We have friendly stewards at every exam centre to welcome each candidate.
We ask candidates to arrive ten minutes before their exam in order to prepare themselves and to ensure that the day runs as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.
Candidates can use their time in the waiting area to:
We recommend that candidates have a thorough warm-up session before leaving home or school to attend the exam.
Once at the exam centre, there is still much that a candidate can do to prepare in the few minutes before their exam, including:
loosening and exercising fingers
blowing silently through wind/brass instruments to bring them up to temperature
warming up embouchure and mouthpiece
quietly humming a few scales if a singer
mentally running through the music
Where there is a warm-up room, candidates will have a brief chance to warm up aloud. Sometimes the room will have a piano and the steward will indicate the length of time available to each candidate. This time is best used as a brief chance to warm up aloud – not for last minute practice!
We ask that candidates return to the waiting room in good time for the exam.
Shaking fingers, butterflies in the stomach and general agitation are all old friends to professional musicians! Newcomers to performing may find these perfectly natural symptoms distressing and need help in coping with them.
Parents, teachers and candidates should remember that these feelings are entirely normal. Accepting signs of heightened preparation for the activity to come is half the battle and using the extra adrenalin to good purpose is the next step.
It takes experience to deal with nerves. Most performers, especially if given plenty of calm support beforehand, learn to cope. Talking the situation through with the teacher can help and playing or singing to informal groups is also useful. Allowing plenty of time on the day, so there is no last-minute panic, and taking a few deep breaths are tried and tested ways to help the situation.
Before the exams begin each day, the examiner will have tried out the piano and so will be familiar with its tone quality and touch.
Many of our examiners have taken graded music exams themselves and therefore understand that candidates may feel nervous and take a few moments to settle.
At the start of each exam, the examiner will encourage each candidate to:
take a few moments to get comfortable. The examiner or steward will be happy to help with adjusting the height of the piano stool or music stand, and candidates should not be afraid to ask for assistance.
tune up (if an instrumentalist). Attending teachers, or accompanists, may assist candidates with tuning at Grades 1–5.
play or sing a few notes before the exam begins. Pianists can try the piano, and instrumentalists and singers can warm up aloud for a few moments.
do the exam in any order they choose. Candidates usually play their pieces first, but may prefer to begin with the other elements of the exam. Please let the steward know beforehand so that the accompanist can be shown in at the appropriate time.
Our examiners want each candidate to do well and look forward to hearing them perform.
'The exam is a really big occasion for every candidate, and making it an enjoyable experience is a very important part of our job. We all try our best to put the candidates at their ease and to make the exam room itself as welcoming an environment as possible.' – Juliet Allen, ABRSM examiner