Performance Grades - FAQs

You can find our Performance Grades qualification specification and syllabuses here.

For the exam candidates choose and perform four pieces/songs, presented as a continuous programme: at least three pieces from our existing syllabus (one from each list) and one piece of the candidate’s own choice. The own-choice piece can be another item from the syllabus at the same grade or from any other published source, as long as the level of difficulty is the same. Full programming requirements, including timings, are given in the relevant syllabus.

Candidates present their pieces in the order they choose and without a break, to create a whole performance that demonstrates their musical tastes, strengths and personality.

In August 2022 we’re introducing a new way to book and submit digital Performance Grades and ARSMs. Monthly booking periods and exam sessions are being replaced with an on-demand service that gives more flexibility and choice. There will be no booking period in July 2022 and the new on-demand service will be available in August. Find out more.

You can record your performance at any time and then upload the video once the exam is booked.

No. We are offering these Performance Grades as an additional, alternative way for learners to achieve a graded music exam

Yes – our Performance Grades and the certificates we award have the same value as our existing grades. They are equivalent in demand, recognition and value as a qualification, but with a different emphasis. They are based on the same repertoire and syllabuses, assessment criteria and quality assurance measures as our existing exams and will be assessed by the same highly-trained examiners.

We’ve created our Performance Grades to provide an alternative to Practical Grades. All our exams are designed to offer a framework for motivating and recognising achievement, rather than a curriculum for teaching. With these exams we are giving teachers and learners another option, and the flexibility to choose an exam that works for them.

We still believe that learners should develop a wide range of skills to provide a foundation for musical performance and help them to grow as musicians. These skills include those assessed through our technical, sight-reading and aural tests: technical agility, responding to notation, and hearing and understanding how music works. We will always encourage and support the development of these skills through our books, resources, apps and teacher development work.

We also know that all teachers have their own approaches and will continue to build technical, sight-reading and aural skills into their lessons in the way that best suits their students. When it comes to the ABRSM exam, they can now choose between one that assesses these skills individually in different sections, and one that assesses them holistically by focusing entirely on performance. Strengths in these core areas of musical skill will still be of enormous benefit, and will positively affect the musical outcome in the exam.

We highly value accompanists and continue to advocate for the use of live accompaniment in exams. Live interaction with another musician is enormously important to the development of all-round musicianship and during an exam a skilled accompanist can be responsive and supportive in the way a recording can’t.

Where possible, we would encourage candidates opting for recorded accompaniment to use professional accompanists to create specially-recorded accompaniments instead of using commercial recordings or backing tracks.

We hope that by providing a recorded accompaniment option we are opening up access to exams and encouraging more learners to progress with their music making. In the long term, this may lead to more musicians needing professional accompanists, whether for exams or other musical activities.

Examiners assess all Performance Grade exams in exactly the same way, using the same marking criteria. The choice of accompaniment does not affect the way the exam is assessed, but may affect the candidate’s performance and therefore the marks they receive.

For example, a candidate who has spent months rehearsing with their recorded accompaniment and is completely familiar with it may perform better than a candidate who meets their accompanist for a brief rehearsal shortly before or on the day of their exam. Individual circumstances will affect the musical outcome and this is something for teachers and candidates to think about when deciding what accompaniment to use.

Yes, although we would always encourage live accompaniment at higher grades where possible.

Performing with another musician allows for jointly made interpretive decisions and flexibility and spontaneity in performance, which are important in creating a successful and meaningful performance as well as for musical development. This is particularly the case for certain styles of repertoire and at higher levels.

However, we do believe in making music and exams as widely accessible as possible and finding a suitable and affordable accompanist can be a barrier for many people. So, in some cases a recorded accompaniment may be a better option for a candidate.

The exams are marked by members of our highly-trained panel of examiners – the same examiners who assess all our Practical Grades and ARSM exams.

Candidates will achieve success in our performance-focused grades by demonstrating a set of skills taking in performance, communication, interpretation and delivery. They need to achieve their best from their pieces and deliver a sustained performance of a programme that they have devised while showing focus, stamina and effective musical communication across a range of repertoire.

As with our Practical Grades, a total of 150 marks is available overall. The four pieces/songs are marked individually with a maximum of 30 marks for each item. A further 30 marks are then available for the ‘performance as a whole’. Examiners use our established criteria to mark the pieces – assessing pitch, time, tone, shape and performance. There will then be a separate set of marks for the ‘performance as a whole’. You can find the full assessment criteria in the qualification specification.

