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Exam Advice

So you’ve been entered for an exam. What happens now? What should I be doing? What is the exam going to be like? When is it going to be?

A pupil having been entered for an exam usually means that the pupil has achieved a certain standard and that the teacher has confidence in the pupil’s abilities to pass the exam. With some candidates, they may have been entered before being fully ready and will be working towards the standard required. Maybe other influences such as to achieve a certain grade on their instrument to move onto the next school or to attend a music course has led to being entered for the practical exam. In these situations, the teacher will anticipate the progress a pupil will achieve based on work covered and past progress. This is not unusual though very much puts the emphasis on the pupil maintaining this level of progress.

The format of woodwind exams with the Associated Board will consist of two exam pieces accompanied by the piano, one piece which is unaccompanied and often called the study, sight-reading, scales and arpeggios, and aural. These can be taken in any order but usually start with the two accompanied pieces. The pianist will leave the exam room when finished accompanying the two pieces. The pass mark is 100/150 with a merit awarded at 120 and a distinction at 130.

For all taking exams, it is important not to give marks away by letting the examiner know that a mistake has been made. A frown, ‘oops’ or ‘sorry’ lets the examiner know that things didn’t go to plan when perhaps they may not have noticed. Above all, never give up. Examiners are on the whole friendly people doing a job like any one else. They have to often conduct exams all day sometimes hearing the same piece of music all day as well. It is in their interest to make the exam candidate feel comfortable and play well otherwise they are in for a difficult day.

Click on the links to find out more about what is required in the Associated Board exams.

Exam Pieces

Exam Scales

Sight Reading


In June 2016, I went through the process of re-taking my Grade 8 on saxophone. You can read about my experience here.