Thank you, Doc. How are you finding it? I've heard grades 5 & 6 are like chalk and cheese. I want to concentrate on improving my aural and sight reading and playing many more pieces at around grade 3 level before even thinking about another exam.
As you say, Grades 5 and 6 are like chalk and cheese. (I had to look that idiom up - I've never heard that used here in the southern U.S. or even in the Britcoms I've watched over the years.)
Since the Board revamped grades one through five, those tests are just the basics, the foundation, the general knowledge that any classically-trained musician should know. Even the more difficult aspects of these lower grades, such as transposition, scale writing, chord recognition, and rhythm conversion (simple to compound or vice-versa) are still just "plug and chug" as we say here in the States. You're basically plugging inputs into formulae and turning the crank. Fiddly and easy to get wrong, of course, but if you know the techniques/formulae, work slowly, and double- or even triple-check your work, you can get high scores.
I won't call G5 easy. It was, perhaps, easy for me, but that's because I'm a music teacher and I eat, sleep, and breathe this stuff. (Except for that abomination of a C clef... I don't regularly play an instrument that uses it. Maybe I should get out my mandola...)
Grade Six is a different ball of wax. Creativity is now called for, along with a working knowledge of the rules of harmony and figured bass. I have mixed feelings about figured bass - I don't see myself using it outside of theory exams. But the rules of harmony are very helpful. There are also composition questions with required modulations, and you have to know how to work with orchestral scores.
I studied four-part harmony about 20 years ago. I hated it with a passion back then. How I wish I had paid more attention to it back then! I recently realized that I've had something of a mental block on four-part harmony all these years, because I learned it in the context of religious music. (My mother laid out a list of conditions for my longsuffering piano teacher. I was not allowed to learn Mozart because he was "as bad as Elvis" and I was not allowed to play classical unless I also played hymns from the Baptist Hymnal and - shudder - "praise choruses." Modern "worship music" still gives me anxiety attacks to this day.)
Thankfully I've been able to get past the mental block and actually learn four-part harmony. The Bach chorales don't bother me that much - such music was considered sinful in the religion I grew up in (the sin of "Popery") so as long as I focus on the music and ignore the lyrics, I can deal with them just fine.
I'm slogging through Harmony in Practice - it's pretty good for what it is, but I don't know how much I would recommend it for self-study. If I weren't a music teacher with prior experience in this area, I would probably be well and truly lost.
> I want to concentrate on improving my aural and sight reading and playing many
> more pieces at around grade 3 level before even thinking about another exam.
That sounds like an excellent plan. G6 probably isn't absolutely needed for most students (AFAIK it's only a prerequisite for DipABRSM in teaching, which I hope to take eventually) but I do hope you will one day look into it. It would greatly appreciate your understanding of and appreciation for the music you're playing. It would probably make sense to study that as you progress in the higher grades.
One word of advice, if I may, and worth what it cost you: don't let the G5 material slip. Review it periodically. This is material that musicians need for life.