Take up is low because many haven't heard of it, resources are few and at upper grades it's hard to get a real handle on the syllabus because there isn't a nicely laid out list of things which are and aren't on the syllabus. It's too wishy-washy "aspects of structure" - exactly which structures should a Grade 7 student know, and what extra ones do they need at Grade 8? It's not there. It's hard to teach yourself because you need someone to play the unseen music for you, and there's no CD with the resource material. I had a friend play them but his renditions were so bad they weren't useful. And the biggie - cost. Grade 5 theory £35, Grade 5 PM £59. Marks scheme isn't clear, just that you will come away with a general result, nothing says "Students who perform like x will get grade A, students who know this and not that get a B..." it's just all not specific enough compared to theory which has a bunch of resources, a very clear list of what you need to know and don't need to know and a mark scheme for how many marks you get for each response so you can work out how well you are doing. I want to take Grade 8 PM but even with all my knowledge and experience I'm not feeling confident I will know all the things I need to know because they could ask about a structure I just don't happen to have heard of. The syllabus just needs to be laid out more clearly, you need to know these things and this is how it will be graded by the examiner. This is not enough information:
"To answer basic questions about an extract from a score (provided by the examiner) of a work for voice and instruments. Questions may refer to keys, harmonic framework, style, structure and aspects of the use of the voice or instruments" - what is on the list of "basic questions" and when do they turn into intermediate or advanced questions? There are I think 4 in the "In Practice" books and a further 1 example in the specimen tests, not enough to get a general feel for what should be included for a thorough study of the syllabus.
This is ALL of the information about marking scheme:
"The examiner will award an overall grading, rather than a mark, on the following basis:
A Pass with Distinction
B Pass with Merit
F Failure to reach the standard required to pass"
It doesn't even say if it's assessed in general across the exam or in sections - can you fail transposition and do really well in everything else and get a C? Or must you demonstrate that you are strong in all areas therefore someone who totally butchers one section is deemed not to have enough "musicianship" to pass and gets an F.
As a teacher, I can't feel confident I am sending a student in with everything they need to know, and that they won't come out and say they were asked something I have never covered at all, I could lose the student and get into some financial argy bargy about the exam fee. I've ended up feeling that the only real way I will start to get a handle on these exams is to enter some myself at each grade level (Grade 1, 5 and 8 in consecutive appointments is going to look weird!!) and start picking the right students who I won't have fallout from if they don't pass, and perhaps split the exam fee a little because I get professional learning from them going the exams.
I really want these exams to be better, more popular and better resourced, but they have to start fleshing out the bare bones of the syllabus, this isn't enough. Oh, and offer sessions on the syllabus at the teacher conference - HINT HINT HINT!!!