Performing Arts

Musical Theatre Exams

PAA examinations in Musical Theatre were the first examinations in the UK to examine a group performance whilst assessing each candidate individually.

We’re excited to announce that from 1st August 2023 we have updated the Technical Skills Demonstration scenarios to keep this innovative syllabus fresh and exciting for all candidates! Please click the Technical Skills tab, or see the syllabus guides for more information.

PAA Repertoire

Creative and flexible content chosen by the teacher

The format and content of a PAA Musical Theatre performance is completely up to the teacher. Choosing either a Show or a Group performance, PAA exams are inclusive enabling children to perform together no matter what age or grade.

PAA Performer

Creating an all round performer

PAA Musical Theatre examinations contain three core elements, The Performance, Technical Skills and Understanding and Reflection producing a well rounded performer equipped with industry relevant skills and knowledge.

PAA Worldwide

Our examiners come to you

Our Musical Theatre examiners come to you, meaning examinations take place at your preferred location where your students are comfortable, and can perform to the best of their abilities.

PAA UCAS

UCAS points

UCAS points are available at grades 6, 7 and 8, supporting students progression onto University, or for a career in the performing arts industry.

PAA Ofqual

Regulated by OfQual, Qualifications Wales & CCEA

We’re fully regulated by OfQual, Qualifications Wales & CCEA. Our Musical Theatre grades are internationally recognised.

PAA Progression

Beginner to advanced

We assess the complete range of musical theatre levels from the early stages (Debut) all the way up to a professional standard (Grade 8).

The Exam

PAA Grade Exams has been specifically designed to give teachers the creative freedom to build a bespoke curriculum around their own teaching styles and existing programme.

The Performance

A group piece of musical theatre, performed from memory, in which candidates perform a range of acting, singing and dancing throughout

Technical Skill Demonstration

Acting, singing or dancing skills demonstrated through a series of short exercises designed to be achievable during a class warm up or technical workshop over a number of weeks

Understanding and Reflection

The sharing of ideas on the given topic based on the performance seen in the examination in a discussion facilitated by the examiner

How It Works

01

Download the syllabus and supporting content

RSL have provided a range of supporting content to help you get started with teaching PAA Musical Theatre grades.

02

Start teaching the PAA Musical Theatre Syllabus

The PAA Musical Theatre syllabus is fully adaptable to fit various class sizes and performances.

03

Book a PAA examiner to assess your upcoming show

PAA Musical Theatre grades make it easy for students to be assessed in their upcoming show.

Performance

The performance consists of a group piece of musical theatre, performed from memory, in which candidates perform a range of acting, singing and dancing throughout. Performances can include candidates from Premiere to Grade 8 and must have a minimum of two candidates.

There are two Performance format options:

Group Exam Show Exam
This is typically a class of candidates at a similar grade level. Candidates must perform for the specified duration per grade. If the Group Exam consists of candidates at different grades, the performance must meet the minimum duration for the highest grade in the group. A Group Exam can be extracts from musicals or original work. Examiners may ask candidates to repeat sections of the performance if clarification is needed. If there are more than eight candidates in the group the performance must be repeated. This is typically a large group/whole school of more than 25 candidates. Candidates must perform for the minimum duration required at the grade for which they are entered. A Show Exam can be a full production of a musical, a variety show consisting of extracts from musicals or original work. Examiners may ask candidates to repeat sections of the performance if clarification is needed.

Technical Skills Demonstration (from 1st August 2023)

Following the performance, all candidates from Debut to Grade 8 will undertake the Technical Skills Demonstration. This consists of either acting, singing or dancing skills demonstrated through short exercises designed to be achievable during a class warm up or technical workshop over a number of weeks.

  • Premiere –There is no Technical Skills Demonstration
  • Debut – The Technical Skills Demonstration gives candidates the opportunity to share imaginative ideas and build confidence in an exam setting
  • Grades 1–3 – Candidates will prepare any one of the technical skills as chosen by the Teacher (either acting OR singing OR dancing). All candidates will demonstrate technical skills from the same discipline
  • Grades 4–5 – Candidates will prepare any one of the technical skills as chosen by the Teacher (either acting OR singing OR dancing). Each candidate may perform a different discipline, if preferred
  • Grades 6–8 – Candidates will choose and prepare any one of the technical skills

The Technical Skills Demonstration is performed to the examiner in groups of candidates who are taking the same grade. From Debut to Grade 3, all candidates in the same grade group will demonstrate technical skills in the same discipline. From Grades 4 to 8, candidates will specialise by demonstrating technical skills in one discipline.

