Latest exam updates

Performance Grades - FAQs

You can read the full Performance Grade qualification specification and check syllabuses here. On this page you’ll find answers to some of the questions we’ve received about these exams. We’ll regularly add more questions to this page. So if we haven’t answered your question yet please keep checking back for the latest updates.

For the exam candidates choose and perform four pieces/songs, presented as a continuous programme: at least three pieces from our existing syllabus (one from each list) and one piece of the candidate’s own choice. The own-choice piece can be another item from the syllabus at the same grade or from any other published source, as long as the level of difficulty is the same. Full programming requirements, including timings, are given in the relevant syllabus.

Candidates present their pieces in the order they choose and without a break, to create a whole performance that demonstrates their musical tastes, strengths and personality.

We are providing a Performance Grade exam session every month. You can check the 2021 dates here.

If a candidate is ready to record their Performance Grade exam, they can do this at any time from now on, as long as they follow the full guidancequalification specification and syllabus requirements available here. We hope this flexibility to record now and submit later (once an exam has been booked) will provide opportunities for learners to record their performance at a time that works for them. Please note, you must read the full guidance before recording a performance.

Definitely not! We are offering these remotely-assessed Performance Grades as an additional, alternative way for learners to achieve a graded music exam. We will begin offering our existing Practical Grades again as soon as circumstances allow us to do this safely and in line with government guidance. This will vary from territory to territory and we will provide updates when we have more information to share.

Yes – our Performance Grades and the certificates we award will have the same value as our existing grades. They are equivalent in demand, recognition and value as a qualification, but with a different emphasis. They are based on the same repertoire and syllabuses, assessment criteria and quality assurance measures as our existing exams and will be assessed by the same highly-trained examiners.

We’ve created our Performance Grades to offer an alternative to our existing Practical Grades. All our exams are designed to offer a framework for motivating and recognising achievement, rather than a curriculum for teaching. With these exams we are giving teachers and learners another option, and the flexibility to choose an exam that works for them.

We still believe that learners should develop a wide range of skills to provide a foundation for musical performance and help them to grow as musicians. These skills include those assessed through our technical, sight-reading and aural tests: technical agility, responding to notation, and hearing and understanding how music works. We will always encourage and support the development of these skills through our books, resources, apps and teacher development work.

We also know that all teachers have their own approaches and will continue to build technical, sight-reading and aural skills into their lessons in the way that best suits their students. When it comes to the ABRSM exam, they can now choose between one that assesses these skills individually in different sections, and one that assesses them holistically by focusing entirely on performance. Strengths in these core areas of musical skill will still be of enormous benefit, and will positively affect the musical outcome in the exam.

We normally require live accompaniment, as detailed in the relevant syllabuses. However, while social distancing requirements are in place, we are offering flexibility to singers and instrumentalists who must usually have an accompanist (or duet partner) on the day of their exam. There are a number of options available, which we will accept for remotely-assessed exams until at least 31 July 2021. Arrangements beyond this date are subject to review. Check our ‘Special COVID-19 arrangements for accompaniment in remotely-assessed exams’ (PDF)

The exams will be marked by members of our highly-trained panel of examiners – the same examiners who assess all our existing Practical Grades and ARSM exams.

Candidates will achieve success in our performance-focused grades by demonstrating a set of skills taking in performance, communication, interpretation and delivery. They need to achieve their best from their pieces and deliver a sustained performance of a programme that they have devised while showing focus, stamina and effective musical communication across a range of repertoire.

As with our Practical Grades, a total of 150 marks will be available overall. The four pieces/songs will be marked individually with a maximum of 30 marks for each item. A further 30 marks are then available for the ‘performance as a whole’. Examiners will use our established criteria to mark the pieces – assessing pitch, time, tone, shape and performance. There will then be a separate set of marks for the ‘performance as a whole’, based on similar assessment criteria to those used in our ARSM diploma exam. You can find the full assessment criteria in the qualification specification.

Yes, Performance Grades 6 to 8 will attract the same UCAS point as our Practical Grades at these levels.

It has always been part of our long-term plan to widen our range of qualifications and to provide learners with greater choice in terms of what they present for assessment, and how that assessment takes place. The coronavirus pandemic prompted us to speed up our plans to offer an additional set of graded exams that focus on performance. We have also ensured that they can be assessed remotely through the submission of a recording.

Our Performance Grades are not a temporary measure and do not replace our existing Practical Grades. Instead, they provide an additional way to motivate and inspire learners that gives credit for performance skills.

Yes. Alongside Performance Grade exams at Grades 1 to 8, we offer a remotely-assessed option for taking the ARSM diploma. The exam content and requirements are unchanged, but the Qualification Specification (syllabus) has been updated to include information and requirements relevant to the remotely-assessed option. Full information about ARSM is available at

Not yet. We hope to be able to offer Performance Grades for Jazz subjects (Grades 1 to 5) later in 2021.

You can use an upright, grand or digital piano. A digital piano should have a clearly recognisable piano tone (a single piano ‘voice’ should be used throughout), a touch-sensitive keyboard with full-size weighted keys, and an action, compass and facilities that match those of a conventional acoustic piano, including pedals where needed for the chosen repertoire. Pieces may not be altered to suit an instrument (e.g reduced-sized keyboard) and you should take care when choosing repertoire as certain effects cannot be achieved on all digital pianos. While examiners may be aware of particular attributes of an instrument, they will always base their assessment on the overall musical outcome, using our published marking criteria.

For a candidate to be able to upload the exam they must know their contact ID (as per the booking) and have registered their online account. If it is the candidate’s first exam, then a new Contact ID will be created at the time of booking. The applicant should enter the Candidate’s email address (or one belonging to a parent/carer) during the booking process. We will then send an email prompting the candidate (or parent/carer) to register their new account in their (the candidate’s) name. This will give them access to the booking made on their behalf and the upload process. If the applicant is using an existing Contact ID for the candidate, the applicant must check with the candidate that they know their contact ID and that the account has been registered so that they have access to the entry and the upload process.

The first thing to say is that learners should above all choose music that they enjoy, that chimes with their musical personality, and that they can play confidently. Choosing one piece from each list already gives a breadth of musical content and style. Our newly-arranged and extended lists, already available for Bowed Strings and Piano, and being rolled out to all other syllabuses as they refresh, give learners an ever-wider choice of music from which to build their programmes.

At its simplest, the fourth piece can be a choice of another piece from the ABRSM syllabus. Beyond that, learners can also choose any published piece of a similar level. There are plenty of ways to identify suitable music here, from looking at exam listings past and present, to the guidance publishers give on their publications, to the judgement of teachers who we trust implicitly to be able to advise on this.

The aim here should always be to choose a piece that completes the set of four in a musically satisfying way. Pieces can be presented in any order (as currently) and in these performance-focused exams the candidate will want to order them according to how they feel the pieces will work best as a performance.

A series of films offering perspectives and tips on the Performance Grades.

'The Performance as a Whole' - new performance-focused grade exams

Different demands - new performance-focused grade exams

Putting together your Programme - new performance-focused grade exams

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By using our website, you are agreeing to our cookie policy and consent to our use of cookies. Find out more.