Accredited piano exams are conducted by respected external music examining bodies. In Australia, our biggest and most prestigious examining body is the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) but other accredited examining bodies exist around the world, including the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), Trinity and RCM.

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.

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). Discuss this with your teacher.

Who Examines Me in the Exam?

You will be examined by a respected, professional working pianist, and receive a written examination form with a breakdown of how you went in each section of the exam (technical work, pieces, sight-reading, general knowledge, aural/ear tests etc)...and you will then receive a final, overall mark. Read this article for a breakdown of the exam marks (and what they mean).

Your exam report will be sent to Virtual Piano Academy (you won't get your result on your actual exam day). This takes about a week or so from the date of your exam. Once your report is received by Virtual Piano Academy, your teacher will upload your report into your Lesson Portal.

Why Sit a Piano Exam?

Exams are excellent tools for providing motivation, and a great sense of achievement. They help ensure a well-rounded musical education and also enable you and your teacher to assess your rate of progress.

If you think you might want to study music at a tertiary level, then undertaking exams in your instrument (and in music theory) is a prerequisite, and there are exam levels you need to achieve in order to even apply for a tertiary music degree. In this case, it is absolutely essential to undertake grades and reach certain levels. Usually a Grade 8 in your instrument (Piano Comprehensive syllabus) and a Grade 5 in Music Theory, is considered a minimum requirement.

Highly trained examiners conduct the exams and they always have some constructive suggestions for your playing. Plus, you get a report with a grade and a nice certificate (see below). These certificates are widely recognised and definitely worth having! If ever you decide you want to teach piano, you will be required to show an employer these certificates.

Even if you want to learn the lighter "Piano for Leisure" repertoire, exams are still a good idea. In fact, the "Piano for Leisure" syllabus exists for people who want to do just that!

For more information on the benefits of undertaking piano exams, read this article.

Competitive Advantage

Many secondary schools throughout Australia offer full and half music scholarships to recruit talented students. Certain grades of AMEB achievements are often advertised as a prerequisite for scholarship applications.

Orchestras such as Sydney Youth Orchestra and the Australian Youth Orchestra also use AMEB practical grade achievements as a commonly understood standard of playing when assessing applications for entry to their ensembles.

Even if you don't plan a future as a professional musician, your years of dedication to AMEB exams can help you achieve other study goals. Some tertiary institutions offer bonus points to elite performers to help with application into tertiary courses. Just search "Elite performer entry scheme university" for more information about universities that may offer these adjustment factors that are considered in combination with your ATAR score.

Music Students Do Better In School

There have also been many studies that prove students who learn an instrument during high school also perform much better at school in general, often receiving higher university entrance marks than their non-musical peers.

This was certainly the case for when I was at school. There were other students naturally smarter than I, but I still received DUX of the school in my final year, with the highest university entrance mark. I was also elected school captain!...and all-the-while, I was studying for 8th Grade Piano. It wasn't easy, but science has proven time and time again that kids who learn an instrument (and the dedication and focus that go with it), simply perform better across other areas of life.

It has a knock-on effect. Because of my success in music AND academia, I was awarded 8 scholarships to study at the University of Sydney. I honestly believe I wouldn't have had the success I did if I hadn't learned the piano!

These are just a few examples of the benefits gained through undertaking piano exams! Ultimately, whether you choose to do exams or not is your choice, but it's definitely worth considering. Find out more about piano exams here.

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