As students progress through the grades, the time, length, complexity and technical demand required for this element of the examination is increased. More details about the Technical Skills Demonstration can be found in the content description for each grade.

As students progress through the grades, the time, length, complexity and technical demand required for this element of the examination is increased. More details about the Technical Skills Demonstration can be found in the content description for each grade.

A member of staff must be present throughout Singing and Dancing Technical Skills Demonstrations to operate the music and/or to provide a starting note or clapped rhythm where necessary. Staff must not direct, lead or influence the candidates in any way.

A chaperone must be in attendance. Please see the Chaperone Guidance on page 10 of the syllabus specifications.

An audience is not permitted for the Technical Skills Demonstration.

Understanding and Reflection

The examination is concluded with an Understanding and Reflection discussion. Candidates will be asked to share ideas
on questions based on the performance seen in the examination. As students progress through the grades, the questions become more complex, and include questions about the rehearsal process and the importance of the technical skills required for each discipline.

Each candidate must select one question from List A and one question from List B, and present their responses to the questions.

  • For Face-to-Face and Live Video Exams, the examiner will ask each candidate to present their prepared responses, in turn.
  • For Recorded Video Exams: Facing directly to camera, each candidate should announce their chosen question followed by presenting their prepared response to each question.

Small notecards may be used if required, but only as a reminder of the questions chosen. Candidates must not read their responses. If notecards are used for Recorded Video exams they must be handheld, and not positioned out of camera shot.

The understanding and reflection discussion must take place after the Performance and Technical Skills Demonstration.

Candidates undertake the Understanding and Reflection component of the examination in the same groups as their Technical Skills Demonstration.

An audience is not permitted for the Understanding and Reflection component of the examination.

The chaperone must remain in attendance. Please see Chaperone Guidance on page 10.

Suggested Repertoire

PAA exams encourage creativity and do not make any compulsory recommendations for material selection. However, each performance is required to adhere to the required performance duration. Teachers and candidates are encouraged to closely consider the Learning Outcomes and Assessment Criteria for the specific grade they are entering. Performance Arts Awards have a catalogue of repertoire and a list of performance ideas.

A Group Exam

For a Group Exam, extracts of the correct duration can be taken from an existing musical with modifications to suit cast size, age, gender and the grade you are entering your candidates for. If you are using the full score you may need to simplify things (e.g. remove some harmony lines, or perhaps transpose into a more suitable key).

If you are working from a ‘Vocal Selection’ highlights of the musical in a songbook with a script, you may need to add additional music and harmonies to recreate the feel of the original.

Below are just a few suggestions and examples of musical extracts suitable for the PAA Group Exam setting:

  • Bugsy Malone – (PAA suggests – Grades 1-3) Fat Sam’s gang scene leading into ‘Bad Guys’
  • Little Shop of Horrors –(PAA suggests – Grades 4-8) Prologue moving into opening scene with ‘Skid Row’
  • My Fair Lady – (PAA suggests – Grades 1-5) Flower market scene incorporating the song ‘Wouldn’t it be Lovely’
  • Annie – (PAA suggests – Grades 1-3) Orphanage scene incorporating ‘Maybe’ ‘Little Girls’ and ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’
  • Oliver – (PAA suggests – Grades 1-3)
    Excerpt from opening Work House scene incorporating ‘Food Glorious Food’ and ‘Oliver!’

The Group Exam can also be in the style of a variety performance with a range of different musical numbers.

This could have a theme such as ‘The Road to Oz’ with selections of songs, dances and scenes from The Wizard of Oz, Wicked and The Wiz. A seasonal theme may help provide a wider spread of material such as ‘A Christmas Cabaret’. A theme is not required for a PAA examination, original or isolated collaborations of work is permitted
but the performance must meet the assessment criteria published in the syllabus specification.

A Show Exam

This is a unique option of assessment from PAA and would be suitable for those schools wanting to coincide their annual show with the examination performance. The Show Exam has no time limit or no maximum number of candidates and an audience is permitted for a Show Exam.

