Latest exam updates

Updated questions & syllabus changes

Grades 1 to 5

The following updated questions and syllabus changes apply for all online exams from 2020, where available.

Where we are offering paper-based exams at Grades 1 to 5, these updated questions and syllabus changes do not apply. Paper-based exams will still use the ‘from 2018’ Music Theory syllabus.

As part of our ongoing work to review and refresh our exams, we have updated a number of questions at Grades 1 to 5 to bring them in line with a style of assessment commonly used across the education sector. We have also adapted some questions so that they work in an online format and there are some small changes to the syllabus itself. We have made these changes to ensure that we are providing the best and most reliable assessment for all candidates.

Grade 1 to 5 exam questions – what’s changing?

  • We have adapted the style of some questions for use in an online exam. If you are familiar with our paper exams, the online version of some questions will look different. Candidates who have been entered for an exam will have the opportunity to practice some sample online questions before the exam day.
  • There are new question types including more multiple-choice. This is to ensure objective, reliable and robust, assessment.
  • The knowledge required for each grade will be tested in full in every individual exam paper.
  • We are removing the requirement to demonstrate accurate copying of music. Candidates will still demonstrate their knowledge of how to write music.
  • There will be a total of 75 marks available rather than 100 marks. Candidates will need 50 marks for a Pass, 60 marks for a Merit and 65 marks for a Distinction.

Grade 1 to 5 syllabus – what’s changing?

  • Grade 2: candidates currently have a choice of the harmonic or melodic form of minor scales. This is changing to harmonic.
  • Grade 3: questions about phrase structure are no longer included.
  • Grade 5: identifying the progression 6/4 5/3 (Ic-V) on the dominant note in any of the keys set for this grade is no longer be required.
  • Grade 5: we are adding the requirement that candidates can recognise and name perfect, plagal and imperfect cadences. Currently candidates have to indicate suitable chord progressions for two cadences – it makes sense that they should also be able to name those cadences. You can see some example questions here: Grade 5 Cadence Question Examples.
  • We have reduced the number of terms and signs, removing any that musicians are unlikely to experience in their practical/performance learning at the same grade. This supports better progression from grade to grade and ensures the required knowledge is more relevant and useful to learners. An updated list of terms and signs is available here: Terms and Signs for Grades 1 to 5 from 2020
  • We are removing the requirement to transpose an entire melody between clefs, but are still assessing fundamental knowledge of transposition between clefs and keys.

What’s staying the same?

  • We are not making any changes to the core musical understanding that candidates will be asked to demonstrate in their exam at Grades 1 to 5.
  • The level and value of the exams is staying the same.
  • We are not changing the duration of the exams.
  • We are not making any changes to the questions or syllabus at Grades 6 to 8.

Free Sample Papers and Model Answers

To help candidates become familiar with the new question styles, free Sample Papers and Model Answers for Grades 1 to 5 are available.

Several Grade 5 example questions in the online format are also available. These show the different question types included in the new exam.

Updated syllabus summary for Grades 1 to 5

You can view a summary of the updated syllabus here. This applies from 2020 for online exams, where they are available. All paper-based exams in 2020 and 2021 will continue to use the ‘from 2018’ syllabus.

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