As a teacher, I regularly deal with pre-exam anxieties from students.

When it comes to sitting exams, there is a lot to take in so you can understand where students might feel worried or concerned. I find that some regular sessions focusing on the exam and what it entails really helps students settle into the routine of what the exam will bring. Before you continue on, I advise watching the video below featuring some experienced Rockschool examiners giving their thoughts on how to best prepare before your performance.

Really helpful right? Following on from this, here are some additional things you can integrate into your pre-exam preparation routines to ensure that you and your students feel at ease before the big day:

Running Over the Grade Book Cover to Cover

This might seem obvious, but perhaps spending a few lessons covering all the content in the grade book from front to back will put the student at ease when it comes to dealing with everything in the book in one session. In the early days teaching music, I got caught out myself by not throughly processing every bit of information available to me. Every single syllabus also comes with its own step-by-step guide. If you haven't read this cover-to-cover - do it now! It will go a long way to ensuring you feel as comfortable as possible about what is expected by Rockschool examiners.

Focusing on Memory and Aural Based Sections

Spend a lesson preparing your student for the sections of the graded exam which do not allow for use of the book. There will be sections where the examiner will ask specific knowledge-based questions about the instrument or some theory associated with the grade level, spend some time ensuring this information is easy for the student to recall. I often find that incorporating short bursts of this in lessons helps. The same principle applies to any listening tests that might involve questions on rhythm or melody, ask your student these questions regularly to engage their brain and get them digesting tracks.

If you or your students suffer from general performance anxiety, James Banfield from The Liberated Mind has some really useful tips to consider in the video below. These really simple exercises can go a very long way to settling nerves and dissolving pre-exam tension. Watch below!

Focusing on Performance Sections

Spend a lesson using the book to focus on the performance-based elements of the exam. This could involve focusing on specific techniques these pieces might involve or the ability to sight read rhythms and think on the spot. You want your student to be comfortable looking at something and playing it. If there is a piece that must be learnt note perfect, I often encourage students to try to learn this from memory but use the book as support for any times they might be unsure.

Mock Tests

When you feel you have prepared the student on each section and you have run over the book, you should assume the role of the examiner and run through in an exam format. Ask the student questions while running over the book, if there are sections where use of the book is not allowed, then run over those without the book. Likewise, sections that can use the book, use it. If there is a section where the student only gets one opportunity to answer, treat the mock test in the same way. This will allow you to see how your student handles all the content of the book in an exam type situation. It will also show you any areas that might need work.

That's it for this week! Remember, you can always go to RSL directly for any queries you may have before an upcoming exam. It's always best to be absolutely sure, so don't be shy and contact them asap with absolutely anything you're still having trouble with.

Best of luck,


About the Author:

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of by Leigh Fuge, a professional guitarist, tutor and journalist from Wales in the UK. He has been working in the music industry for over 10 years as a touring and studio musician with various artists, guitar tutor and writer for many high profile guitar publications. Read more of Leigh's pieces relating to Rockschool here...

Rockschool graded music exams