Supporting tests for face-to-face exams

In addition to performing pieces and technical work, candidates take two supporting tests. Parameters for each grade are outlined at the front of each syllabus.

We offer a number of resources to help teachers and candidates prepare for this section of the exam.


Aural tests are based around a single musical extract played at the piano by the examiner, with candidates asked to describe various features of the music such as dynamics, articulation, texture and style. Candidates are not required to sing.

Drum kit candidates can take an unpitched aural test – see our Drum Kit & Percussion page.

Sight reading

This test assesses candidates’ ability to perform a previously unseen musical extract, at a level approximately two grades lower than the exam being taken. Sight reading is an option up to and including Grade 5, but compulsory from Grade 6 onwards.

  • Examples of sight reading tests for most instruments are available in the Sound at Sight  series. These books are available to purchase from your local music retailer or from our online shop.
  • Harp sight reading examples can be downloaded from our Strings support resources page.


This test assesses candidates’ ability to improvise fluently, coherently and creatively in response to a musical stimulus. Candidates can choose between three types of improvisation stimulus: stylistic, harmonic or motivic. Drum kit and untuned percussion (snare drum and timpani) candidates can take a rhythmic improvisation test.

Musical knowledge

This test encourages learners to understand the wider musical context of the pieces they play, as well as their knowledge of notation and their instrument. Musical knowledge is available up to and including Grade 5 and the parameters are published in each graded syllabus.

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