Acoustic Guitar Grade 5

The Grade 5 Acoustic exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for three years or more and who have fully consolidated their intermediate level playing. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 4 and since acquired a greater use of appropriate technique, more complex rhythms, co-ordination and musical understanding. Candidates will have developed a good sense of expression, have a strong grasp of stylistic awareness, and there is also the opportunity to improvise which is now individual, assured, accurate and expressive. There are two types of exam available at Grade 5, either a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Grade 5 featuring repertoires from James Taylor, Corinne Bailey Rae, Eric Clapton and more.

Exam Times

Grade Exam: 27 minutes
Performance Certificate: 24 minutes

Key Features at: Grade 5

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests

Buy Your Book

The Rockschool Acoustic Guitar Grade 5 book contains everything you need to pass your Grade 5 exam in one essential book, featuring a truly diverse range of contemporary repertoire from some of the world’s most iconic artists, including James Taylor, Corinne Bailey Rae, Eric Clapton and more.

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Acoustic Guitar Grade 5 Book

Exam Structure

There are two types of exam available, a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Grade Exam

3 Performance Pieces
(two of which may be Free Choice Pieces)
Candidates choose to play either
Performance Pieces or Technical
Exercises first
These account
for 60% of the
exam mark
Technical Exercises
(Section A, B, C and D for Level 3 qualifications)
Candidates choose to play either
Performance Pieces or Technical
Exercises first
These account
for 15% of the
exam mark
Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation (Debut to Grade 5); Quick Study Pieces (Grade 6 to Grade 8)Candidates are given an unseen
test to prepare and perform
This accounts
for 10% of the exam marks
2 Ear TestsCandidates respond to 2 aural tests.These account
for 10% of the
exam marks
5 General Musicianship QuestionsCandidates answer 5 questions based
on one of the pieces performed
These account
for 5% of the
exam marks

Performance Certificate

5 Performance Pieces only
(three of these can be Free Choice Pieces)
These account for 20% of the exam mark each.

Performance Pieces

The pieces in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. At Grade 5 they remain typically in the region of two to two and a half minutes in duration. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can demonstrate the required assessment criteria.

Featured Repertoire:

  • Fire & Rain - James Taylor
  • Blackbird - The Beatles
  • Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton
  • Songbird - Eva Cassidy
  • Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae
  • Wanted Dead or Alive - Bon Jovi

Technical Exercises

At Grade 5 there are four groups of technical work: Scales, Arpeggios, Chords and Acoustic Riff

All exercises need to be played in straight feel, in the keys, octaves and tempos shown. Candidates may use their book during the exam for all groups.

Group A & B need to be played to a click. The examiner will play the click at the given tempo and candidates should begin to play after four clicks.

Group C needs to be played as a continuous sequence to a click.

Group D is played to the backing track.

GROUP A – Scales

Tempo: q=80 bpm
Rhythms: Eighth Notes
Range: Two octaves

  • Major
  • Natural minor
  • Harmonic minor
  • Minor pentatonic
  • Major pentatonic
  • Blues

To be prepared as follows:
Root 6th (E) string: key of F, G & A
Root 5th (A) string: key of B, C & D

GROUP B – Arpeggios

Tempo: q=80 bpm
Rhythms: Eighth notes
Range: Two octaves

  • Major
  • Minor

To be prepared as follows:
Root 6th (E) string: key of F, G & A
Root 5th (A) string: key of B, C & D

GROUP C – Chords

Tempo: q=80bpm
Major and minor triads

Three inversions on the top three strings in the key of C, as written in the grade book.
To be played in a continuous sequence to click.

GROUP D – Acoustic Riff

Tempo: q=85 bpm

The riff shown in bar 1-2 should be transposed and played as indicated in bars 3-8. The root note of the pattern to be played is shown in the subsequent bars. Candidates must perform the riff to the backing track as supplied in the audio downloads

Supporting Tests

At Grade 5 candidates will be offered the choice between Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation. Both are previously unseen and examples of each are given in the grade book.

SIGHT READING

At this level there is an element of improvisation in the sight reading test*

Tempo: q=90
Duration: 8 bars
Rhythms: Half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, ties and rests
Key: F major or G major, E minor or G minor

*Improvisation element: two bar ending, melody only

Candidates will have 90 seconds to practise after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is to practise and the second time is to perform the final version for the exam. During the practice time, candidates will be given the option of a metronome click throughout or a one bar count-in at the beginning.

The backing track is continuous so once the first playthrough has finished the count-in of the second playing will start immediately.

