ABRSM Exams: Inspiring Musical Achievement

ABRSM’s graded music exams are recognised and respected around the world.  Find out more about what’s involved and how these assessments can support your music teaching or learning.

ABRSM’s mission is to inspire musical achievement and our graded music exams are a big part of that. These world-leading assessments have the authority of four Royal Schools of Music in the UK, and have been supporting and motivating students around the world since 1889.

Our graded music exams are available at eight levels – Grades 1 to 8 – for a wide range of classical instruments and for singers. You can also do exams in Jazz, Music Theory and Practical Musicianship.  Students of any age can take these exams and you can start with any grade or skip grades if you want to.

What happens in an ABRSM exam?

Exams for classical instruments and singing have four sections.  Each one assesses a different but inter-relating set of skills:

  • 3 pieces or songs – performing skills
  • Scales and arpeggios or an unaccompanied traditional song for singers – technical skills
  • Sight-reading – notation skills
  • Aural tests – listening skills

We also encourage students to learn about music theory – or how music works. As you progress with your playing or singing this becomes increasingly important. So, if you want to take an instrumental or Singing exam at Grade 6 or above you must first pass Grade 5 (or above) in Music Theory, Practical Musicianship or Jazz. This ensures you have the knowledge and understanding to successfully perform the music at our higher grades.

Who will the examiner be?

ABRSM examiners are all highly-qualified and experienced musicians. To become an examiner they must first complete our comprehensive and rigorous training course. We follow this up with regular monitoring of results and mark forms, backed by a thorough and systematic approach to quality assurance. For candidates taking an exam, it’s important to remember that our examiners are always on the candidate’s side.  Their message to each and every candidate is: ‘I’ll do my best to help you do your best’.

How can ABRSM exams help students?

When used as part of a wide music curriculum, ABRSM exams are a great way to motivate students. They provide a series of goals to aim for, based on carefully structured requirements. They offer an opportunity to be assessed by a highly-trained professional musician. The mark form and certificate then give objective feedback with recognition and reward for achievement.

What else do ABRSM exams offer?

We’ve designed our exams to help students acquire good musical foundations: performing and listening to music; knowing and understanding how music works; reading and writing music. As you develop these core skills you are also equipping yourself for a lifetime of musical activity – playing in a band or ensemble, composing or improvising, teaching and sharing a passion for music, and much more.

It’s all about the music

We advise teachers and student to use our exams as a means to an end, rather than as an end in themselves. We should never lose sight of the reason so many people learn to play an instrument or to sing. It’s about a love of music and the enjoyment and fulfilment that brings, all of which we support wholeheartedly here at ABRSM!

You can find out more about our exams here, including details of how to enter and how to contact local ABRSM representatives in your area.

We publish a wide range of publications to help learners prepare for success in their exams, from collections of exam repertoire to books supporting scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, aural tests and theory.


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