Latest exam updates

Music Theory exams – March 2021

  • Online Music Theory exams (Grades 1 to 5) – we are cancelling the online exams planned for 16 March. Exams in May and June will go ahead as planned.
  • Paper Music Theory exams (Grades 6 to 8) – we will not be offering these exams in March. The next exams at Grades 6 to 8 will be in June 2021.
  • Grade 5 Music Theory requirement - from 1 January to 30 April 2021 only, candidates can take Grade 6 to 8 Performance or Practical exams without first passing Grade 5 Music Theory. From 1 May 2021, the Grade 5 Music Theory requirement will return with flexibility about timing.

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Remotely-assessed Performance Grades and ARSM 

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The next booking period for remotely-assessed Performance Grade and ARSM exams opens in February. For details, see our dates and fees page.

Music Theory exams in 2021

1 week ago

Regrettably we are cancelling the Music Theory exams scheduled for March 2021. We will still offer Grades 1 to 5 (online) in May and June, and Grades 6 to 8 (paper) in June, as previously advertised.

We’ve reached this difficult decision to enable our systems to be upgraded and allow more time for greater certainty about running exams for large groups of candidates. We understand that this news will be disappointing and that learners will have to wait longer than anticipated for their Music Theory exams. To mitigate the impact of the decision and to allow learners to keep progressing with their music, we have decided to temporarily waive the Grade 5 Music Theory prerequisite for progression to Practical and Performance Grades 6 to 8 until 30 April 2021.

 Summary of the changes

  • Online Music Theory exams (Grades 1 to 5) – we are cancelling the online exams planned for 16 March. Exams in May and June will go ahead as planned.
  • Paper Music Theory exams (Grades 6 to 8) – we will not be offering these exams in March. The next exams will be in June 2021.
  • Grade 5 Music Theory requirement - from 1 January to 30 April 2021 only, candidates will be able to take their Grade 6 to 8 Performance or Practical exams without having passed Grade 5 Music Theory. From 1 May 2021, the Grade 5 Music Theory requirement will return with flexibility about timing.

Why are we doing this?

Since the coronavirus pandemic began we have been working as quickly as we can to develop and roll out online assessment opportunities to allow candidates to take Music Theory exams at Grades 1 to 5. At the same time, it has always been our hope to be able to offer paper-based exams at Grades 6 to 8, where possible.

However, developing and rolling out online Music Theory exams at Grades 1 to 5 in such a short period time has presented considerable challenges. Although we have already provided a high number of online Music Theory exams, we now need to pause the roll out of these exams in the majority of countries so that we can spend time making important improvements and adjustments. To allow us to do this, and to provide more certainty about running public exams, we are also pausing the provision of paper-based exams at Grades 6 to 8.

By doing this we can move more quickly towards the long-term goal, which is to be able to offer an on demand online experience, allowing candidates complete freedom to choose when and where to take their Music Theory exams.

Temporary waiver of Grade 5 Music Theory prerequisite

It’s really important that learners are supported to progress and that we find ways to work around the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Many learners have been unable to take Music Theory exams in 2020 and will be further affected by the cancellation of Music Theory exams in March 2021. This is why we have decided to apply a temporary, time-limited waiver of the Grade 5 Music Theory prerequisite. Between 1 January 2021 and 30 April 2021 inclusive, candidates will be able to take Practical and Performance exams at Grades 6 to 8 without having first passed their Grade 5 Music Theory and with no requirement to then take it at a later date.

Candidates taking Practical or Performance Grade 6 to 8 exams on or after 1 May 2021 will have to pass Grade 5 Music Theory. However, we will be flexible about the timing. From 1 May, candidates taking Grades 6 to 8 will be expected to pass their Grade 5 Music Theory at the next earliest opportunity, and we will withhold the Grade 6 to 8 results until this requirement is met.

We have introduced this measure in recognition of the exceptional times we are going through. It is strictly a temporary arrangement and does not in any way reflect a change in the value we place on music theory and its importance in a learner’s musical development.

We are aware that 2020 was an acutely difficult year and we want to thank you for your unswerving support. As we move into 2021 we are still actively managing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and re-evaluating the changes that we had to introduce at pace in 2020. The withdrawal of the March Music Theory exams will be uncomfortable news for learners and their teachers who had been preparing for an exam in March, and may seem unfair to those who have taken the exam prior to this decision. We did not make the decision lightly, but it is necessary so that we are in a better position to deliver on our commitment to provide a secure, convenient and rigorous Music Theory assessment with the learner experience at its centre.

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