RSL Classical FAQs
Q: What is the RSL Classical: Piano Qualification?
A: RSL Classical is the new brand from RSL Awards which covers instrumental grade exams from Debut – Grade 8. The Piano syllabus is the first in the RSL Classical Qualification suite and supports learners in developing the skills, knowledge and understanding required to be a musician performing in the classical music industry.
Q: What repertoire is covered?
A: Across the graded syllabus, students will find repertoire from male and female composers working within the Western Classical tradition from both the past and present day. You will find composers whose work is representative of the music of its time; music which sought to break boundaries; music which reflects the composer’s own cultural heritage; work written for Film, TV, Games and Jazz; and music simply written to challenge the technical player.
Q: What if there’s nothing in there I like?
We like to think that there is a really engaging range of pieces in our books. But, thanks to our Free Choice Piece option, you can choose pieces from anywhere else (up to two for a Graded Exam/Certificate or three for a Performance Certificate) to prepare and submit instead. Just make sure you use the Free Choice Piece
criteria to check it’s at the right level.
Q: What do candidates need to prepare for their exam?
For the Performance Certificate
, learners can prepare five pieces and perform those
for the exam.
For the Graded Music Exam
, learners also prepare Technical Exercises and practice for
the Unseen Tests
For the Video Graded Certificate
, learners prepare three pieces and Technical Exercises as per the specifications published here...
Q: What are the Technical Exercises and Unseen Tests?
A: The Technical Exercises require learners to prepare scales, arpeggios and broken chords.
The Unseen Tests give students the choice of Sight-Reading or Interpretation and Improvisation; Melodic Recall Aural Tests; and General Musicianship Questions
Q: How does it compare to the Rockschool Piano Syllabus?
A: Both the Classical and Contemporary Piano Graded Exams are benchmarked carefully so that learners develop their skills and understanding through a process called Progressive Mastery. Learners are assessed against the same learning outcomes and assessment criteria and, through the Free Choice Piece option, candidates can select up to three pieces from the Rockschool syllabus for their RSL Classical exam and vice versa. The technical exercises have been carefully selected to assess the same level of skill but with a specific focus on Classical playing techniques. The interpretation and improvisation element from the Rockschool syllabus has been included in the RSL Classical syllabus to maintain the candidate's choice between Sight-Reading and Improvisation. Through the RSL Classical syllabus, candidates can enjoy musical styles firmly rooted in the Western Classical traditions and explore how they have evolved and been interpreted by composers over time.
Q: Does the Classical Syllabus use Backing Tracks?
A: No. We recognise that this is not a typical requirement when performing Classical music and these skills are developed in our Contemporary Piano syllabus. However, whilst click tracks are not used in the exam, learners are encouraged to use the metronome click tracks provided for practise purposes. Learners will also need to play along to a backing track if undertaking the Contemporary Improvisation and Interpretation section of the Unseen Tests.
Q: Can I use Rockschool Piano Pieces in my Classical Exam?
A: Yes. Because of the Free Choice Piece option, learners can use up to two or three* Rockschool Piano pieces from the same equivalent grade in their Classical exam and vice versa. Candidates will need to prepare for the appropriate Technical Studies and Unseen Tests relevant to their type of exam.
Q: Notation Repeats
Notated repeats are required in accompanied pieces (ie. where played to a backing track) but for solo pieces (ie. without a backing track) can be considered optional – this is across all Rockschool and RSL Classical syllabuses.
Q: How do I take my exam?
Learners can enter for and take their Classical Piano exam using exactly the same formats as all of our other graded music exams. Please see our website
for more details.
Q: What feedback do I get on my exam?
A: Candidates will receive a digital marksheet shortly after taking their exam and a printed certificate within eight weeks of their scheduled exam date.
Q: When do exams run?
Within the UK and Republic of Ireland, a private day of live exams can be organised at any time throughout the year as long as the venue meets certain criteria. Candidates can also visit a public exam centre at set times throughout the year, organised into Spring, Summer and Winter sessions. Candidates can also submit their Video Exam at any time.
Outside the UK, exams are organised into ‘tours’ which take place at different times throughout the year. For more information, please contact your local Rockschool representative
Q: Can Classical candidates take their exam with Rockschool candidates?
A: Yes. We have a team of highly experienced examiners who are able to assess both RSL Classical and Rockschool candidates and our exams team can co-ordinate exam days to ensure everything runs smoothly
Q: Are RSL Awards' examiners trained to examine classical exams?
In preparation for the release of the 2020 Classical Piano Syllabus we have been training a specially selected panel of examiners, led by our Chief Examiner – Dr Andrew McBirnie. Each of these examiners has been appointed specifically for their knowledge of the piano and their background in classical performance. Examiners include graduates of the Royal Conservatoires, holders of PhDs in composition and performance, and composers of classical music. More information can be found here...
Q: Do I need to have a Music Theory Qualification to take Grade 5 and above?
RSL Awards do not have a prerequisite of Grade 5 theory in order to progress to Grades 6-8. Our qualifications have theoretical components built into them through elements such as General Musicianship Questions and this may be enhanced through studying our Popular Music Theory Qualifications
, but it is not a requirement for progression.
Q: Does RSL have a Classical Theory Syllabus? If not, when will this be available?
RSL Awards currently offer a Popular Music Theory
syllabus. We are currently in the process of developing a Classical Theory syllabus with more details to follow.
Q: How much do the exams cost?
Full information about our exam fees can be found here
. Candidates can usually expect to receive the certificate and marksheet within three weeks of taking the exam.
Q: Do the exam carry UCAS points?
Yes. The RSL Classical Piano grades are recognised by Ofqual and carry 8 – 35 UCAS points from Grades 6 – 8. More information can be found here
Q: Do I need to bring ID to the exam?
If you are doing a Grade 6, 7 or 8 exam please bring photo ID or a completed ID form
. If this is a Recorded Digital Exam, please show the document for at least 10 seconds to the camera.
Q: Where can I find out more information?
Please view our Syllabus Guide and further information here
. For further information and to discuss your requirements in more detail, contact firstname.lastname@example.org