A Show Exam could be a full production of a musical such as ‘Mary Poppins’. Like The Group Performance, The Show Performance can take many forms including a cabaret show with a theme, a variety show with independent acting, singing and dancing numbers, or a selection of original work. The learning outcomes and assessment criteria for the specific qualification level must be considered.

An Original Performance – Group or Show Performance

Original work created by the teacher or learners is another option for a PAA performance, as long as a sufficient amount of acting, singing and dancing is performed by each candidate, and the learning outcomes and assessment criteria for the specific qualification level is adhered to.

For further suggested repertoire, download the Musical Theatre Suggested Repertoire below.

Learning Outcomes

The Learning Outcomes for each section of the exam are described below. They must be read in conjunction with the specific assessment and grading criteria for the relevant grade/discipline. Please refer to the content specification for each grade.

Premiere Candidates

Learning Outcomes Exam Section Percentage of final mark
Learning Outcome: The learner will perform in a group piece of musical theatre. Group Performance 90%
Learning Outcome: The learner will understand individual content and context in musical theatre Understanding and Reflection 10%

Debut to Grade 8 Candidates

Learning Outcomes Exam Section Percentage of final mark
Learning Outcome 1: The learner will perform in a group piece of musical theatre Group Performance 60%
Learning Outcome 2: The learner will demonstrate technical skills relevant to musical theatre Technical Skills Demonstration 30%
Learning Outcome 3: The learner will understand individual content and context in musical theatre Understanding and Reflection 10%

Performance

Grading Criteria for each component of the exam are described below. They must be read in conjunction with the specific assessment criteria for the relevant grade/discipline. Please refer to the content specification for each grade

Knowledge, Skills and Understanding

Acting Singing Dancing
An understanding of the text is expected at all grades, and accurate word memory from Debut. As grades progress, requirements include interpretation, an understanding of character, emotions, subtext, period, style and a sense of spontaneity. An understanding of the meaning and mood of the song is expected at all grades. As grades progress, requirements include an awareness of character, intention, dynamic variation, communication to the audience and stylistic understanding. An understanding of the mood of the music is expected at all grades. As grades progress, requirements include characterisation, musical interpretation, communication to the audience and stylistic understanding.

Grading Criteria

Unclassified Pass Merit Distinction
0-9 10-12 13-16 17-20
The assessment criteria for performance at the relevant grade and discipline was not demonstrated to an acceptable standard for the majority of the time, or throughout. There was limited or no evidence of interpretative awareness. The assessment criteria for performance at the relevant grade and discipline was demonstrated to an acceptable, or mostly acceptable, standard. Generally sound interpretative awareness evident. A satisfactory presentation of work. The assessment criteria for performance at the relevant grade and discipline was demonstrated to a proficient, or mostly proficient, standard. Assured interpretative awareness evident most of the time. A secure presentation of work. The assessment criteria for performance at the relevant grade and discipline was demonstrated to a consistently high standard throughout, or almost throughout. Strong interpretative awareness evident. A sustained and convincing presentation of work.

Technique

Grading Criteria for each component of the exam are described below. They must be read in conjunction with the specific assessment criteria for the relevant grade/discipline. Please refer to the content specification for each grade

Knowledge, Skills and Understanding

Acting Singing Dancing
Use of facial expression and voice, appropriate to the meaning and mood of the text is expected at all grades. As grades progress, requirements include vocal modulation, projection, phrasing, physical characterisation, movement and gesture. Audibility is expected at all grades. As grades progress, requirements include timing, pitch, rhythmic awareness, articulation, phrasing, intonation, breath control and resonance. Coordination and timing is expected at all grades. As grades progress, requirements include rhythmic and spatial awareness, control, alignment, core stability, balance and dynamic variation.

Grading Criteria

Unclassified Pass Merit Distinction
0-9 10-12 13-16 17-20
The assessment criteria for technique at the relevant grade and discipline was not demonstrated to a satisfactory standard throughout, or most of the time. There was limited or no evidence of technical accuracy. The assessment criteria for technique at the relevant grade and discipline was demonstrated to a satisfactory, or mostly satisfactory, standard. A technically acceptable presentation of work. The assessment criteria for technique at the relevant grade and discipline was demonstrated to a proficient, or mostly proficient, standard. A technically secure presentation of work. The assessment criteria for technique at the relevant grade and discipline was demonstrated to a consistently high standard throughout, or almost throughout. A technically strong presentation of work.

