Practical Session 2 Update - USA

We appreciate how much the cancellation of our exams has affected learners And we are working hard on solutions to ensure learners can gain their qualifications at the earliest opportunity.

However, on the basis of official and local advice we will be cancelling Session 2 Practical exams scheduled for October-December. Our Representatives will provide further guidance in due course. We are very sorry for the impact on teachers and candidates and we will continue to monitor the situation. Thank you for your loyalty and support while these restrictions remain in place.

We will be gradually rolling out remotely-assessed Performance Grades internationally starting before the end of 2020 and will share exam dates and booking periods soon.

Music Theory November Update - USA

We are still in the process of confirming with our Representatives whether Music Theory exams can take place in every area, based on local official advice. However, we can confirm that the Theory exams in the following areas below have been cancelled. All other areas are currently scheduled to hold a Music Theory exam, however we are monitoring the situation closely and will be in touch if anything changes. 

California - Los Angeles and San Diego


California - Monterey area


California - San Francisco area







North Carolina



Central California

Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina

New York & Connecticut


Oregon and SW Washington

San Francisco


Arizona & Colorado 

 Southern California (Los Angeles & San Diego) 



Updated questions & syllabus changes

Grades 1 to 5

From 2020 - for online exams in all territories where they are available.

From 2021 - for paper-based exams in territories where online exams are not yet available.

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 we are providing free Sample Papers and Model Answers for Grades 1 to 5. The Grade 5 Sample Paper and Model Answers are available now.  Sample Papers and Model Answers for Grades 1 to 4 will follow at a later date.

Download the new Grade 5 Music Theory Sample Paper

Download the new Grade 5 Music Theory Model Answers

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) and from 2021 for all exams (online or paper-based).

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