Yes, Performance Grades 6 to 8 attract the same UCAS point as our Practical Grades at these levels.

It has always been part of our long-term plan to widen our range of qualifications and to provide learners with greater choice in terms of what they present for assessment, and how that assessment takes place. The coronavirus pandemic prompted us to speed up our plans to offer an additional set of graded exams that focus on performance. We have also ensured that they can be assessed remotely through the submission of a recording.

Our Performance Grades are not a temporary measure and do not replace our existing Practical Grades. Instead, they provide an additional way to motivate and inspire learners that gives credit for performance skills.

The exam content and requirements are the same for face-to-face and digital ARSM exams, but digital exams are assessed from a video. Find out more about ARSM.

Not yet. We hope to be able to offer Performance Grades for Jazz subjects (Grades 1 to 5) in the future.

You can use an upright, grand or digital piano. A digital piano should have a clearly recognisable piano tone (a single piano ‘voice’ should be used throughout), a touch-sensitive keyboard with full-size weighted keys, and an action, compass and facilities that match those of a conventional acoustic piano, including pedals where needed for the chosen repertoire. Pieces may not be altered to suit an instrument (e.g reduced-sized keyboard) and you should take care when choosing repertoire as certain effects cannot be achieved on all digital pianos. While examiners may be aware of particular attributes of an instrument, they will always base their assessment on the overall musical outcome, using our published marking criteria.

The candidate uploading the video must know their ABRSM Contact ID (from their booking) and have an ABRSM account. Once the exam is booked they can then log in to upload their video.

Find out about creating an account and Contact IDs

The first thing to say is that learners should above all choose music that they enjoy, that chimes with their musical personality, and that they can play confidently. Choosing one piece from each list already gives a breadth of musical content and style. Our newly-arranged and extended lists, already available for Bowed Strings and Piano, and being rolled out to all other syllabuses as they refresh, give learners an ever-wider choice of music from which to build their programmes.

At its simplest, the fourth piece can be a choice of another piece from the ABRSM syllabus. Beyond that, learners can also choose any published piece of a similar level - it should be broadly the same standard (or above) as the repertoire set for the grade being taken. There are plenty of ways to identify suitable music here, from looking at exam listings past and present - to the guidance publishers give on their publications.

The aim here should always be to choose a piece that completes the set of four in a musically satisfying way. Pieces can be presented in any order (as currently) and in these performance-focused exams the candidate will want to order them according to how they feel the pieces will work best as a performance.

We recommend that you re-record the video in full if any of the introduction is missing, such as showing the music for the fourth piece, the programme form or the candidate’s photo ID. If this is not possible, we will allow a small edit to the introduction section of the video only to add the missing information. We do not allow any edits at all to the performance section of the video.

It is very important that the introduction on the video is complete to allow us to assess and process the exam. You can find all pre-performance requirements on pages 7-8 of the guidance found here.

The 8pm deadline on the booked submission date is final. We are unable to extend this deadline. If the deadline has been missed, the booking is now closed and we will mark the candidate as absent. If you would still like to submit the exam video you will need to book and pay for a new exam. You can do this in the next exam session or through our late booking service, available throughout each exam session and subject to availability.

Please remember you can upload an exam video from the moment we have confirmed a booking right through to the 8pm deadline on the exam submission date.

Refunds are subject to our refund policy, which you can find here: Withdrawals, Non-attendance and Fee Refund Policy

You will usually receive your results within a week of the submission deadline subject to quality assurance checks. Your submission deadline is the date you chose when you booked the exam. We will only process the exam video for marking after the submission deadline.  

Candidates (parents/carers) with an account, will be able to view their results seven days after we have released them to the applicant.

We accept a number of different forms of photo identification which candidates must show in the exam video. The photo ID does not need to match the National ID number given for the candidate when booking their exam. For example, if you provided a National ID card number when booking the exam, it is fine for the candidate to show a passport or college photo ID in the exam video.

A series of films offering perspectives and tips on the Performance Grades.

'The Performance as a Whole' - new performance-focused grade exams

Different demands - new performance-focused grade exams

Putting together your Programme - new performance-focused grade exams

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