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Scheduling for Theory Exams: ABRSM G7, G8, and AMusTCL


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#1 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 22 August 2019 - 15:20

I would like to get some thoughts/recommendations/comments regarding the scheduling of music theory exams.

 

For background, I took G5 in March of 2018.  I earned Distinction at G5.  (For a music teacher, that's shooting fish in a barrel.)  After that, I focused hard on piano practical exams, doing G5 in May of 2018 and G8 in May of 2019.

 

While revising for the G5 exam, I realized that I absolutely love music theory.  I hated it as a kid and only studied it grudgingly, but as an adult I really enjoy studying it and teaching it.

 

I am registered for G6 theory in November of 2019.  It is a big leap from G5, but neither is it as difficult as, say, solving systems of partial differential equations.  I'm pretty confident that I will earn at least a Merit at G6 (though of course I want a Distinction).

 

What I would like input on is the scheduling of further theory exams.

 

My current thoughts are these:

 

G6 in November, 2019 (fixed)

G7 in June, 2020

G8 in November, 2020

AMusTCL in May, 2021

 

How does this timing look?  For an adult of average intelligence and above-average passion, does this look realistic?

 

To complicate matters, I'm also working on ARSM right now, which I plan to take in May, 2020.  After that, I will start on DipABRSM, which I will probably take in November, 2021 or May, 2022.  I have no concrete plans to do an LRSM, but I already have a program selected if I choose to do so...

 

I may also go for a DipABRSM in teaching somewhere in there as well.


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#2 -Victoria-

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Posted 22 August 2019 - 20:50

I'd say that's ambitious but doable for someone 100% committed. I did the AMUS with around 3 months prep and that's with working full time and 3 kids. Why stop there though- might as well schedule the LmusTCL too?!, although that is a really tough exam in my view.
Grade 7 isn't a huge leap from grade 6. Grade 8 is quite a big step and the Amus is about the same size. The biggest learning curve is between 5 & 6, especially since composition was removed from grade 5.
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#3 Crock

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Posted 22 August 2019 - 23:01

As someone who did G6 way back in 2015 and never seems to get round to G7 and G8 (the day job gets in the way big time), yes, I do agree with Victoria, there is a large gap between G7 and G8.  In previous threads several people have said that there isn't much difference between G6 and G7. Broadly this is so, I suppose, but in G7, both Q2 (adding passing notes etc. to the bare framework of a Bach Chorale or  a classical piano piece) and the Q3 option of adding a melody above an accompaniment does require an appreciation of the style.  There's nothing like this in G6. With the OP's extensive experience I'm sure this isn't a problem, but in my case it has taken some time to be comfortable doing this.

 

Am thinking about G7 in the autumn or Spring next year.... what excuse can I find this time for not doing so?


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#4 corenfa

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Posted 23 August 2019 - 02:20

I would like to get some thoughts/recommendations/comments regarding the scheduling of music theory exams.

 

For background, I took G5 in March of 2018.  I earned Distinction at G5.  (For a music teacher, that's shooting fish in a barrel.)  After that, I focused hard on piano practical exams, doing G5 in May of 2018 and G8 in May of 2019.

 

While revising for the G5 exam, I realized that I absolutely love music theory.  I hated it as a kid and only studied it grudgingly, but as an adult I really enjoy studying it and teaching it.

 

I am registered for G6 theory in November of 2019.  It is a big leap from G5, but neither is it as difficult as, say, solving systems of partial differential equations.  I'm pretty confident that I will earn at least a Merit at G6 (though of course I want a Distinction).

 

What I would like input on is the scheduling of further theory exams.

 

My current thoughts are these:

 

G6 in November, 2019 (fixed)

G7 in June, 2020

G8 in November, 2020

AMusTCL in May, 2021

 

How does this timing look?  For an adult of average intelligence and above-average passion, does this look realistic?

 

To complicate matters, I'm also working on ARSM right now, which I plan to take in May, 2020.  After that, I will start on DipABRSM, which I will probably take in November, 2021 or May, 2022.  I have no concrete plans to do an LRSM, but I already have a program selected if I choose to do so...

