Entering for a music exam, what is it like and what happens?

Entering for a Music exam, what happens in the exam itself, and what happens once the exam is over?

Q: Is it easy to enter for an exam?
Entering for a music exam is a straightforward process involving completing a form, on paper/on-line and sending it/e mailing to your local representative or chosen exam board, by a specified closing date.

Q: When do the exams take place?
Exams generally take place three times a year in the spring (March/April) summer (June) and autumn (November) school terms. The exams are generally towards the end of each term.

Q: Where do I find the application form?
It is important that the correct Application form is used and filled out fully. The form can be downloaded from your chosen exam board. Some exam boards have an on-line entry option. The form allows for special needs and any special requests for exam dates. All the details regarding codes for specific instruments for the exams are on the forms. If there are any special needs a Special Needs form needs completing together with medical evidence and sending in with the application form.

Q: How much does it cost to enter for an exam?
An up-to-date list of fees can be found on the exam boards’ website. Fees increase every year so it is especially important that you have an up-to-date list of fees for the each exam period.

Q: Is there a closing date for entries?
There is always a closing date for applications to allow time for processing the forms and submitting the data to the exam board. If an application is received late it is usually subject to a surcharge. The closing date is always clearly shown on exam boards’ websites.

Q: How will I find out when and where my exam is?
Once the closing date has passed all the entries are entered onto the exam boards’ system and timetabled. You will receive your exam date 2/3 weeks before your exam and exams will generally take place over a 2/3 week period of time.
Any requests for dates or times will be accommodated if possible by the exam board and it is much easier to process these if they are on the original form rather than at a later date. It is especially important in the summer term to avoid GCSE and A level exam dates. Other dates to avoid are school trips, new school inductions, sporting events, sports day, appointments else-where and parent’s commitments with work on specific dates. Obviously you can’t specify exactly what date suits you but you can generally specify a week in which you know all days are clear.
Your exam appointment is posted or e mailed to you and will have the exam date and time and venue on it. You can usually find out the venue before the exam although some centres may use more than one venue.

Q: Can I change my appointment date if it is inconvenient?
If you receive your appointment form and it is a day or time that is unsuitable it may be possible to move the exam. Depending on the number of applications and how the days are timetabled there may be a couple of exam slots free during the exam period. It is better to be sure of dates that are convenient before the application form is sent it. Not all later requests can be accommodated, and there may be a small charge for changing an exam appointment. It is also important that spellings of names are checked at this stage and corrected if necessary – together with the instrument and grade – any discrepancies should be referred to the Local Representative immediately for correction on the exam boards’ system before the exam.
Exams take place usually from 9.30am and finish by 5.30pm Monday to Saturday. Exams can be on a Sunday depending on the local requirement and the centre used. If the exam candidate is a student at school and the exam is during the school day, this is an authorised absence from the school as it is an educational absence. A written note to the school is often requested to authorise this.

Q: Will the examiner be a specialist for my instrument?
Certain exam boards will use a specialist examiner for certain instruments but as a general rule of thumb examiners examine across a range of instruments. They are highly trained and will not be given an exam timetable with exams that they would be unable to examine.

Q: Can I park at the exam centre?
Parking at exam centres can be hit and miss. It is worth looking into the venue to see what parking there is and making plans for venues that don’t have their own parking. You are generally not entitled to any refund of parking costs, or travel for music exams.

Q: Will I be given a warm-up room before my exam?
On the exam date it is good to arrive in plenty of time to allow for thorough preparation. You will need your instrument (unless your instrument is, for example, piano or drum kit), together with equipment (including foot stools for guitar players and keyboard stands for keyboard players) and music. The examiners won’t allow you not to take music into the exam room so this must be with you too - even if you are doing everything from memory you are advised to have the music with you. Once you have signed in with the exam steward you will be given a warm-up room to prepare for the exam. If the instrument you play requires an accompanist you will have a room with a piano to warm-up with your accompanist. You will be advised about being collected for the exam by the steward on the day and when it is your time you will be taken to the exam room. If you need help with carrying any instruments or equipment the steward will be happy to help. You need to take your completed form, if applicable, your instrument and your music to the exam room. All bags/cases etc can be left with the steward or in the warm-up room. You may also take a bottle of water to the exam room if required. Once the exam is finished you are free to leave.

Q: What is the exam room like?
The exam room will have a good quality, exam standard piano, for example a Yamaha U3 upright and the exam room is usually sound-proofed and air-conditioned. If your exam is a certain level, eg Diploma, then you will have a bigger room with a higher spec piano, usually a grand piano. All equipment needed for the exams should also be in the exam room including equipment that may have been forgotten on the day, but in general, the room will usually have a music stand, keyboard stand, chairs, piano stool, CD player, microphone, foot stool, amp etc – any special requirements can also be accommodated if requested or enquired about before the exam. If there is a problem with an instrument on the day of the exam the then speak to the representative from the exam board and anything possible that can be done will be done to help you.
Occasionally there is a trainee examiner in the exam room. Examiners have to learn how to examine and can only do this in a real exam. Depending on the level they are at they may contribute nothing to the exam verbally but just fill out duplicate exam material, or they may take part of the exam starting with greeting the candidate. If there is a trainee examiner you will be advised of this on the day. Nothing will affect your exam with the trainee being there.

Q: What happens if I am ill on the day of the exam?
If a candidate cannot make the exam through illness or another event that is unavoidable the Local Representative should be contacted as soon as possible to confirm that the candidate will not be attending the exam. If the exam is missed due to an unavoidable incident, for example, a broken arm then medical confirmation of this needs to be forwarded to the local representative. Some exam boards will give a reduced fee of 50% of the original fee to re-take the exam. The medical documentation, or relevant paperwork, is forwarded to the exam board for verification and an adjustment of fee will be made on the system if applicable.

Q: After the exam when will I know my results?
Results vary depending on the exam board. Some are given to the local representative straight away and some are processed through a central system and take a few weeks to arrive in the post, or by e mail as applicable.
Certificates again vary depending on the exam board and either come with the results or follow at a later date.

Q: Can I query anything about my exam afterwards?
If there is an issue with an exam results they are referred to the exam board. The examiners will generally notify the local representative of any referrals and they will pass this information onto the teacher, if applicable. Referrals can be anything that doesn’t quite go correctly in the exam – for example, there could be a problem with an instrument, the wrong instrument being used (eg keyboard instead of piano or vice versa), details with an own composition, elements of the syllabus or the examiner just needing to check some technicalities.
If you are unhappy with your results you can contact the exam board directly and each exam board will have their own appeal process and will adhere to this. There is often a charge for this.
If there is an issue with any part of the result sheet or certificate this is referred by the Representative to the exam board.

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