Music Grade Exams – should I do them?

music grade examsAre Music Grade Exams worth the trouble?

Music grade exams – are they good or bad?  A common question with an even more common answer… “It depends”.
Succeeding at grade exams requires a high level of commitment from both the parent and the student.  Having a grade achievement as an objective can serve as motivation to practice diligently and can be highly rewarding.  The certificate achieved provides evidence of well rounded musical skills at each level.

For students who need that extra reason to practice frequently, then grade exams can provide a good combination of stick and carrot motivation.

I have several students who come out of an exam saying “Let’s start working on the next one!“.  This is the outcome we want.


If a student does not adequately prepare for an exam, it can be a highly stressful and demotivating experience.  If a student plays poorly in an exam because the pieces are too difficult or because they did not have a routine practice habit established, it can be an embarrassing or worse, a humiliating experience.  This should be avoided at all costs. A bad experience like this could demotivate a student from wanting to play at all.

Students should enter into the process with a positive and determined attitude to make the experience as enjoyable as possible and to make the outcome worthwhile.

The bottomline

If the student will commit upfront go into the exam well prepared and if the exam provides additional incentive to strive to become a better player, then it would be worthwhile embarking on the exam journey.

However, if a student won’t commit to prepare adequately then a looming exam will only serve to induce stress rather than motivation.  In these situations it may be best to wait until the student is ready.


To support the preparation process, I highly recommend students make daily use of a Lesson and Practice Journal to establish good practice habits.

Trombone players may find useful tips to develop their skills in my ebook How to Play Trombone.

Australian music students can view exam requirements on the AMEB website.

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