As you finalise your entry for the next face-to-face Rockschool exam window in the UK & Ireland, you'll be thinking ahead to how you can make the most of your exam. We've compiled our top 5 tips for rockin' your exam. Read on and good luck!

Practise makes perfect

Our first tip is for before you've even put your exam date in the diary. Practise your material and know it inside out! Practising can often feel like a chore, especially when the deadline for a concert or exam is looming, but it's important to use a practice diary and make your practice-routines efficient and varied to stay positive and motivated. Give yourself regular goals, and suddenly it’s not that boring after all!

Practising regularly is absolutely key to any musician’s development, regardless of where they are on their musical journey. An absolute beginner and an experienced professional will practise in very different ways, but both will need a routine that helps them to maximise their potential by attaining new skills, and then maintaining and building on them.

To this end, practise your material: not just until you can get it right, but until you can't get it wrong!

Rockschool graded music exams

Take a rehearsal exam with your teacher

Before the big day arrives, it's a great idea to have a run through of the exam format with your teacher. A discussion is great, but it's even better to simulate the exam experience and how it'll go on the day.

You can do a simple mock style test by running over the main components. Ask your teacher to listen to you playing the prepared pieces and ask you questions as if you were in the exam itself.

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

Arrive punctually and warm up your way

Nothing will put you on edge more than arriving late and flustered to an exam. Make sure you arrive at your exam venue with plenty of time to spare so you can check in and get warmed up in the way you want!

Much like you would before any physical activity, having a thorough warm-up routine is crucial to any performance. You won't have oodles of time to warm up, but use the limited time you do have effectively. Take the time to free yourself from distractions, set up your instrument and tune it as required, get comfortable, and get in the zone!

Get a handle on those pesky nerves!

Nerves are completely normal. Read that again: nerves are completely normal. What's more, they can even contribute to heightened concentration and improved performance. So harness that adrenaline and become its boss!

Whether you feel a little nervous, or are suddenly overwhelmed, there are a few things you can do ahead of your exam and during the session itself to help you cope with the nerves that you might encounter. If you think you might be getting nervous or anxious, here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shaking in your hands/body
  • Feeling emotional or tearful
  • Dry mouth or increased sweating

The natural reaction would be to feel like you want to avoid the situation, withdraw into yourself and go quiet (again, this is perfectly normal). To help yourself through these situations, here are some great exercises to use that negative energy to switch your mindset to a positive one:

7:11 Breathing – Inhale through your nose for 7 seconds and exhale through your mouth for 11. The counting part of this exercise will engage your brains logical pathway whilst the deep breathing will increase your bodies oxygen intake, having a calming effect.

Posture – If you sit or stand in a strong, confident position, you will feel more empowered.

Smile – When you smile, your brain releases oxytocin which naturally makes you feel better.

Reframe – Tell yourself you’re excited not scared. You’re in control of your own feelings, use them to your advantage.

Rehearsal – It should be a given that before you enter for your exam that you feel totally prepared. If you cover the content of your exam in advance you will feel more prepared on the day. Go over everything that you might be asked to a point where you can’t possibly get it wrong. This feeling of self-certainty will give you a much-needed confidence boost. Practice your weaknesses, not your strengths.

Keep smiling!

Don't be put off if the examiner asks you if you have any coronavirus symptoms. This is just routine stuff that they have to ask! Give them a big smile and show them you're confident and ready to get your exam underway.

The examiner will be wearing a protective visor too, so don't be alarmed if you've not seen one before! The examiner can still assess you in the same way as a normal exam.

Remember to bring photocopy of ID if you're a Grade 6-8 candidate! You need this as our Level 3 graded music exams count for UCAS points.

Your teacher should have prepped you on exactly what you're playing in your exam, but we recommend doing a practice exam with them too so you become a bit more familiar with timings and make sure your stamina is at a good level.

Rockschool Professional Diplomas

Think you're ready to take the plunge? Enter for your Rockschool exam before midnight on 1st August 2021 to ensure your place at our summer exam sessions!