Examinations and Assessments

Some students are suited to exams and some prefer to stick to piano recitals. That is okay. Exams are a valuable option but are not necessary.

The word 'piano exam' has many connotations. You may have sat piano exams yourself or had a friend or sibling who did. This may have involved endless hours of playing the same few songs over and over for weeks/months/the entire year trying to get them 'perfect', the tedious exercise of trying to learn 15+ scales and arpeggios in the few weeks leading up to the exam, or trying to memorise the somewhat elusive general knowledge scribbled all over your music by your teacher.

I like to approach exams in a different way. The piano examination experience will ideally be a positive and encouraging one and the material tested in the exam will be learned at a steady pace well in advance of the examination day.

The skills tested in examinations are fundamental skills necessary to playing the piano.  Any student who wants to be a well-rounded knowledgable pianist should possess these skills. Therefore all students learn most of these skills,
whether or not they choose to sit an assessment.

Examinations and assessments offer the following benefits:

  • Students can see themselves progressing in a tangible way.
  • Completing an assessment or exam gives the student a goal and sense of achievement.
  • Playing in an externally assessed situation develops the ability to control nerves, play under pressure, and cope with making mistakes.
  • A report and certificate are an indication of the student's ability and progress.
You may have been taught piano with the understanding that if you sat Grade 2 this year, you will sit Grade 3 next year, and Grade 4 the year after that. You learnt your pieces, sat your exam, and moved onto pieces for the next grade.
This method of progression doesn't actually make sense because it assumes that you automatically advance in skills by one grade per year, regardless of what you have actually learnt.

Students progress at different rates depending on
  • age
  • natural ability
  • amount of practice and quality of practice
  • number of pieces learnt per year
  • difficulty level of pieces compared to student ability (if they are too hard, progress will be hindered)
Provided the teacher is taking care of the last two factors, a good measure of exam readiness is the amount of quality practice done since the last exam. Australian teacher/composer Elissa Milne (who compiled the AMEB P Plate Piano and Getting To... grade books) suggests that a student needs 100 hours of quality practice between grades in order to achieve the same result as for the previous grade. If you want to 'up your result' from C to B or B to A then you probably need 120 hours practice and it you want to improve from C to A then you need 140 hours practice!

Time spent at the piano is a much more accurate measure of progress than the number of years you have been 'learning piano'.

Progress is not enhanced by sitting an exam sooner.  In fact it may be halted because of the time spent learning the same few difficult pieces. If you wait another 6 months until you are fully ready for the grade, you will get a better result and it will be a more positive experience.

Each organisation examining in Launceston has its strengths and weaknesses but all students come out with a certificate and a sense of accomplishment. All students perform pieces that they have learnt, demonstrate technical skills and show that they have an understanding of their music.

I will work with you to choose the best examinations for your child.

AMEB P Plate Piano
The P Plate Piano assessments are part of the AMEB examination system.

P Plate piano assessments are designed to introduce the student to the exam process in a friendly, no-pressure way. The student and I receive constructive feedback on their performance. The assessment is ungraded.

On completion of Level 3, students are awarded a P Plate Piano credit card style license to begin preparing for an AMEB Preliminary exam.

P Plate Piano assessments are ideal preparation for SCSM Grade 1 Classical Piano, AMEB Preliminary Classical Piano or AMEB Preliminary Piano for Leisure.

Available levels: 1, 2 and 3
When to start: Students begin Book One after about one year of lessons.
Outcome: Non-graded assessment. Students receive a feedback report and certificate.

Involves: Student performs their 3 favourite pieces from their P Plate Piano book.  There are NO exercises, scales, other tests etc.
Cost: $35

AMEB Piano For Leisure

These exams are ideal for students who want to play a more 'popular' than 'classical' repertoire. ie. television and movie themes, famous classical themes, jazzy/contemporary songs, pop music, etc. Classical music is still included but is optional.
Rest assured that these exams are, for want of a better term, 'real piano exams'. Students all over the country are sitting them and they are widely recognised and valid.

Available levels: Preliminary Grade, Grade 1 through Grade 8.
When: After P Plate Piano Level 3.
Graded assessment with report and certificate.
Syllabus: Selection of repertoire in various styles, classical repertoire is not mandatory.  Difficulty level is a little harder than AMEB Classical Piano but there are less pieces, scales etc. required.
  • Three pieces
  • Technical work (ie. scales, arpeggios, chords etc.)
  • General knowledge questions
  • Choose between sight reading and aural tests
YouTube video: a girl playing 3 pieces from Piano for Leisure Grade 1.

Listen to samples of pieces from AMEB Piano for Leisure:
Preliminary = tracks 1-11
Grade 1 = tracks 12-22
Grade 2 = tracks 23 - 33

Listen to samples of pieces from AMEB Piano for Leisure Grades 3 and 4

St Cecilia School of Music Classical Piano
These exams are suited to students who wish to focus on classical music.  They may be serious about obtaining a classical piano education for their future, or simply have the passion and commitment to pursue classical styles with some added contemporary repertoire for enjoyment.
The student will learn a variety of repertoire written between the 16th century and the 21st century.
I like to choose SCSM for classical exams because there is such a wide variety of pieces to choose from.

Available levels: Grade 1 onward (available through Grade 8 and various diplomas)
When: After AMEB P Plate Piano Level 3 or SCSM Preliminary.
Result: Gr
aded assessment with report and certificate.
Syllabus: Extensive list of repertoire to choose from.
  • Four pieces (study, Baroque/Classical, Classical/Romantic and 20th Century/contemporary)
  • Technical work (scales, arpeggios, chords etc.)
  • Program Notes (general knowledge questions for Grades 1 through 4 and written project with oral presentation for Grades 5 through 8).
There are NO aural or sight reading tests.  SCSM's philosophy is that some students are uncomfortable with aural and sight reading tests in an exam setting, but these skills should definitely still be covered in lessons!

SCSM Grade 1 examples:

Gavotte In C - Telemann
Nannerl's Minuet - L. Mozart
Children at Play - Bartok
Ready for Action - C. Norton
Pantomime - N. Faber

As an alternative to SCSM Classical Piano, students may choose AMEB Classical Piano Examinations.

AMEB Theory Examinations are available from Grade 1 onward.


Method Book level:
Start working on:
My First Piano Adventure
Piano Adventures Primer
Piano Safari Book 1
Piano Adventures 1
Piano Safari Book 2
Accelerated 1
P Plate Piano Book 1
Piano Adventures 2A
Late Accelerated 1
P Plate Piano Book 2
Piano Adventures 2B
Accelerated 2
P Plate Piano Book 3
Piano Adventures 3A
Getting to Grade 1
AMEB Piano for Leisure Preliminary
SCSM Grade 1
Piano Adventures 3B
Getting to Grade 2
AMEB Piano for Leisure Grade 1
SCSM Grade 2