An ABRSM practical exam is an exciting challenge for candidates and we do everything we can to make the experience positive and rewarding. Our examiners aim to put every candidate at ease and to create an atmosphere in which they can give their best performance.
Before the exam | During the exam | After the exam
At the exam venue
Our exams take place at a variety of different venues. We run many of these as ABRSM Public Venues.
Some candidates take their exams at venues organised by their school or teacher. We call this a 'Private Visit’. The school or teacher arranges this with us and is then responsible for providing everything for the exams on the day.
At ABRSM Public Venues there will be signs showing candidates where to go and a steward to welcome them. The steward makes a note that candidates have arrived, shows them to the waiting area, and warm-up room if available, then into the exam room at the right time. Candidates taking Grade 5 Jazz, a Grade 6 to 8 practical exam, Grade 5 or 8 Practical Musicianship or a diploma (including ARSM) will need to show some Photo ID when they arrive to take their exam. See our Candidate Indentification Policy for details. Our stewards and examiners work together throughout the day to make sure everything runs smoothly for candidates. Just like examiners, our stewards are there to help candidates to do their best.
In the waiting area
We usually ask candidates to arrive at least ten minutes before their exam. This can be more in some international centres.
Candidates can use this time to get their music ready, assemble their instrument, warm up or make a list of their pieces or songs to give to the examiner.
Most exam preparation, practice and rehearsing takes place well before the exam day, but it is also important for candidates to have time to prepare and settle at the exam venue before their exam begins. This might include thinking about the music they are going to perform or warming up ready to play or sing.
A number of ABRSM Pubic Venues have a separate warm-up room, sometimes with a piano. If candidates want to use the warm-up room for a few minutes before their exam then the steward will organise this. If there is no warm-up room, candidates can warm up for a short time in the waiting area. However, if the exam room is very close to the waiting area it won’t be possible to warm up aloud. In this situation, teachers and candidates need to think about ways to warm up instruments, fingers or embouchures silently.
Once in the exam room, all candidates are welcome to play or sing a few notes to warm up and our examiners encourage them to do this. This can be particularly helpful for pianists, who will want to try out the piano.
It’s natural to feel nervous!
Some candidates will feel nervous before or during their exam. This is natural and is something that our stewards and examiners understand. With experience, many people learn how to deal with nerves and taking exams can actually help with this. Other ways to help include:
- accepting nerves as normal;
- performing regularly in front of others;
- taking mock exams;
- arriving in good time at the exam centre;
- taking a few calm breaths before the exam itself.