best used as a brief chance to warm up aloud – not for last minute practice! Then, examinees will be asked to return to the waiting room in good time for the exam.


5 Tips in the Examination Room
Prepare your child with these 5 suggested tips before they head off to into the examination room.
1. Arrive in the waiting room at least 10 minutes before your exam is due to start.
2. Feeling nervous before an exam is natural. Try smiling as you go into the exam room – it will help you relax.
3. Make sure they greet the examiner before stating their name and grade to ensure that the examiner has the right evaluation paper.
4. Always adjust the piano seat to a comfortable level. Posture is a crucial factor when it comes to playing. The examiner will grant the candidate some time for appropriate adjustment. This is important as the right seat level should give your child the leverage to play smoothly.
5. At the beginning of the test, the examiner will ask if the candidate would like to play the pieces first or scales. Some examinees like to play pieces first, just to get it out of the way. On the other hand, starting with scales first may give your child the necessary warm-up that their fingers need before playing their examination pieces.
6. Remind your child to take deep breaths before starting and in between sections to draw out their nervousness. One tactic is to exhale over a longer period of time, the inhaling that ensues leaves your child considerably calmer and more relaxed.
7. If your child slipped on a few notes while starting out, they can request for a do-over; however, practice this with caution. Too many request may show that the candidate did not have ample practice and is unfamiliar with the syllabus. At the end of the day, encourage your child to enjoy their performance more so than the results. Even professional players are prone to mistakes now and then: it is absolutely fine to glide past the mistakes.


Practice makes perfect: planning out their routine is key. With regular practice, your child will get accustomed to the scales and pieces by heart which lifts a huge chunk of anxiety.

Regardless, being nervous is natural. That nervousness lessens once their fingers hit the keyboard. The memory of practice takes over, and playing those examination pieces becomes second nature to them.

Source : https://us.abrsm.org/en/exam-support/on-the-exam-day

https://www.libertyparkmusic.com/an-abrsm-practical-examination-guide-with-practice-tips 

 

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