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Exams Good Reasons Bad reasons Reasons to Avoid Matric and BMus



The Studio prepares and applies you, on request, for practical and written exams. In South Africa there are three institutions through which one can obtain an international music grade: Trinity College London ("Trinity" or TCL), Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music ("Royal Schools" or ABRSM) and the University of South Africa (UNISA). We do not bother with studio-internal exams as our concerts are a very good indication of a player's level of progress and furthermore, progress is assessed 1:1 in every lesson. If a certificate is required, we apply the student to one of the above institutions for a graded exam.

You can request to play exams. Please note however: Exams don't form a part of our normal teaching methods. We find that we can advance students much faster and further without the stress and distraction of an exam, by means of our normal methods. Please read the pro's and con's as listed below before you decide whether you need to play exams.

Good reasons to play exams:

  • Matric* and university entry* (see below - separate discussion)
  • Entry to certain places: There are youth orchestras that require a certain level of play. While you still have to play an audition for them to decide whether they will take you, having the grade certificate in your hand gives you the confidence that you are on the correct level.
  • Motivation to practice. Oh yes, this works!
  • And if you (the student) are ambitious and love a challenge.

Bad reasons to play exams:

  • Entry to orchestras is usually obtained via an audition, not via an exam paper. An audition is similar to a practical exam, however it is a lot more flexible and versatile and you can expect the unexpected. In an audition, your level of play is assessed comprehensively. You may have passed the corresponding exam and can still fail the audition; or you may pass the audition without ever playing an exam.
  • Feedback for worried parents/ prestige. Some parents doubt at times that their children are making enough progress, at which point they may insist on an exam to be played. However this is not a very good reason to put your child through exams! Better to be stricter with enforcing practicing, and to make sure you and your child attend the Ceilidhs and Studio Concerts.

Reasons NOT to play exams:

  • Exams train you to focus on perfecting 3 pieces and a number of scales, the whole year. The amount of energy and time expended on exams could take your technique much further if applied to normal musical development.
  • Though the exam centres have developed impressively regarding musicianship over the past decades, still there is not much scope for expressive freedom. The style in an exam is quite rigidly prescribed (you are expected to stick to the markings in the music, and if there are none, the style of the period or composer). You can get marked down for interpreting an overplayed old piece from a novel angle if the examiner feels it is inappropriate to experiment.
  • The pressure accompanying exams has put more than one young musician off his instrument. Parents need to ask themselves if this is a price worth paying for a piece of paper.
  • Exams are competitive in nature. Music is cooperative in nature. There is a danger of measuring your musicianship by the mark one person gave you for one performance on one day, in a highly stressful 13-minute timespan.

Matric and University Entry for BMus

Music as Matric Subject:

After a brief period of confusion with the GED advertising contradictory information, it was settled on that a practical music exam can be played as an additional matric subject.

  1. Level of practical exam: Grade 7 or higher.
  2. Level of required theory exam: Grade 5 or higher;
    to be passed at the same institution as the practical exam, and
    to be passed before the practical exam is applied for.
  3. The practical exam has to be passed within a 6-month time frame of the remaining matric subjects. (Not too early; not too late.)
  4. There are further requirements which are best discussed with the teacher.
University Entry Requirement:

To enter for BMus studies, you need Grade 7 in your first instrument, Grade 6 Theory and Grade 2 in a second instrument at University of Pretoria. You will be auditioned by the Department of Music regardless, as the number of places is limited. Passing Grade 7 does in other words not guarantee your place at University of Pretoria.