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ABRSM exams ... My first one (well, on sax and in about 15 years!)


New Member
Hi everyone

I've been a bit distant from this wonderful forum of recent - probably because I've been practising and practising and practising...

So two weeks ago, my fab teacher asked me if I would be interested in doing a grade exam and never being able to say no to a challenge, I decided, hell yeah! Absolutely thrilled when she decided that we'd be going in straight at Grade 4, especially as I've only been playing properly since April. Loving the music pieces we've started working on for it, and my teacher has been pretty hot on me learning scales from early on so they should be fine, but have to admit I'm a bit daunted by the other elements of the exam - particularly the aural.

Was just wondering if anyone would care to share their experiences on the sight-reading and the aural and impart pearls of wisdom on how best to prepare? I'm sure my teacher and I will be going through these, but I remember being extremely daunted by the aural component of Grade 1 *ahem* piano back at school, so even more worried about Grade 4.

Anyways, look forward to hearing from you all!


Hello Perera,

I'm in much the same position as yourself. I am fortunate in that although my wife is not a sax player, she is a qualified music teacher. We've been working our way through the ABRSM specimen aural tests recently. My wife had been playing the pieces on the piano and I've been providing the answers. This has been a tremendous help and I've definitely improved a lot since we started. Practising the tests has really helped and I rarely get any wrong now.I think the book comes with a CD if you don't have a tame pianist available; I'd check but my wife has ordered me to steer clear of it so I can't cheat and learn the answers! The downside of all this is that we now seldom listen to music together without her asking "Is it two time, three time or four time"; and "Is it major or minor"

By the way, I started playing in January and intend to take grade 3 in the Spring. Now either I am a wimp, or you are very brave (and unlike me, talented).

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Well done for having a go. I started cello last December and like you I've never done a grade exam before (I've got enough music theory to get me a bye to licentiate level). My teacher wants me to do grade 5.

Rico Vandoren

Hi Perera,

If you've not already done so, I suggest you visit the newly redesigned ABRSM website. It is full of good exam advice and resources to help you. In particular, there is a new downloadable app to help with the aural section.

There is also an ABRSM book available of specimen sight reading tests for grades 1-5.

As for advice, my teacher said the worst thing you can do in the sight reading section is to stop part way through. Keep going at all costs! At Grade 4 level keeping a good rhythm and tempo will score well, even if you get some ( or more than some! ) of the notes wrong.

Good luck!

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Same sort of thing for me. Not able to resist the challenge, my teacher got me to go in at Grade 5. I'd done Grade 5 theory a couple of years back as well (fun to do and really useful!).

Rico's right, there's the specimen tests and there is also an ABRSM Improve Your Sight Reading Skills workbook. His advice is right too - you have to get used to not stopping during the test. Rhythm is more important than a few wrong notes.

For aural another very useful on-line site is Hofnote. It has graded self-tests of the different parts of the aural. It's really aimed at youngsters but it doesn't matter. There is a small cost for 4 month's sign up but there are free demos. A very useful supplement to what you will do with your teacher.

Good luck!
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New Member
Thanks everyone. I wasn't actually aware of the ABRSM website etc. Going to be doing my research into that!

I don't know if I'm brave going in at Grade 4 or a bit mad - but also very impressed by those of you going straight in at 5!

Must get practising!
Saxholder Pro
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