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How we mark exams

Double BassAssessment in our graded exams for instruments and singing is based on our marking criteria. You can also find these in our printed syllabus booklets.

The marking criteria show what we expect for the three levels of pass – Pass, Merit and Distinction – in each element of the exam. They are designed to maximise consistency in our marking and to make our approach to assessment clear for everyone.

Understanding how our examiners award marks is not only helpful for exam preparation but also for learning and progression generally.

If you know what the ingredients of a good performance are then you also know what to work on to reach this goal.

Pieces and songs

The marking criteria cover the different aspects of playing or singing under five areas: pitch; time; tone; shape and performance. These can be applied to all instruments, including voice, and all types of piece or song. The marking criteria show what our examiners listen for under each of these headings.

  • Pitch – accuracy, clarity, reliability of notes and/or intonation.
  • Time – suitability of tempo, stability of pulse, sense of rhythm.
  • Tone – control and projection of sound, sensitivity and awareness in use of tonal qualities.
  • Shape – effectiveness and clarity of musical shaping and detailing.
  • Performance – overall command of the instrument or voice, involvement with the music, musical communication.

Marking criteria for pieces

Grades 1-8 (except Singing)

Mark

Pitch

Time

Tone

Shape

Performance

Distinction
27–30

  • Highly accurate notes and intonation
  • Fluent, with flexibility where appropriate
  • Rhythmic character well conveyed
  • Well projected
  • Sensitive use of tonal qualities
  • Expressive, idiomatic musical shaping and detail
  • Assured
  • Fully committed
  • Vivid communication of character and style

Merit
24–26

  • Largely accurate notes and intonation
  • Sustained, effective tempo
  • Good sense of rhythm
  • Mainly controlled and consistent
  • Good tonal awareness
  • Clear musical shaping, well-realised detail
  • Positive
  • Carrying musical conviction
  • Character and style communicated

Pass
20-23

  • Generally correct notes
  • Sufficiently reliable intonation to maintain tonality
  • Suitable tempo
  • Generally stable pulse
  • Overall rhythmic accuracy
  • Generally reliable
  • Adequate tonal awareness
  • Some realisation of musical shape and/or detail
  • Generally secure, prompt recovery from slips
  • Some musical involvement

Below Pass
17-19

  • Frequent note errors
  • Insufficiently reliable intonation to maintain tonality
  • Unsuitable and/or uncontrolled tempo
  • Irregular pulse
  • Inaccurate rhythm
  • Uneven and/or unreliable
  • Inadequate tonal awareness
  • Musical shape and detail insufficiently conveyed
  • Insecure, inadequate recovery from slips
  • Insufficient musical involvement

13-16

  • Largely inaccurate notes and/or intonation
  • Erratic tempo and/or pulse
  • Serious lack of tonal control
  • Musical shape and detail largely unrealised
  • Lacking continuity
  • No musical involvement

10-12

  • Highly inaccurate notes and/or intonation
  • Incoherent tempo and/or pulse
  • No tonal control
  • No shape or detail
  • Unable to continue for more than a short section

0

  • No work offered
  • No work offered
  • No work offered
  • No work offered
  • No work offered

Other exam elements

The marking criteria also show what examiners listen for in the other elements of our exams:

Scales & arpeggios (instrumentalists)

Grades 1-8

Accuracy of notes/pitch, rhythmic continuity and fluency, tone and shaping, security and confidence of the response.

Mark

Scales and arpeggios

Distinction
19–21

  • Highly accurate notes/pitch
  • Fluent and rhythmic
  • Musically shaped
  • Confident response

Merit
17–18

  • Largely accurate notes/pitch
  • Mostly regular flow
  • Mainly even tone
  • Secure response

Pass
14-16

  • Generally correct notes/pitch, despite errors
  • Continuity generally maintained
  • Generally reliable tone
  • Cautious response

Below Pass
11-13

  • Frequent errors in notes and/or pitch
  • Lacking continuity and/or some items incomplete
  • Unreliable tone
  • Uncertain response and/or some items not attempted

7-10

  • Very approximate notes and/or pitch
  • Sporadic and/or frequently incomplete
  • Serious lack of tonal control
  • Very uncertain response and/or several items not attempted

0

  • No work offered

* Includes Transposition for Horn, Trumpet and Organ (Grades 6–8) and Figured bass realization for Harpsichord (Grades 4–8).

In these cases, of the total 21 marks, 12 are allocated to Sight-reading and 9 to Transposition (or Figured bass realization), and one combined mark is recorded.

