Whilst I know the whole subject of aural tests is a perennial favourite / old chestnut [delete as appropriate ], I've been thinking again about them, since I am currently labouring away at improving my Gr 5 aurals, and had some thoughts which I wanted to put out there for discussion.
My questions are:
1) What essential / useful musical skills (if any) are aural tests intended to assess (and therefore encourage / develop)?
2) Do the aural tests currently operated by ABRSM actually assess those skills at all accurately?
To lay my cards on the table, my view is that even if there are some important musical skills which aural tests should be assessing, the current ABRSM test formats do not necessarily assess the intended skills.
For example, take the "spot the difference" test. The usual rationale given for this test is that it is important for a musician to be able to listen accurately to musical details, and to identify differences in pitch and rhythm.
Now, I'll buy that rationale (I think). However, the testing mechanism is flawed, since it is possible to fail the test not because you are incapable of identifying a change in pitch or rhythm, but because your musical memory is poor, and therefore you cannot retain accurately in memory the first playing, which is the reference point used for identification of the change. So a "fail" here does not accurately reflect the presence or absence of the skill being assessed. But if the candidate were to be given the score by way of reference point, and then had to identify the change in the playing of the score, that would be a genuine test of ability to identify alteration in pitch or rhythm.
Of course, one could argue (and I would argue vehemently the other way ) that musical memory is also an important skill. But the "echo singing" test (and the "clap a rhythm" test at Gr4+) both test musical memory already. Why do we need more than one test of musical memory?
What are people's thoughts?