As social distancing measures continue to limit how we can teach music, we have gone digital with our Music Theory exams, meaning no student should see their musical progression suffer during the pandemic.

Rockschool Popular Music Theory has always offered complete accessibility for students across the world, and we are delighted to announce that we can combine that with a seamless user experience as we make the move to digital. Of course, the content of our exams remains academically rigorous and wholly relevant to students looking to compose, arrange, and master the theoretical language that underpins western music.

What are the advantages of studying music theory?

Performance is a huge part of being a musician, but we believe it is a firm grasp of musical language that opens up the door to achieving your full potential. The study of musical language and conventions is key to helping musicians communicate with each other. However, very few composers and arrangers write music with pencil and paper anymore. Most utilise notation programs and we wanted our examinations to reflect this practice.

Rockschool VIdeo Exams

How have the qualifications changed?

For the most part, they haven't! We've simply recognised the increasing demand for our qualifications to be accessible in a remote, digital capacity, and reacted by taking the exams online.

The content covered remains exactly the same as published in the syllabus, and will focus on the following areas:

Music Notation

Popular Music Harmony

Band Knowledge

Band Analysis

In developing this new format for the examination, we have analysed and translated the questions into a digital form. The vast majority of the question types have transposed identically into a digital form and where there is the occasional question type that can’t be digitised, we have re-written and adjusted our assessments to cover the same content.

We've worked closely with our long-time collaborators, MusicGurus, to embed, an interactive sheet music editor into our exams. This easy to use software is available for free and will make the completion and marking of theory exams much easier for students, teachers, parents, and examiners alike.

The format of the exams remains the same when it comes to answering questions.

Text answer - you can answer in a text box provided and click 'submit answer'

Multiple-choice answer - you tick one of the options available, then click ‘submit answer’

Notation answer - you complete a task by adding notation into a score provided on-screen

Why should I choose Rockschool's Digital Theory exams?

Whether you are learning a musical instrument and looking for a new way to supplement your study, or you're a teacher looking to develop your students' wider understanding of music, our Popular Music Theory exams are a perfect fit.

Classroom teachers will find that the materials and the exam are an excellent way of supporting students to develop their understanding of music theory in general as well as the specifics of pop music writing. This means that it supports curriculum learning at primary and secondary school and helps learners develop the knowledge and understanding that are found in our Vocational Qualifications, GCSE, IGCSE, A-Level and IB courses.

How can candidates take the exam?

There are two ways to take the exam:

Remote Invigilation: candidates can take their exam independently from the comfort of their own home. Candidates enter online here and are then given a set time to log-on to a video call from their computer in order to take their exam. At the set time, an RSL invigilator will go through some brief technical and security checks with the candidate and they will then take the exam. The invigilator will monitor the learner remotely via webcam and screen sharing. Further details can be found here.

Private Exam session: a centre runs an invigilated exam session for the candidates to sit the computer-based exam. You can have different grades examined at the same time. The teacher in charge contacts our exams team to arrange an appropriate date and time for the exam session to run. The exam is then invigilated by the exam centre. The centre is also responsible for ensuring all technical and security checks take place before the exam begins.

Music Theory exams can be arranged by booking online through the RSL Awards website, by contacting RSL Awards directly, or by contacting a local RSL Awards representative. Due to the digital nature of the exams we are able to offer a considerably higher level of flexibility over examination dates and times.

Download the FAQs below for further detail on how our Digital Theory Exams work, and how you can get started.

Digital Popular Music Theory FAQs

Ready to enter for your Digital Popular Music Theory exam? Click here to go to our online entry page, or if you'd like to arrange a private exam session then email