IMPROVISATION & INTERPRETATION

At this level there is an element of sight reading in the Improvisation & Interpretation test*

Tempo: q=90-100
Duration: 4-6 bars
Key: A major, G major, E minor or G minor
Improvisation requirement: Rhythmic chords and melodic lines (as shown on score)

*Sight reading element: Two bars, rhythmic strumming only

Candidates will have 90 seconds to practise after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is to practise and the second time is to perform the final version for the exam. During the practice time, candidates will be given the option of a metronome click throughout or a one bar count-in at the beginning.

The backing track is continuous so once the first playthrough has finished the count-in of the second playing will start immediately.

EAR TESTS

There are two Ear Tests in this grade. The examiner will play each test twice.

Melodic Recall

Candidates will hear a two-bar melody with a drum backing using the D major pentatonic or A minor pentatonic scale. The first note of the melody will be the root note and the first interval will be descending. Candidates will need to then play back the melody on their instrument.

The test will be played twice. Each time the test is played it is preceded by a one bar vocal count-in.

The tempo is q=90.

Harmonic Recall

Candidates will hear a tonic chord followed by a two-bar sequence in the key of G major played to a bass and drum backing.

The sequence will be drawn from the I, IV, V and vi chords and may occur in any combination. Candidates will be asked to play the chord sequence to the drum backing in the rhythm shown in the example from the grade book. This rhythm will be used in all examples of this test given in the exam. Candidates will then be asked to identify the sequence they have played to the examiner. The test will be played twice.

Each time the test is played the sequence is: count-in, tonic, count-in, chords. There will be a short gap to practise after second playing. Candidates will then hear the count-in and tonic for the third time followed by a vocal count-in then must play the chords to the drum backing. Candidates should then identify the chords. The tempo is q=80.

GENERAL MUSICIANSHIP QUESTIONS (GMQ'S) 

Candidates will be asked five questions. Four of these questions will be about general music knowledge and the fifth question asked will be about instrumental & technical knowledge.

Music Knowledge

The examiner will ask four music knowledge questions based on a piece of music performed in the exam. Candidates will nominate the piece of music about which the questions will be asked.

In Grade 5 candidates will be asked to identify:

  • Names of pitches
  • The meaning of the time signature marking and the key signature marking
  • Repeat marks, first and second time bars, D.C., D.S., al Coda and al Fine markings
  • Whole, half, quarter, eighth, triplet eight-notes and 16th note values
  • Whole, half, quarter, eighth, triplet eight-notes and 16th note rests and rest combinations
  • The construction of major 7, minor 7 or dominant 7 chords
  • To explain the meaning of a sus2 or sus4 chord

Technical Knowledge

The examiner will also ask one question regarding a technical consideration of the piece, in relation to:

  • Picking hand: Strumming or picking technique for a short phrase (up to one bar) – demonstration is acceptable
  • Fretting hand: Fretting position and fingering used to play a short phrase (up to one bar) – demonstration is acceptable

The examiner will choose the section of music and will ask candidates to give a brief explanation as to why the technique was appropriate for the chosen section.

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-1112-1415-1718-20
Grade Descriptor• Incomplete performance
• No attempt
• Techniques hesitant and/or incorrect
• Rhythm/pulse mostly inaccurate
• Notation/harmonic work hesitant and/or incorrect
• Stylistic direction hesitant and/or incorrect
• Solo/improv limited in stylistic understanding
• Sync largely not achieved
• Sense of stylistic performance not achieved
• Some secure techniques evident
• Generally secure rhythm/pulse
• Some notation/harmonic accuracy evident
• Some stylistic direction evident
• Adequate solo/improv
• Sync evident
• Some sense of stylistic performance
• Secure techniques overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Notation/harmonic accuracy observed overall
• Stylistic direction observed overall
• Stylistic solo/improv overall
• Mainly synchronised
• A sense of stylistic performance overall
• Consistent and secure techniques
• Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Notation/harmonic accuracy detailed throughout
• Stylistic direction detailed throughout
• Convincing and stylistic solo/improv
• Consistent sync
• Highly confident and assured stylistic performance

Technical Exercises

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-89-1011-1213-15
Grade Descriptor• Incomplete performance
• No attempt
• Techniques hesitant and/or incorrect
• Rhythm/pulse mostly inaccurate
• Notation/harmonic work hesitant and/or incorrect
• Stylistic direction hesitant and/or incorrect
• Solo/improv limited in stylistic understanding
• Sync largely not achieved
• Sense of stylistic performance not achieved
• Some secure techniques evident
• Generally secure rhythm/pulse
• Some notation/harmonic accuracy evident
• Some stylistic direction evident
• Adequate solo/improv
• Sync evident
• Some sense of stylistic performance
• Secure techniques overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Notation/harmonic accuracy observed overall
• Stylistic direction observed overall
• Stylistic solo/improv overall
• Mainly synchronised
• A sense of stylistic performance overall
• Consistent and secure techniques
• Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Notation/harmonic accuracy detailed throughout
• Stylistic direction detailed throughout
• Convincing and stylistic solo/improv
• Consistent sync
• Highly confident and assured stylistic performance