Unaccompanied traditional song (singers)

Grades 1-8

Control of pitch and intonation, sense of rhythmic character, use of vocal qualities, effectiveness of musical shaping, quality of musical involvement, communication and storytelling.

Mark

Unaccompanied traditional song

Distinction
19–21

  • Excellent control of pitch and intonation
  • Rhythmic character well conveyed
  • Sensitive use of vocal qualities
  • Expressive, idiomatic musical shaping
  • Fully committed communication, vivid story-telling

Merit
17–18

  • Good control of pitch and intonation
  • Rhythmic character conveyed
  • Good use of vocal qualities
  • Clear musical shaping
  • Good musical involvement and story-telling

Pass
14-16

  • Generally reliable control of pitch and intonation
  • Adequate sense of rhythmic character
  • Sufficient use of vocal qualities
  • Some musical shaping
  • Some musical involvement and story-telling

Below Pass
11-13

  • Unreliable control of pitch and/or intonation
  • Inadequate sense of rhythmic character
  • Insufficient use of vocal qualities
  • Lack of musical shaping
  • Insufficient musical involvement and/or story-telling

7-10

  • Very unreliable control of pitch and/or intonation
  • Lacking rhythmic character
  • No use of vocal qualities
  • No musical shaping
  • Lacking musical involvement and/or story-telling

0

  • No work offered

Sight-reading/sight-singing

Grades 1-8

Rhythmic accuracy, continuity, accuracy of notes, pitch and key, realisation of musical detail, level of confidence in presentation.

Mark

Sight-reading*

Distinction
19–21

  • Fluent, rhythmically accurate
  • Accurate notes/pitch/key
  • Musical detail realised
  • Confident presentation

Merit
17–18

  • Adequate tempo, usually steady pulse
  • Mainly correct rhythm
  • Largely correct notes/pitch/key
  • Largely secure presentation

Pass
14-16

  • Continuity generally maintained
  • Note values mostly realised
  • Pitch outlines in place, despite errors
  • Cautious presentation

Below Pass
11-13

  • Lacking overall continuity
  • Incorrect note values
  • Very approximate notes/pitch/key
  • Insecure presentation

7-10

  • No continuity or incomplete
  • Note values unrealised
  • Pitch outlines absent
  • Very uncertain presentation

0

  • No work offered

* Includes Transposition for Horn, Trumpet and Organ (Grades 6–8) and Figured bass realization for Harpsichord (Grades 4–8).

In these cases, of the total 21 marks, 12 are allocated to Sight-reading and 9 to Transposition (or Figured bass realization), and one combined mark is recorded.

Aural tests

Grades 1-8

Accuracy, musical perception and awareness, security of responses.

Mark

Aural tests

Distinction
17–18

  • Accurate throughout
  • Musically perceptive
  • Confident response

Merit
15–16

  • Strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses
  • Musically aware
  • Secure response

Pass
12-14

  • Strengths just outweigh weaknesses
  • Cautious response

Below Pass
9-11

  • Weaknesses outweigh strengths
  • Uncertain response

6-8

  • Inaccuracy throughout
  • Vague response

0

  • No work offered

Awarding marks

Examiners mark each candidate based on what they hear in the exam room. We do not have quotas, so our examiners do not pass or fail a certain percentage of candidates.

When awarding marks examiners assess the candidate’s control of the qualities and skills listed in the marking criteria. Candidates do not need to meet all the criteria to pass their exam as weakness in some areas is often balanced by stronger achievement in others.

The total number of marks available in an exam is 150. Candidates need:

  • 100 marks to Pass;
  • 120 marks to pass with Merit;
  • 130 marks to pass with Distinction.

The total number of marks available for each exam element are listed here:

 

Instrumental exams

Singing exams

 

Grades 1 to 8

Grades 1 to 5

Grades 6 to 8

Piece / Song 1

30

30

24

Piece / Song 2

30

30

24

Piece / Song 3

30

30

21

Song 4

--

--

21

Scales and arpeggios

21

21

21

Sight-reading* / sight-singing

21

21

21

Aural tests

18

18

18

*Includes a transposition test for Horn, Trumpet and Organ at Grades 6 to 8 and a figured-bass realisation test for Harpsichord

Examiners mark up or down from the pass mark in every section, rather than taking marks away from the maximum or adding them from zero.

For each element of the exam, candidates need to achieve two-thirds of the total possible marks to pass, but they don’t need to pass all elements to achieve an overall pass in the exam.


Next : What to expect

Translations for this page are available in: English, Español, Italiano, 简体中文

 

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