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What's your experience of the ABRSM recently?

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#1 sheephops



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Posted 28 October 2019 - 11:26

Morning all, 


This is a bit of a moan, so please, bear with me or please don't read.


Sometimes our jobs as teachers don't always go smoothly  - and often the things that make teaching and learning difficult are not the students, it's the agencies that we work with. I'm an experienced teacher (classroom and instrumental) and I have entered exams myself and taught using all sorts of exam boards. Recently I feel that the ABRSM is not offering us the best service and this is solely from personal experience. I'm just wondering if I've been unlucky or whether this is a bit of trend that others are observing.




An adult student enters for G8 thirty years after her last exam. G5 theory is on a green form and all necessary certification and ID is emailed to the board in a timely way within hours of the requests for more info. Results come through and this candidate's results are missing. I leave it a few days then contact the board. They say they are missing the necessary documents. I say they're in their inbox and have been for weeks. Results arrive within minutes.


Recently I have entered for the series of diplomas. Decided it was time to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk. The FRSM syllabus is vague to say the least. Criteria and guidance are scant and so questions were emailed to the board that took 3 weeks to respond to - and only because I chased it. This was time critical as the deadline was looming. Anyway, I submitted a complaint and finally received some excellent customer service (though it took a while) which included an extension to the deadline. Second deadline approaches and the entry and documents are sent early (go me!). Three weeks after that deadline I am still awaiting notification that the written submission and cheque have arrived (cheque has not been presented to the bank). I phoned and was spoken to by a rather aloof lady who suggested that because I sent it in a month late (it was actually 2.5 weeks) that I couldn't possibly expect the same level of service that every other candidate gets (supposed to receive notification within a week, according to the website). I'm still waiting. 


What would you do?


Have you experienced anything similar?


Have the ABRSM taken their finger off the pulse?

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#2 BadStrad



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Posted 28 October 2019 - 21:04

I think it was last year there was a post about how long people were queuing on the phone to the AB. There have been questions about mistakes in the syllabus books and delays in new publications (I hear they lost several of their engravers, so maybe those who stayed were overworked or less experienced) and there have been other posts along the lines of yours, so it suggests there has been a decline in service and you are not the only one experiencing it.
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#3 ma non troppo

ma non troppo


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Posted 28 October 2019 - 21:27

I feel they are a bit jaded. There is too much focus on the Far East market and selling publications. They need to realise that other publishing houses have already bettered them in many spheres (theory, sight reading, tutor books)and concentrate on actual exam support. I can't remember the last time I felt inspired to use an ABRSM publication other than the exam pieces books and their collections such as the Romantic Sketch Books and albums of composers' works. I don't feel they understand young people and children today.

There's nothing wrong with examiners in general that I have come across - some have been great. But they are "oh so scared" of writing anything that doesn't follow the official guidelines that feedback has become anaemic and only moderately useful.

They could also be a bit more present on this forum, which would go down well.

Their exam booking system is ridiculous in this day and age and new-comers to exams frankly can't believe it.

Some of the syllabus requirements need a serious over-haul. I know they are on with the scales for piano, but what about sight reading and the hoops needed to be jumped through for aural tests?
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#4 Aquarelle



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Posted 28 October 2019 - 22:34

I think you are right ma non troppo and I think it is a great shame. I think they have gone over the top with "luxuries" and have lost touch with the foundations. I had a problem with the AB recently but I am not going to post about it here as it could blow my anonymity. All I will say is that I was very surprised and disappointed at the attitude expressed in the correspondence. Someone also told me that they thought most of the people working in the admin were inexperienced first jobbers. Maybe, but there is such a thing as staff training and we do have to pay increasingly exorbitant fees for less and less value in service.


It has been a great organisation that has done a lot for musical education and it would be nice to see them back on the rails.  I agree that a bit less focus on the Far East would be a very good thing. It would be nice if they took a greater interest in Europe. I agree with what you say about examiners - I have met some really great ones but they have their hands tied. 


I'm not quite in agreement with what you say about their publications. I have loads of their anthologies and they do contain some very good material. My complaint is that having published them instead of making full use  them for alternative pieces they  often suggest expensive books with  what for many pupils and teachers  will be a one off piece.It is true that some of their albums contain an indigestible number of pieces. Take for example "A Romantic Sketch Book" Book 3 (about Grade 5)  which has 28 pieces. I don't have any Grade 5 players who need quite that choice. But as they have published this sort of album then why not use them over a period of years for alternative exam material?

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#5 ma non troppo

ma non troppo


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Posted 28 October 2019 - 22:42

Ah yes, to clarify I have no problem with their anthologies - it is their educational course books and earlier years books for children I am talking about. They have come too late to the "tutor book" game and just can't catch up.
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#6 anonymousalto


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Posted 29 October 2019 - 14:15

You mentioning the cheque reminded me that last year, ABRSM 'lost' a cheque that the school had sent to pay for Music medal entries - it was only after a few phone calls (and waiting for the phone to be picked up!) that it was 'found in another part of the building' and the options tests could be released!

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