Ear Tests

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-567-89-10
Grade Descriptor• No attempt
• Responses not offered
• Notation/pitch largely inaccurate
• Rhythm/pulse largely inaccurate
• Improv/solo largely absent or inappropriate
• Sync largely absent
• Responses vague or incorrect

• Notation/pitch accuracy evident
• Rhythm/pulse evident
• Improv/solo evident and generally appropriate
• Sync evident
• Adequate Responses
• Notation/pitch correct overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Improv/Solo convincing overall
• Mainly synchronized
• Accurate responses overall
• Notation/pitch accuracy correct throughout
•Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Convincing improv/solo throughout
• Consistent sync
• Accurate responses

Supporting Tests (Sight Reading OR Improvisation/Interpretation)

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-567-89-10
Grade Descriptor• No attempt
• Responses not offered
• Notation/pitch largely inaccurate
• Rhythm/pulse largely inaccurate
• Improv/solo largely absent or inappropriate
• Sync largely absent
• Responses vague or incorrect

• Notation/pitch accuracy evident
• Rhythm/pulse evident
• Improv/solo evident and generally appropriate
• Sync evident
• Adequate Responses
• Notation/pitch correct overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Improv/Solo convincing overall
• Mainly synchronized
• Accurate responses overall
• Notation/pitch accuracy correct throughout
•Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Convincing improv/solo throughout
• Consistent sync
• Accurate responses

Supporting Tests (General Musicianship Questions) 

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-2345
Grade Descriptor• No attempt
• Responses not offered
• Notation/pitch largely inaccurate
• Rhythm/pulse largely inaccurate
• Improv/solo largely absent or inappropriate
• Sync largely absent
• Responses vague or incorrect

• Notation/pitch accuracy evident
• Rhythm/pulse evident
• Improv/solo evident and generally appropriate
• Sync evident
• Adequate Responses
• Notation/pitch correct overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Improv/Solo convincing overall
• Mainly synchronized
• Accurate responses overall
• Notation/pitch accuracy correct throughout
•Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Convincing improv/solo throughout
• Consistent sync
• Accurate responses

Additional Information

The Value of RSL Qualifications

RSL advocates an open access approach to qualifications, providing a range of syllabi, designed to accommodate a wide variety of candidates of different ages, experience and levels of achievement. RSL awards qualifications that are listed on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) in England and Northern Ireland by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual). RSL is committed to maintaining and improving its reputation for excellence by providing high quality education and training through its syllabi, examinations, music and resources.

UCAS Points

For students applying for work or University, many potential employers see graded music exams in a very positive way. Recognised qualifications demonstrate an ability to dedicate commitment to extra–curricular activities, providing evidence of versatility which many students find beneficial within UCAS (Universities & Colleges Admissions Service) applications and for university entrance interviews. Our qualifications carry allocated points on the UCAS tariff.

Selecting Free Choice Pieces (FCP’s)

For all examinations, candidates are able to play a number of Free Choice Pieces.

Free Choice Pieces must demonstrate a comparable level of technical and musical demand to the pieces given in the set selections in the grade books which can be referred to as an indication of appropriate level.

Free choice pieces must be in a modern popular genre such as Pop, Rock, Jazz, Country, Blues, Soul, Reggae, Film and Musical Theatre. Own compositions are also acceptable.

Pieces should be selected carefully to ensure that the pieces provide suitable opportunity for candidates to demonstrate the relevant assessment criteria. Candidates are reminded that if a chosen Free Choice Piece does not meet these requirements this may impact on the level of achievement possible within the examination.

All pieces must be performed to a backing track (without the examined part on the track) except in case where pieces have been selected from previous Rockschool syllabi and do not have backing track or have been specifically arranged by Rockschool as solo pieces.

Instrument Specification

Candidates are reminded that it is their responsibility to select and provide an appropriate musical instrument for each syllabus to allow demonstration of the relevant stylistic and technical skills within their performance. At all levels of examination, if any outcomes or assessed criteria cannot be demonstrated or are demonstrated less securely as a result of the equipment, this may be reflected in the marks awarded.

General Information

Download the Syllabus

Acoustic Syllabus (239KB, .pdf)

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Dates & Fees

Next exam period:

07 November 19 - 15 December 19

Next Closing Date

23 October 19

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Exam Fee

£70.00

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