The following FAQs apply to all Rockschool and RSL Classical syllabuses. Please read them carefully as they contain important information which will help you get the best result from your exam.
They are mostly relevant for Face-to-Face and Live Stream Digital Exams, but some information will also be useful for candidates submitting Recorded Digital Exams. Candidates submitting Recorded Digital Exams should also refer to our comprehensive guidance here.
Search the help centre:
Q: How do I enter for an exam?
A: Visit our online entry section and complete your entry online
Q: What type of certificate will I receive?
A: For all UK/Ireland entries submitted from 1 January 2022 onwards, entrants choose the type of certificate:
eCertificate: This is a secure digital certificate which will be emailed to the entrant. Further information can be found here...
Paper certificate: This is a printed certificate with security features. Choosing this option incurs a surcharge of £3 (Ireland: €3.50) per exam in addition to the exam fees and any late fees. The paper certificate will be posted to the entrant's address. When this option is chosen a digital eCertificate is also emailed to the entrant.
A: Exams take place all over the UK. We always aim to offer candidates the most convenient centre possible but, we cannot guarantee this. Please refer to our centre list.
Q: Can I arrange my own exam date?
A: No. However, we work very hard to offer every candidate the most convenient date, time and location for their exam. Candidates can help us with this by providing the dates they are unavailable when entering online.
Q: On what days of the week and at what times are Rockschool examinations held?
A: Exams are held 7 days a week, with most centres running between 9-5. Please note that this includes school days, weekends and school holidays during the exam periods. If a candidate is required to be absent for a part, or the whole of a school day, then RSL can send a letter of written confirmation on request.
Q: I have missed the entry deadline - can I still apply?
A: Yes, but please be aware that you will be charged a non-refundable late fee if you select an exam period after it has commenced. If you do select an exam period which has commenced, we will try our best to enrol you onto it, but can't offer any guarantees. If we cannot find you an exam time in the period you apply for then RSL will inform you and move the exam to the next exam session.
Q: Should I contact the centre if I need to make changes to my exam?
A: No, you should always contact the RSL office to make any changes to exams. Only contact your allocated centre if you are enquiring about available equipment or directions.
Q: Will the centre have a practice room?
A: Rockschool endeavours to have practice rooms in all of its centres but this is not guaranteed. Please refer to our centre list for a full list of facilities available.
Q: How much notice do I get before an exam?
A: We give a minimum of two weeks' notice before an exam but always aim for 4 wherever possible. An email notification will be sent to the address on the account which made the online entry. You can also check any scheduled exams at any point by signing into your account on our website at www.rslawards.com/secure/exams. The exam will only show there when the schedule is finalised. If candidates haven't received confirmation from us four weeks before the end of the exam period then please email us as a matter of urgency. Please note that RSL is unable to confirm exam times and dates by phone.
Q: Can I change the exam date or time after it's been confirmed?
A: Candidates must tell us any date(s) they are unavailable when they enter online. Should any further unavailable dates come up after making the application please contact email@example.com and they will be added to your online account.
Changing an exam date when it has been confirmed is very difficult. Under extenuating circumstances we will try to alter the date but this can't be guaranteed. Candidates must contact us directly on 0345 460 4747 or email their request in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ensure that you include your order number starting RSL- in order for us to assist.
Any changes to an exam date after it has been scheduled will incur a £15 fee. Deferring an exam to the next period will incur a deferral fee of half the original exam fee.
Q: What if I’m not ready to upload my Recorded Digital Exam?
A: RSL can extend the deadline if you need more time before submitting your exam. Should you wish to cancel your exam outright then we will refund the exam fee if you cancel the exam within 14 days of the date the entry was submitted. For later cancellations the exam fee will not be refunded. Please send your request to email@example.com
Q: Are there any provisions for candidates with special educational needs and disabilities?
A: Yes. Please refer to our Reasonable Adjustments and Special Considerations policy which is available here. For any specific enquiries or more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: I am not ready to take my exam – can I defer it?
A: Yes, candidates can defer their exam to the next exam session for a half fee of the original exam price, and if you inform us in advance of scheduling your date you can defer it for free. Candidates must inform us prior to the exam taking place to be eligible for this.
Preparing for the exam
Q: How will I know when to enter for the exam?
A: We advise that before entering an exam the candidate should be confident and proficient in everything contained in the Grade book and always talk to their teacher. We advise self-taught candidates to have a few lessons with a teacher to check if they are ready.
Q: Do I need to have taken a theory exam to sit a Rockschool practical exam?