 

I may also go for a DipABRSM in teaching somewhere in there as well.

 

Disclaimer: I took old syllabus Grade 6, 7, 8 (as in back in the 1990s) so I have not taken the latest syllabus exams.

 

However I looked at the syllabus- it seems comparable to what I did as an undergraduate in music theory (I was at a US university and it was an academic music degree, not a conservatory). We did all of that in 2 terms which is roughly a year. The other undergrads seemed to do fine with all that material in a year even if some found it difficult at first. The university hadn't heard of ABRSM exams at the time so they made me take it all again but hey whatever. 

 

I have no doubt that you are smarter and have more musical experience than my fellow undergraduates did at the time, so what you propose seems realistic. 

 

Preparing for diplomas is not going to hinder your preparation for these, if anything, I'd expect you to observe some synergy in preparing for theory and practical at the same time. 


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#5 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 23 August 2019 - 11:50

Thank you to all who responded.  Thankfully it sounds as if I'm not off-base on this schedule.  Much of this stuff is material that I supposedly learned as a child/teenager, but at that time I didn't appreciate it and so didn't apply myself very thoroughly.  I didn't take music theory in college (my degree was in another field, even though I was heavily involved in music throughout), and I found that I have glaring holes in my knowledge and experience after the G5 level or so.  Indeed, I had a bit of a mental block regarding four-part harmony until this year (due to the circumstances and material with which my former teacher tried to teach it - not her fault, she did the best with what she had to work with).

 

Victoria, LMusTCL is indeed an option, but as with LRSM in performance I would have to give it some thought.  I'll also have to see what the set works are when the time comes.  I looked at the 2017 practice test, and found the set works utterly and completely uninteresting.  (Mahler's 4th Symphony, Brahms Piano Quintet... not quite my cup of tea.)  But the set works for 2019-2020 are much more to my taste (Beethoven's Fidelio and Debussy's La Mer).

 

Crock, I don't know about my experience... Most of my experience is in other genres (specifically American Old Time, Bluegrass, and Irish Trad) that have limited application to the "Classical" world.  However, preparing for the G6 theory has shown the value of my experience with those other genres.  I learned how music works in a practical sense.  I learned how to harmonize a melody and insert non-chord notes and ornamentation in real-time, while playing with others.  (This would be on a guitar, banjo, or fiddle.)  I have called those years "wasted" and "mis-spent" in the past, but they are really helping me now with G6!

 

corenfa, let me tell you the dirty truth about people with PhDs: we're not smarter, we just have a high tolerance for school.  :sick:   But you are absolutely right that decades of music experience help with this stuff.  And you're also right about the synergy - the more I think about music theory, the more I notice in the music I'm preparing for ARSM.  For instance, Beethoven's use of diminished seventh chords, Chopin's inversions and modulations, the brilliant four-part harmony in the Bach Prelude and Fugue... and I also find that the more I understand the music, the easier it is for me to memorize it.  All this stuff works together.

 

I just wish I had done this years ago.  Music exams were not available in (or anywhere near) the middle-of-nowhere Appalachian town I grew up in.  I was only hazily aware of them when I was teaching in Alabama.  When I started teaching here in Texas (where music exams are popular among some segments of the population) they were available to me (as a teaching tool and for my own use) for the first time.  I thought about taking exams for years, and finally took the plunge once a student came to me wanting to take them.

 

ABRSM has been great for me, I must say.  It gave me the motivation to get off my butt and recover my piano skills (I was about G8 level when I drifted off to traditional music as a teenager), and then push onward.


