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ARSM: life after Grade 8

1 year ago
Alison Kelly

Alison Kelly

Alison Moncrieff-Kelly is a cellist, educator and ABRSM examiner in classical grades, jazz grades and Diplomas. She is also a Teacher Development Consultant for ABRSM, and has led workshops and presentations all over the world. Alison has been a syllabus consultant for ABRSM and also part of the team who prepared the cello sight-reading and scales. Alison teaches at City University London, Tonbridge School and also runs a highly successful private teaching practice.

From a twelve minute exam at Grade 1, to a 30 minute exam at Grade 8, as a learner progresses through graded examinations they build on the principles of good instrumental learning and practice. It is easy to see the graded examinations as an incremental, accumulating ladder of goals and targets, with Grade 8 as the pinnacle. But what happens when you’ve reached Grade 8? Although previously Grade 8 was seen as the pinnacle of the graded exams, the gap between Grade 8 and Dip ABRSM is large.

ARSM (Associate of the Royal Schools of Music) is a performance-only diploma that bridges the gap between Grade 8 and DipABRSM. It's an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate performance skills after Grade 8. Within the challenge of performing a 30-minute programme, candidates are assessed on their musical communication skills, interpretation and technical delivery.

The exam can be taken by anyone who has passed ABRSM Practical Grade 8 or a listed alternative. ARSM is available in all instruments currently examined by ABRSM, including voice.

There are no written or spoken elements, and no sight reading, aural tests or scales. As part of the assessment, candidates perform at least 20 minutes of music chosen from the ARSM repertoire list (this is the same list set for DipABRSM); and up to 10 minutes of their own-choice repertoire (of at least Grade 8 standard).

ARSM offers musicians the opportunity to explore their musical strengths and enthusiasms. For the assessment, musicians put together a thirty minute programme of music and they have full reign when it comes to the pieces they select so they can showcase their talents. But remember, thirty minutes of playing requires a lot of stamina!




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