How to support my child on exam day

Children benefit hugely from having parental support whilst doing music exams. Outlined here are some tips and advice on how you can support your child before and after the exam aswell as the day itself.

Before the exam

It’s really important before a child even sets foot into an exam room that certain things are in place, considered and prepared. Keeping everything concerning the examination positive throughout the process is a good start.

Is my child prepared? Children do best when they feel fully prepared. Teachers only have children for an average of 30 minutes per week and covering all aspects of the music exam every lesson can be challenging - Especially for the higher grades. Discuss with your child’s teacher their progress throughout the process to make sure they’ve covered the work they’ve been given. Have they learned their scales? Are they able to complete their aural activities? Can they complete the sight reading without constantly stopping and starting? Can they perform all pieces with fluency? Everything your child will be required to complete is listed in the relevant syllabus (details can be found here). There are additional apps and resources available for supporting tests such as sight reading. Check them out here: Some teachers provide mock exams which can be really useful preparation for the exam experience itself.

Being accompanied Most students need an accompanist to take a music exam. Playing with accompaniment is very different to playing without so try to get your child to play with accompaniment as much as possible – Even if it is just with a backing track. Always ensure they have a rehearsal with the actual accompanist before the exam day. Special care needs to be taken to ensure that the accompaniment balances well with the soloist. It is your child, not the accompanist who is being marked, so it’s really important that they are heard. Work with your teacher to find the best accompanist to compliment your child’s playing.

Be practically prepared for the day. This sounds obvious but students have arrived at exams without their music or without the accompanists music. Prepare everything that is needed the day before including spare reeds, strings, valve oil etc. Just in case! Also make sure you know where you are going - Check out car parking and how much time it will take to get there. Being rushed and stressed about not finding a car parking space can create anxiety before the exam even begins. And last but not least, make sure your child has had a good sleep the night before.

On the day …

Any examiner simply wants a candidate to do well. They have a real love for music and will fully appreciate the work a candidate has done before they enter the room. It’s totally natural to feel anxious about your child before an examination but great care must be taken not to convey this feeling to your child. Keep things relaxed. Bring humour to the day. Stress that it’s exciting to be able to perform to a professional who will be able to appraise your child’s playing. Present the day as something fun you are doing together. However tempting, avoid trying to listen to the examination by standing near to the door. You can’t change what is happening and it’s difficult to get a true reflection through the plasterboard anyway!

Make sure your child is fully hydrated and isn’t particularly hungry before their exam. Also that they don’t need the toilet. Try to keep their hands warm as playing any instrument with cold hands can be challenging. Finally make sure they are wearing comfortable clothing that will not impede their playing in anyway.

On arrival you will be met by a steward who will invite you and your child to sit in the waiting room and given a slip of paper to fill in saying what pieces they are playing. The waiting room is a good place to tune up and get your child’s instrument ready to play perhaps even trying a few scales. Your child will be invited to the exam room when the examiner is ready. If there are pieces to accompany, the pieces will be played first and after completed the accompanist will leave the room. In the exam room, the examiner will stop your child between each activity to allow them to write an assessment about a piece of other element of the examination.

After the exam …

Whatever happens on the day, congratulate your child for completing their examination. Reassure them, especially if they are anxious about things that may not have gone entirely to plan. It’s quite often human nature to focus on the negatives rather than the positives. Help your child to be kind to themselves and to not ruminate on the exam. Whatever the exam result, taking a music exam is part of a process and there will have been much learning and progress made.

On-line results detailing the individual marks usually come through within 10 to 14 days. The final mark forms and certificates (if passed) will be with you within four weeks of the examination.

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