Understanding and Reflection

Grading Criteria for each component of the exam are described below. They must be read in conjunction with the specific assessment criteria for the relevant grade/discipline. Please refer to the content specification for each grade

Knowledge, Skills and Understanding

Through answers to the questions, a general understanding of the Group Performance piece is expected at all grades. As the grades progress, requirements include an understanding of characters, context, rehearsal processes, stylistic features of the performance and critique of candidate’s own performance.

Grading Criteria

Unclassified Pass Merit Distinction
0-9 10-12 13-16 17-20
The assessment criteria for Understanding and Reflection at the relevant grade was not demonstrated for the majority of the time, or throughout. Limited, or no answers to questions evident. The assessment criteria for Understanding and Reflection at the relevant grade was demonstrated to a satisfactory standard. Generally acceptable answers to questions. The assessment criteria for Understanding and Reflection at the relevant grade was demonstrated to a proficient standard. Generally secure answers to questions. The assessment criteria for Understanding and Reflection at the relevant grade was demonstrated to a high standard throughout. Consistently insightful answers to questions.

Musical Theatre Fees

Please see the information below for all PAA Musical Theatre exam fees…

Grade Recorded Digital Live Stream Face-to-Face
Premiere £23 £24 £25
Debut £25 £26 £28
Grade 1 £30 £31 £32
Grade 2 £34 £36 £38
Grade 3 £38 £40 £42
Grade 4 £42 £44 £47
Grade 5 £50 £53 £55
Grade 6 £58 £61 £64
Grade 7 £66 £69 £72
Grade 8 £72 £76 £79

Please see “other fees” below relating to UK PAA Graded Exams.

Late Entry, Date Changes & Deferrals

Service Applicable When... Fee
Date Change Changing exam date/time after appointment slip has been issued £15
Deferral Deferring exam to future exam period 50% of exam fee

Please see the UK Graded Exams Date Change & Deferral policy for circumstances where the fee can be waived.

Enquiries about Results / Appeals

Service Fee Cap for Multiple Candidates Refundable
Informal Review No Charge N/A N/A
Clerical Check £10 £50 No
Remark 50% of Exam Fee £100 If marks change by more than +/-5 or there is a change of assessment band
Investigation and Report No Charge N/A N/A
First Level Appeal 60% of Exam Fee £150 If enquiry is upheld
Second Level Appeal 75% of Exam Fee £200 If enquiry if upheld

Replacement Certificate

Service Fee
Replacement Certificate £10

Need more information?

Please visit our PAA FAQ page to find some useful information to help you get started.

Put on a show!

Specially-arranged shows for use towards PAA Musical Theatre exams.

Key Dates

PAA examinations are open all year round and can be scheduled to fit with your existing programme.

Free Choice Pieces

If singing is chosen for the Technical Skills Demonstration component, see our suggested repertoire lists and how you can source your own music.

Book your PAA exam!

PAA examinations are open all year round and can be scheduled to fit with your existing programme.

PAA-Exam-SignUp

Digital Files

For the RSL shop we’ve chosen the most widely used media for ease of use and flexibility when transferring across different devices.

Every complete digital book (e.g. Electric Guitar Grade 1) includes:

  • PDF sheet music
  • MP3 audio
  • Supporting tests

Download Limits

We know downloading digital content can be frustrating at times which is why we’ve given you multiple chances to download your audio and sheet music.

Each complete digital book purchased includes:

  • 5 audio downloads
  • 3 sheet music downloadsThis means if you misplace your content, or if your download times-out, you’ll still have plenty of attempts to download your content.

Purchase Options

1. Hard Copy

The hard copy or paperback version can be purchased from our shop for shipping to the UK. Orders for shipping to other countries can be placed via www.musicroom.com. The paperback version includes everything you need for your exam in one essential book, including sheet music, a code for access to MP3 audio and complete supporting tests.

2. Digital Download (where applicable)

Digital downloads is the most popular way of purchasing and downloading a Rockschool book, track or supporting test. Rockschool digital book downloads come complete with PDF sheet music, MP3 audio and supporting tests for instant accessibility on all your favourite devices.

Note: Digital sheet music is stamped with your email address and order number.

3. Digital Download + E-Book Access

The RSL e-books, utilising Learning Platform technology powered by MatchMySound, are the ultimate practise tool, giving you the ability to master your instrument like never before.

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