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ABRSM Online Theory Exam


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#1 Suzy

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Posted 19 August 2021 - 09:41

Hi everyone,

 

I have some adult pupils who would like to sit their ABRSM theory exams but are not confident with technology. The set up process seems quite complicated to me and I’m not sure how to explain to others what they need to do prior to the exam. It’s difficult to know how to move forward and I’m just wondering if anyone else is feeling the same? It doesn’t seem very fair to just point people in the right direction (the videos on the ABRSM website etc) and let them work it out themselves. Any advice would be much appreciated, thank you ???? 


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#2 zwhe

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Posted 19 August 2021 - 12:43

I'm afraid I just moved completely to trinity, including for practical exams because of the new theory exam. I won't enter my pupils for sub-standard exams that are only accessible to wealthy people. It has been dumbed down to the point where you could probably guess your way to a pass just by being able to read music. I gave the practice paper (just out of curiosity) to someone who was about grade 1 level piano but a poor reader. I told him to just guess anything he doesn't know and he got 42%. I expect he could have passed after only a couple of hours work on it.

Some of my pupils are not well off so asking them to buy a computer (many only have a phone in their house to access the internet), webcam and to upgrade their internet so they can pass a useless test in order to continue learning the piano is extremely unfair. And that's if they can upgrade their internet - its not always possible. I live in a city and my internet connection is not reliable, so goodness only knows how you are supposed to do the exam if you live in the middle of nowhere.


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#3 Aquarelle

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Posted 19 August 2021 - 13:41

This may sound awful but like zwhe the only advice I can give is to change boards. My reasons are the same as zwhe's. Most of my pupils do actually live in the middle of nowhere and no way can they meet the ABRSM's technological requirements. OFQUAL recognizes other boards who do not have the ridiculous Grade 5 theory  requirement so there is no point in limiting pupils to what was once considered to be the "best" exam board. They have blotched their copy book in many more ways than one. It is very sad.


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#4 Piano Meg

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Posted 19 August 2021 - 20:56

Hi everyone,

 

I have some adult pupils who would like to sit their ABRSM theory exams but are not confident with technology. The set up process seems quite complicated to me and I’m not sure how to explain to others what they need to do prior to the exam. It’s difficult to know how to move forward and I’m just wondering if anyone else is feeling the same? It doesn’t seem very fair to just point people in the right direction (the videos on the ABRSM website etc) and let them work it out themselves. Any advice would be much appreciated, thank you ???? 

I can't give advice, but YES - I'm feeling the same! To be honest, it's been a tough year, so I made a decision to put it to one side until I had the energy for it! I'd written 'think about music theory' on my to do list, for the week before term starts, but unfortunately I've been unwell throughout the holidays, so can see myself leaving those decisions until the new year. And that's for all pupils, not just adults.

 

It just feels exhausting to have to either work out the technology side to guide pupils through (if they have the resources - my internet isn't stable enough) or to get used to a whole new syllabus. I suspect I'll end up going for trinity for theory, but I need to look through everything before making a decision. I have several issues with the ABRSM theory exam - what's being tested, how it's being tested, the requirements, the lack of support if there are problems (from what I've read of others' experiences) and the fact that putting so much responsibility on pupils/parents isn't conducive to a relaxed or exciting, enjoyable 'here's what I can do' experience for pupils.


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#5 Hildegard

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Posted 20 August 2021 - 08:13

I've never understood why any of them call it a "Theory of Music" exam. It tests understanding of music notation plus (from Grade 6 onwards) traditional harmony. There's nothing about how music works to justify calling it a music theory exam.


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#6 dorfmouse

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Posted 20 August 2021 - 09:19

[quote name="Hildegard"
I've never understood why any of them call it a "Theory of Music" exam. It tests understanding of music notation plus (from Grade 6 onwards) traditional harmony. There's nothing about how music works to justify calling it a music theory exam.[/quote]

Absolutely agree, and even as a younger pupil I was slightly puzzled; was there something esoteric I hadn't understood behind all those facts one learned?
In teaching science nowadays, the concept of a theory is introduced to even quite young children, encouraging them on a simple level to behave like scientists, discussing ideas, how you could prove or disprove them, evaluating evidence etc.
Maybe these tests would be called more accurately "basic musical literacy"?
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#7 Hildegard

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Posted 20 August 2021 - 09:32

Maybe these tests would be called more accurately "basic musical literacy"?

