First of all, what is the AMEB?

In short, The AMEB (Australian Music Examinations Board) started in 1887 at The University of Adelaide and the University of Melbourne, emerging in 1918 as a national body.

The AMEB exists to provide a graded system of examinations in music, (assessment from the preliminary to diploma level) and is the most widely-used assessment system in the study of music in Australia. The AMEB is also the only examination body with formal links to the major Australian universities and Ministers for Education. It is internationally recognised and is one of the most rigorous and well-regarded music examinations boards in the world. Over 100,000 candidates sit AMEB exams each year in Australia. If you live in Australia, we recommend you sit AMEB exams (not ABRSM exams).

What is the ABRSM?

If you don't live in Australia, we recommend preparing for (and sitting) an ABRSM piano exam (which is very similar to AMEB, but enables you to sit your piano exam in a number of centres across the globe).

The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music has its headquarters in London (UK). Over 650,000 candidates sit ABRSM exams each year in more than 90 countries around the globe.

Can I sit for an AMEB Exam if I don't live in Australia? Can I sit for my piano exam online?

You must sit for your AMEB piano exam in-person. This may change in future (let's hope so!), but for now, an in-person exam is the current requirement. The same goes for the ABRSM. All piano exams must be sat in-person.

If you're preparing for an AMEB piano exam, you must sit your exam in Australia. If sitting an ABRSM exam, you must sit an exam in one of their approved locations around the world.

Can I switch between the two exam systems?

Technically, yes you can...but we don't recommend it if it's not necessary. Once you settle on one system, it's best if you can stick to it.

However, if you're Australian and you move overseas for example, you could swap to the ABRSM system. Grade 5 AMEB is not the same as Grade 5 ABRSM, so swapping systems may cause some disruptions and changes to your level. A Grade 5 AMEB is only about a Grade 3 ABRSM, so you would need to consider this when swapping.

If you live in Australia and plan on studying music at a tertiary level in Australia, there are often minimum AMEB entry exam requirements. Whilst they can accept ABRSM-equivalent qualifications, it's a little messier in your tertiary enrolment process.

Can I swap from Piano Comprehensive to Piano for Leisure (or vice versa)?

You always have the option of swapping from one syllabus to another.

Example: you could start by undertaking a Piano Comprehensive exam (say, Grade 2), then swapping to Piano for Leisure for Grade 3 onwards. We don't recommend swapping and changing each grade, but you can make the switch from one to the other without too much drama.

Keep in mind though, that if you start on the Piano for Leisure syllabus (say for Grade 1) then switch for the Piano Comprehensive for Grade 2, you will have a lot of catching up to do! Essentially it's easier to swap from Piano Comprehensive to Piano for Leisure (rather than the other way around).

Tell me more about "Piano for Leisure". What are the differences?

The Piano for Leisure syllabus is designed for people who:

  1. want a less rigorous and technical approach to learning piano

  2. want to play a more "popular" music (as opposed to learning to play a wide variety of musical styles from different musical periods).

The music is not any easier, but there are fewer scales and less technical work, and you get to choose between either Sight Reading or Ear Tests for your exam.

The Piano for Leisure syllabus is less respected, and not considered adequate if you're planning on studying music at a tertiary level. However, if you're relatively serious about learning piano, and want to give your practice some structure by working towards exams and achieving graded levels (and certificates), this is a good option. It's less "pressure" and less rigorous, so might suit some students better.

Do I need to need to sit one exam before I move onto the next?

Nope! There is no rule saying you have to complete one exam before you move onto the next. So, the first exam you ever do could be Grade 8, if you want! Having said that, it's likely you wouldn't pass the exam if you didn't have the experience and practice of doing a number of exams beforehand.

We recommend following the Grades in order. However, Amy has allowed some of her particularly hard-working students to skip grades. Example: a student completes Grade 1 and receives an A+; then skips to Grade 3 (without doing Grade 2). This is totally possible, but is only available for students who receive an A+ and have worked really hard.

I don't want to sit for AMEB or ABRSM exams but still want something to work towards. Is there an alternative?

Despite all the cool things that come with doing AMEB or ABRSM piano exams, it's not for everyone, and there is certainly no pressure to sit for an exam when you're a Virtual Piano Academy student.

However, it can be difficult to maintain focus and motivation when there's nothing to work towards or keep you accountable.

As an alternative, you can sit for an Internal Exam, right here at Virtual Piano Academy. This is a video submission exam that is marked by a panel of Virtual Piano Academy teachers. You will be required to play a number of set things in your exam, but this is tailored more closely to your goals and doesn't box you in to a set syllabus from an external examinations board.

Internal Exams dates can also be tailored around your schedule and set for whichever date you like (unlike accredited piano exams). Find out more here.

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