As the next theory exam fast approaches and having recently spoken to some of the Board's senior markers, I thought you might like a few tips.... It's aimed mainly at candidates and whilst some of the following suggestions may be obvious they are not in any way intended to sound patronising!!
1. Answer all the questions! Even if you don't know the answer, guess - you may just be right and gain extra marks, something which won't happen if you leave the space blank....
2. Take your time and read the questions CAREFULLY!! What direction should those scales be written in and using what note values? Is that E major or Eb that you've been asked to write? Underline/highlight the important words in the rubrics, if it helps you. Don't be in a hurry to finish first - use your time wisely and check those answers and check again!
3. Marks will be deducted for poorly written clefs, key signatures etc.... Don't add those accidentals in the wrong space or on the wrong line of the stave, above the note or below it!
4. Rhythm writing: make sure those bars all add up correctly - there's quite a bit of emphasis on that!
5. Melody writing: as well as making sure those bars add up, don't forget the instrument, tempo, dynamics and articulation. If you're going to use pizz and/or arco, make sure you know how to use them properly!
6. If you're rewriting a melody at a different octave, the time values won't change, so copy them carefully! Similarly, if you're rewriting in half/twice the value, the pitches will be the same.
7. Transposition: make sure you've kept to the same interval of transposition throughout - for example don't switch from a second down to a third half way through! In the high grade orchestral score extracts, if you're not sure of the interval, compare your answer with that of a non-transposing instrument such as violin - if they don't fit tonally then something might be wrong!
That's just a few of the places where marks are lost, and you would be very surprised if you realised just how many marks do disappear.... Markers tell me how depressing it is when a paper has to fail primarily for these reasons. They'd much rather see you pass!
Good luck to all those of you taking exams over the next week.