 

That would certainly be a better reflection of their content.


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#8 Cyrilla

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Posted 20 August 2021 - 21:31

I grew up thinking that 'aural', 'theory', and 'playing' were three entirely separate beasts.

 

It was only when I discovered Kodály that I found they weren't.

 

:wub:


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#9 agricola

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Posted 21 August 2021 - 08:02

I suspect that the Grade 5 exam will eventually become optional for those who are really interested.  When today's children want to know something they head for the internet to find a demonstration / explanation.  Then they use it and (quite often) forget it again.  They certainly don't go to the bookshelf and peruse a volume of  'The Rudiments of Music'. I have noticed that in recent years children have struggled more and more with the Grade 5 Theory exam and have retained almost none of the information afterwards.  The same children twenty years ago would have passed with no difficulty.  

 

As a test, I just looked up the meaning of 'incalzando' on my phone.  Starting from the phone being locked, it took me 27 seconds.  A child could probably do it in half the time as I operate at Boomer speeds, so why would they bother to memorise something they have a small chance of being asked in an exam and will hardly ever encounter in anything they want to play  -- unless of course they want to be a professional musician?


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#10 Aquarelle

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Posted 21 August 2021 - 08:31

I suspect that the Grade 5 exam will eventually become optional for those who are really interested.  When today's children want to know something they head for the internet to find a demonstration / explanation.  Then they use it and (quite often) forget it again.  They certainly don't go to the bookshelf and peruse a volume of  'The Rudiments of Music'. I have noticed that in recent years children have struggled more and more with the Grade 5 Theory exam and have retained almost none of the information afterwards.  The same children twenty years ago would have passed with no difficulty.  

 

As a test, I just looked up the meaning of 'incalzando' on my phone.  Starting from the phone being locked, it took me 27 seconds.  A child could probably do it in half the time as I operate at Boomer speeds, so why would they bother to memorise something they have a small chance of being asked in an exam and will hardly ever encounter in anything they want to play  -- unless of course they want to be a professional musician?

Exactly. The great pitfall of screen learning is that a very large part of what is seen is never internalized. I think searching the net etc. is useful for many things and children certainly need to know how to use it. But  it is only  - or anything else - unless they it becomes part of themselves and that doesn't happen by clicking the right box. The value of the "old fashioned" written paper for which children had to learn to write  their answers has been chucked out rather unceremoniously. Over the next few years the results of that will become obvious - a very superficial level of learning will emerge.

 

I know there are children with learning difficulties which can be helped by the use of computers, but theirs is a special case and that also needs expert handling. 


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#11 zwhe

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Posted 21 August 2021 - 08:55

You are assuming that AB want you to pass grade 5 theory so you learn stuff, not so they make some money...


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#12 HelenVJ

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Posted 21 August 2021 - 11:20

Changing to Trinity for the higher grades ( 6-8) is swiftly becoming even more of a no-brainer. 


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#13 Aquarelle

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Posted 21 August 2021 - 12:01

You are assuming that AB want you to pass grade 5 theory so you learn stuff, not so they make some money...

Er....well..... You caught me with my optimist's hat on!   Actually if enough of their previously faithful teachers debunk  ithey might lose more than they think they will gain by having  complusory mass entries for G5.


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#14 maggiemay

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Posted 21 August 2021 - 12:03

Changing to Trinity for the higher grades ( 6-8) is swiftly becoming even more of a no-brainer. 

Yes. This. 

In the months before lock-down, one of my students (now at uni), having gone through all previous grades with me, and achieved merits and distinctions right through, chose off his own bat to change to Trinity for grade 8. 

When we talked over the reasons, it was so that he could spend time learning pieces, not a bigger load of scales. The aural, btw, was not an issue - he’s always done well with that, and is an accurate and confident sight-singer. 

Sadly, the pandemic got in the way, and although he was ready - the entry was poised to go in - it didn’t happen. 

He may still take it one day - and I can’t think of any reason why he would change back to AB. 


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#15 HelenVJ

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Posted 21 August 2021 - 13:45

Nearly all our local independent schools now use Trinity for their school visits. If any student or visiting peri particularly wants to take AB, they have to do it outside the school entry system. That's quite a lot of entries if the same pattern occurs in schools throughout the UK.


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