I thought you might appreciate a new set of answers after a long wait!
1. The Examiner made a comment on my Grade 3 Flute (which I passed with 140 marks so I am not complaining!) that I need to aim to take "quieter breaths". I appreciate the point, but as I was playing only two foot away from her I felt this was a bit unfair, and also on the Grade 3 Flute CD you can hear the flautist taking nearly every breath. My teacher was surprised by the comment too because I do not take big gulping breaths and am already conscious of keeping breath intake silent, but in the intimate confines of a small examination room where you can hear a pin drop, do you think examiners should consider acoustics?
Examiners are aware of acoustics and will take them into account. Since this was so stunningly successful a result the comment in this instance was very possibly a gentle hint relating to future recital potential! It is not something that would usually be mentioned but these may be considered exceptional circumstances.
2. I'd like to have more statistics on examination results. For instance, how many candidates took grade 3 piano and which pieces they played and what were the results. Obviously there is no need to identify candidates and presumably ABRSM has this information on a database, given that that candidates can access it for their own results. Is there any chance of this happening in the near future?
Edmund Jenkinson, Web Editor: We do not currently feel that there is significant demand for more detailed information above and beyond the general statistics that we already provide on the website. There would also be a considerable amount of administrative work required to collate the data and present statistics that provide the level of detail suggested in your example. Finally, I should probably point out that we do not in fact hold all of this information on a single integrated database at present! Certainly if we are convinced in the future that there is a considerable demand for additional statistics and that we will be providing people with a real benefit in making them available we will reconsider this issue. I have seen several threads relating to this and will be keeping an eye on them!
3. Does the board have any plans to bring their popular teaching seminars or courses (like CTABRSM) to Ireland? If the courses ran in either Dublin or Belfast and were well advertised I would imagine they would get a good reception.
The cost of travel makes taking these courses already prohibitively expensive and the dates, while understandably designed to suit the UK school system/bank holidays etc, don't always coincide with holidays in the ROI.
Does the ABRSM plan to address this situation?
Louisa Thomas, Course Co-ordinator: We vary the locations of our teaching seminars and courses from year to year and have run a number in Ireland in the past. Although there are no immediate plans to run CT ABRSM or our other professional development courses in Dublin or Belfast we regularly evaluate demand and we will certainly be taking your views into account when choosing future venues!
4. An interesting development is the ALCM now being accredited as a level 5 qualification - would it not be reasonable for the Associated Board to consider this as a pre-requisite for LRSM? Just a thought!
We monitor these kind of developments and new accreditations very closely and will certainly take this into consideration when evaluating the current prerequisites.
5. How does the examiner choose which scales/arpeggios to ask for in an exam?
The structure is extremely flexible but as a general rule the examiner will usually begin by asking for something that has appeared in an earlier grade in order to provie a comforting start for the candidate. This will be followed by requests for a couple of major and minor scales, an example of anything else listed in the syllabus and examples from the new requirements for the grade.
6. I don't think you should have to perform scales that you have done for a lower grade already because, even if you skipped a grade, surely you would be playing at a higher standard than those scales so would be able to play them easily. What is the rationale for this?
The reason for this is to enable the candidate to compile a complete physical and mental knowledge and memory of important musical patterns. It is difficult to develop as a musician if you do not regularly practise fundamental skills. I should also point out that C major may be 'easy' when measured according to Grade 1 standards but playing it beautifully at Grade 8 is surprisingly difficult!
7. Why does the amount of time exam results take to arrive differ so much?
My most recent results came in just over 2 weeks. My sister took her grade 2 clarinet 2 weeks after me and is still waiting. Actually I've just looked at the calendar and it's been exactly a MONTH. What is the reason for this? Surely it doesn't take a month to print a certificate, put it in an envelope and post it?
As a general rule candidates who take exams early in a session will receive results very quickly. The bulk of examinations take place during the middle of a session and therefore the amount of administrative work required at our end increases significantly - the time that elapses between examinations and the receipt of results will often be longer. There is also a significant and meticulous process of checking and statistics collation that takes place and this is important in enabling us to monitor and maintain the ongoing quality of our assessments.
8. What does the Chief Examiner do during a typical day?
Excellent question! Usually I make a 6am start from home. Once I arrive at the AB's offices in Portland Place I will usually have an extremely strong coffee (!) before taking some time to answer emails and correspondence. I will then make telephone calls to our examiners overseas in order to check on their progress. Often I will be required to attend a number of internal meetings, provide a seminar or oversee resit or 'special concession' exams. I may even do some examining myself! I also fulfil moderating and examiner training responsibilities and am involved in reviewing analyses of exam result statistics and evaluating examiner results profiling.
After my day at Portland Place is over I will often present an evening talk to musical groups or perform prize adjudicating responsibilities at various events. Finally I go home before collapsing!
9. My question is why broken chords are not pursued further into higher Grades than 4. I find they provide useful practice and wonder why they're not tested later.
Broken chords are not pursued further because they are superseded by arpeggios, which are essentially the same thing. They are designed to introduce the necessary patterns. Arpeggios are more demanding and are therefore more suitable for higher grades. There is nothing, however, to stop you playing broken chords for as long as you like and continuing to use them as practice tools!
I wanted to finish by saying that I very much enjoy and welcome this kind of contact with you all. The regularity of my responses is closely related to the rate at which we receive new questions, so please keep them coming!