A: No. We do not require candidates to take a theory exam before doing a practical exam.
Q: Do I need to start from the beginning (entry level) or can I go in at any level, for example: grade 5?
A: Candidates can take a Rockschool exam at any grade without having taken the grade before or an equivalent exam. We do assume that if a candidate starts at any level other than Debut or Grade 1, then they are proficient in the techniques and skills required at the lower grades. Check the syllabus guide and talk to a teacher before entering an exam. View our Teacher Registry.
Q: What are Free Choice Pieces?
A: A free choice piece is an alternative to playing a song from the grade book.
For example, candidates can perform:
Their own composition
Songs in the public domain, including hits from the charts or a song by their favourite band or artist
Pieces from other regulated exam boards
Candidates can perform a maximum of two free choice pieces in a Graded Exam or Video Graded Certificate, and a maximum of three free choice pieces in a Performance Certificate (except Premiere).
The piece must conform to the published free choice criteria for the grade, otherwise your marks may be affected. If you are unsure if the piece is appropriate for the grade and instrument please use our prior approval service.
For more information about Free Choice Pieces and Adapted Repertoire click here.
Q: I need some advice on the technical aspects of the exams. What should I do?
A: We have companion guides for Guitar, Bass, Drums and Vocals. We also have Technical Companions for Guitar, Bass and Drums which give extra support and guidance for teachers and candidates on the technical aspect of the exam. The syllabus guide for each instrument has a breakdown of the technical requirements for each grade. You can also email email@example.com and your questions will be answered by our Syllabus Adviser.
Q: Does it matter what instrument I use?
A: The repertoire set for each instrument has been chosen as particularly suitable for performance on that instrument. It is therefore recommended that candidates providing their own instrument should use one that best facilitates performance of the selected repertoire, particularly with regards to advanced techniques or set-up at higher grades. Using an inappropriate instrument may mean that you cannot demonstrate the required techniques and elements of style for the pieces chosen, and this may be reflected in the marks.
However, candidates taking an electric guitar exam up to and including Grade 3 can use an acoustic instrument without penalty.
It is not permitted to play a piece from a different syllabus on that instrument in your exam, with the exception of acoustic guitar / electric guitar exams, and piano / keys exams, up to and including Grade 3. All other instances of this will be awarded a mark of zero.
Q: When you release a new syllabus, how long can I use my old grade book for?
A: Generally, there is a 12-month crossover between syllabuses but if you are unsure if the book is allowed to be used in an exam, email a copy of the cover and the period you wish to take your exam in to firstname.lastname@example.org and the team can confirm.
Pieces from an older (expired) syllabus may be presented as Free Choice Pieces. For more information about Free Choice Pieces and Adapted Repertoire click here.
Q: Notated repeats
A: 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: What if I notice a difference between the notated score in the grade book and the accompanying audio track for my piece?
A: As is common in popular music performance, audio interpretations by professional performers sometimes include stylistic or expressive developments of the notated score. As an exam candidate, you are free to develop your performance in similar fashion, provided that you are clearly using the notated material as a guide. However, be careful that you don’t simplify the piece, or reduce the level of demand, as this may impact the marks awarded in the exam.
Q: How do I get ongoing support with the Learning Platform?
A: Please visit our Helpdesk to view topics related to the Learning Platform. If you require help related to the RSL account, Learning Platform login, Teacher Registry or subscription, please contact us on email@example.com or use the Request Form. For Technical Support (eg. user interface, apps or functions within the platform, you can use the GET HELP button in the Learning Platform or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Please note that the MatchMySound live chat is operational during US business hours.
During the exam
Q: Do I need to bring my syllabus book to the exam?
A: Yes, you will need the book to be signed or the download code or evidence of a subscription to the Learning Platform noted by the examiner.
Q: I am sharing/borrowing a book for practice purposes – do I need my own for the exam?
A: Yes. Every candidate, with the exception of siblings, is required to have their own book for the exam (digital or hard copy) or evidence of a subscription to the Learning Platform. View our online shop here...
Q: What equipment do I need to bring?
The centre will provide backline equipment for your exam i.e. amplifiers and drum kit.
Guitar and Bass candidates must bring their own instrument and leads and we recommend bringing spare strings. If you are using effects then we suggest you use batteries, where possible.
Drum candidates must bring their own sticks. For grades 6, 7 and 8, drummers can also bring their own cymbals, hi hats or entire kit. If the candidate wants to bring their own kit or any breakables, they must notify RSL when they enter for the exam. Drummers who wish to play electric kit will be required to provide the kit regardless of grade taken and must notify RSL of this on application. RSL centres will provide an acoustic kit as standard.