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#6 -Victoria-

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Posted 23 August 2019 - 20:38

When I did the LmusTCL I chose Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. I didn't know the work at all and didn't particularly like it on first hearing, but chose the topic because I wanted to get my teeth into researching piano repertoire. The more I studied the work the more I began to like it and by exam day my view was completely changed! I ended up getting my best score on the paper for my Diabelli essay (27/30 if I recall.) Mind you, I've never listened to it again since lol!
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#7 SingingPython

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Posted 23 August 2019 - 22:52

My son and his friend did grade 6 theory then grade 8, 2 years later.  If I were you I'd seriously consider taking the actual exam for grade 7 out of your schedule but probably sticking to your proposed timings.  I would think that once you've got the grade 6 work mastered, preparing higher grade work will flow quite well.  Have a look at the grade 8 score reading questions - you probably have a big experiential advantage over 12 yr old choristers for those, which should be a good start.


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#8 thara96

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 16:26

Late to the discussion but good luck! 

 

My friend who is my age has just done ABRSM musical theory grade five and is hoping to do ABRSM music theory grade six in the autumn of 2020. Her tip is to look at practice papers and revise as much as possible. I'd recommend being realistic and factoring in the actual result into your schedule too. When will you know the grade six result? How long does it take to hear back? Prepare yourself well for the exam in any case you do not want to sit there staring at the questions unable to answer any of them. There are plenty of resources available in print and online to use. 


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#9 sbhoa

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 19:30

I think my grade 6, 7 and 8 were roughly 12 months apart.


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#10 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 21 November 2019 - 14:53

I'd recommend being realistic and factoring in the actual result into your schedule too. When will you know the grade six result? How long does it take to hear back?

 

That is actually very good advice.  After reading that, I double-checked the registration deadlines for the first two Theory sessions next year.

 

Now my thinking is Grade 7 in March of 2020, and Grade 8 in November of 2020, and AMusTCL sometime in 2021.

 

I think it takes around six weeks to get the results.  I should get my Grade 6 results in mid-December, a comfortable two weeks before I have to register for the March Theory session.  I'm not expecting any surprises on my Grade 6 results, so I will almost certainly take Grade 7 next March.  (If I don't get at least a strong Merit, though, I will have to seriously rethink things.)

 

I would not have a comfortable margin between getting the results from the March exams and having to register for the June exams.  So I will probably skip the June session and take that extra time to make sure I'm good and ready for the Grade 8 in November.

 

I already have the Grade 7 Theory Workbook and four years' worth of past papers.  I also have Victoria's new complete Grade 7 video course from MyMusicTheory, which is a wonderful new resource.


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#11 thara96

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 10:17

Question what did you get for your first Music Theory exam? What grade did you start with? Good luck! 


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#12 fsharpminor

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 12:09

I did all theory and piano grades up to grade 6 from 1955 to 1961, about a grade a year.  1962 was GCE O level, so no music exams, then I 'went for it' straight to  ALCM in 1963 and passed  (missing out Grades 7 and 8 completely and not doing any more theory exams) This was  when I was in the lower 6th, anticipating 'A' levels the. next year. I did do Grade 8 Organ (ABRSM) at same time as 'A' levels in 1964.  I took a gap year (64-65) and attempted a rush job on ATCL Organ (before going to Uni to read chemistry) , for which I had to do a theory paper as well. Passed the theory, but not the practical. Never retook it.


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#13 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 15:28

Question what did you get for your first Music Theory exam? What grade did you start with? Good luck! 

 

I actually scored 100 on Grade 5 theory.  I don't think it's something to brag about, though, since I am a music teacher.  To some degree, it was shooting fish in a barrel.  It was material that I had known since childhood and regularly teach.  I only took it because it is a prerequisite.  Still, the process of revising for the exam was very beneficial.

 

The Grade 6 theory really gave me something to dig into, however, taking me out of my comfort zone as a piano teacher.  It was a good experience.  Still waiting for the result, though...


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#14 thara96

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Posted 26 November 2019 - 08:58

When will you get the results back? 


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#15 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 00:32

When will you get the results back? 

 

Maybe two or three more weeks.  And at that time, I'll probably be traveling without internet access.  (I don't have one of those fancy new-fangled telephones where you can check your e-mail.  My wife does, though, so maybe I'll be able to get the results if we're in an area with a data signal.)  It's nerve-wracking, waiting for results like this.  In contrast, I generally get practical results in about a week.


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