Preparing pupils for external music exams

Hampshire Music Service has developed structured Schemes of Work for instrumental and vocal teaching in schools. Based on National Curriculum principles they encourage the development of all aspects of a child’s musical development – from the first lessons up to Stage 8 level.

Certificates of Achievement, assessed by HMS staff during normal lessons, recognise pupils’ achievements. There is no extra charge to schools or parents for these certificates. They are often presented in assemblies and added to pupils’ individual records.

Parents may wish to receive an assessment of their child’s playing (or singing) in the form of an external graded music exam. We will support this where possible. HMS teachers are not able to submit entries for pupils taught in schools.

Some schools make arrangements for their pupils to enter these exams, although individuals can also do so. Information about syllabus, fees and exam dates are available from examination board websites.

The person making the entry must provide an accompanist for the exam and also at least one rehearsal. Exams take place in central locations, for example Winchester, Portsmouth, or Basingstoke. It is the parent/carer’s responsibility to ensure that candidates can get to the venue and are capable of tuning up their own instrument if required.

The content of graded examinations is similar to the Certificates of Achievement. Pupils are likely to need extra music books containing the set pieces. They must also learn specific scales and prepare for other tests. Booklets and CDs are available from the examining boards to help candidates prepare for these tests. Unlike HMS certificates, external music exams are conducted under strict conditions. There is little or no opportunity for having a second attempt at any pieces or tests. Some children may rise to the occasion, while others may respond better to assessment by someone familiar to them.

It is important to allow enough time for exam preparation. Requests for specific days are not always granted by exam boards, so pupils should be ready by the earliest possible date. HMS Certificates of Achievement and graded music exams are an assessment process only. This should not detract from pupils learning a wide range of other pieces and musical skills.