Vocal candidates must bring their own microphone from Grade 6 upwards although candidates may perform with a microphone at Grades 1-5 if they feel it will enhance their performance.
Piano and Keyboard candidates may bring their own digital piano or keyboard for use in the exam, which must fit the criteria outlined in the appropriate syllabus guides: Piano // Keys
Q: Will I have to perform my pieces from memory?
A: No, there is currently no requirement to perform from memory.
Q: Which version of the backing track do I need to play to in the exam?
A: You need to play to the backing track minus the part you are playing (so not the full mix) so that the examiner can assess accurately.
Q: Can I listen to the backing tracks for my pieces through headphones?
A: The use of a headphone splitter to enable candidate and examiner to listen to a backing track simultaneously is not allowed. The examiner will make their assessment based on the backing track played through the amplifier / PA system in the exam room.
Q: Can I use hearing protection in the exam room?
A: Candidates are welcome to bring their own hearing protection for use in the exam room and are advised to do so for louder instruments/performances. We do not however recommend noise-cancelling headphones. Please note examiners reserve the right to limit unsafely high-volume levels at their discretion.
Q: Can I photocopy the music?
A: Our exam music is copyrighted and may not be copied without permission from Rockschool. However, candidates may photocopy any music they are going to play in the exam to eliminate page turns. The photocopied music will be taken by the examiner at the end of the exam.
Q: Can I use photocopied sheets for my free choice piece?
A: Candidates must bring two copies of music for the free choice piece; an original copy of the tune for the performance and a second copy (photocopy) for the examiner.
Q: What if I'm ill at the time of my exam?
A: The candidate must contact RSL as soon as they know they will not be able to take the exam. We will defer your exam to the next period upon receipt of a doctor's or hospital note.
Q: Do I need to bring ID to the exam?
A: If you are doing a Grade 6, 7 or 8 exam please bring photo ID or a completed ID form. If you are taking a Recorded Digital Exam, please show the document for at least 10 seconds to the camera.
After the exam
Q: When will I get my exam results?
A: We aim to release results a maximum of 3 weeks after the exam has been taken or submitted, but very often it will be much quicker than this. Results are provisional and subject to RSL Awards quality assurance processes before final certification. Please note: we cannot give results out over the phone or by email.
Q: I've lost my certificate. Can I get a replacement?
Q: The name is incorrectly spelt on the certificate. Can I get a replacement?
A: Certificates will have the spelling of the name as it is entered during the online entry process. Any errors can be amended for free in the time between issuing the initial letter and confirmation of the exam date. After this point a fee of £10 is incurred on any certificate amends (unless it can be shown that the error is RSL’s). Download the certificate replacement form here.
Q: How do I make an enquiry about a result or appeal?
A: RSL operate a full enquiries and appeals process, details of which are available here.
Q: When will I hear about my appeal outcome?
A: In accordance with our enquiries and appeals policy (as referenced above), the Panel will meet on specific dates to consider submitted enquiries and appeals. Please find the dates below.
Appeals Panel Dates 2023
- 10th January
- 7th February
- 7th March
- 4th April
- 2nd May
- 6th June
- 4th July
- 1st August
- 5th September
- 3rd October
- 7th November
- 12th December
Q: What happens if I’ve made an error when recording my Recorded Digital Exam?
A: In the event that your video submission cannot be marked because guidelines have not been followed correctly, you will be charged 75% of the entry fee to make a resubmission. Examples of this include:
audio and/or video quality is not sufficient for the examiner to be able to make a reliable assessment
part of the video file is missing (eg. video cuts off too early)
the video has been edited (eg. separate takes spliced together)
audio does not appear to synchronise visually with the candidate’s performance
another person (eg. parent or teacher) is offering prompting and advice to the candidate
insufficient / inadequate assessment vantage for the examiner (see Video Exam Guide)
the candidate’s face is not visible / we are unable identify the person taking the exam (see Video Exam Guide)
For other more minor issues such as missing content (eg. technical exercises), wrong backing track being used, sheet music not supplied for free choice pieces, etc., examiners will mark on an ‘as seen’ basis and marking will be affected, reflecting the extent to which the outcomes of the exam were impacted by the infringement. In such cases candidates will also be able to resubmit on payment of 75% of the fee if they wish.
Resubmissions in these cases are only permitted for the same instrument, grade and exam type as the original entry.