Music Theory exams

As instrumental skills progress, development in music theory and musicianship becomes increasingly important in helping students to perform with sensitivity, understanding and confidence.

ABRSM’s Music Theory exams aim to give students a thorough understanding of the building blocks of music, starting with the basics of rhythm and notes at Grades 1 to 5. To provide a more candidate friendly experience, we have moved the assessment of these grades to an online exam.

At Grades 6 to 8, this learning is expanded to cover harmony and counterpoint, composition, and a broad knowledge of western music, including composers and their works, structure, style and period.

Each Grade 1 to 5 Music Theory paper is marked out of a total of 75, with 50 marks required for a Pass, 60 for a Merit and 65 for a Distinction.

Each Grade 6 to 8 Music Theory paper is marked out of a total of 100, with 66 marks required for a Pass, 80 for a Merit and 90 for a Distinction.

Our benchmark

A longstanding ABRSM benchmark is that a pass at Grade 5 or above in Music Theory must be obtained before candidates can enter for Grades 6, 7 or 8 Practical exams. This also applies to Performance exams at these grades. We believe that a thorough understanding of the elements of music is essential for a full and satisfying performance at these higher grades. (Grade 5 or above in Practical Musicianship or a Practical Grades solo Jazz subject also fulfils this prerequisite.)

Publications

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