With all the major changes that took place in 2020, the majority of music teachers turned their attention to the digital world in order to keep their students learning. The same is true for graded exams.

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MusicTeacher.com by Leigh Fuge, an experienced guitarist, tutor and journalist from Wales. Leigh is part of a community of professional guitar teachers offering guitar lessons to students around the world. Read more of Leigh's pieces relating to Rockschool here...

What adjustments need to be made?

We’ve always prepared our students for being sat face-to-face in a room with an examiner, ready to take that all important graded exam.

Now, as teachers, we have to prepare our students for taking exams online. So what can we do to make this new way of taking exams easier for our students?

The good news is a lot of the exam can easily be conducted over the internet for the most part. Many components of the examination involve the examiner asking the student a series of questions on their instrument. This can include asking to have a chord or scale played, or the performance of the pre-prepared pieces.

Rockschool graded music exams

These segments are easy to work with over a video call because of the simple question and answer style.

If there are any elements of the exam that require both the examiner and student playing at the same time then this can be worked around with backing tracks. For example, in the Electric Guitar Grades there is an element of lead guitar improvisation. Typically, you as the teacher would play the progression and your student would play over the top.

A great work around for this is to record the backing yourself and send this in advanced of the lesson. The student can then play back this pre-recorded track and improvise over the top accordingly.

Practise with Purpose Diary: Video Exams Edition

Get your students in the right frame of mind for their exam

As you start the run up to the exam date, it’s useful to use your online lessons to prep your student fully and give them a little taste of how the exam might feel online. You can do a simple mock style test by running over the main components in the online lesson forum. Ask them to play the prepared pieces and answer questions as if you were an examiner and do some advanced preparation with any pre-recording you may need to do so that they can play along on their side.

This will allow them to get a feel for the flow of the exam and set them up for dealing with the real thing when the big day comes.

As a best practise, it’s also useful to spend time making sure their setup is right for an exam situation. The examiner should be able to see the student and their instrument fully, as well as hear them clearly. Make sure you explain the importance of this to them as this will help convey the clarity of the performance across the video call.

If you or your students are ready to take the plunge, why not enter for your exam today!

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