Hello everyone and thank you for all your recent queries.
1. Would the AB consider bringing in recording of exams? I'm not suggesting this as an appeal system but for quality control. A system where a stipulated number of Recordings are made on each examination day by the examiner. Not thinking that it should be every candidate - just a random sample.
We already do record a number of exams for moderation purposes - sometimes with a moderator present. At the moment it is not practical for us to record all of our examinations because of the sheer volume that we undertake but we are continuing to search for a viable solution.
I should refer you to our new Complaints, Enquries and Appeals regulations at http://www.abrsm.org/?page=exams/regs/ukIr...complaints.html as these provide information about the new Quality Assurance procedures that we have introduced this year.
2. Would you ever consider introducing an awards ceremony for UK diploma candidates like there is for regional centres throughout the world?
There are simply too many candidates for this to be economically feasible at the moment! There is a possibility that a convocation of diploma holders might be introduced whereby holders would become part of an organisation that hosts annual events.
3. If the stats show that one examiner's results are "out of step" with other examiners, presumably some action is taken at some stage, but would you do something after a single session or wait to see if there is a trend? And what action would you take? Would it influence any possible action taken if a number of applicants informed the board of their concern over an examiner, even if it wasn't actually a formal complaint?
We would take action as soon as a problem is apparent, the timing of which varies from instance to instance. We take action if we receive just one justifiable complaint or comment! I should point out that it is extremely rare in training situations for two examiners not to assess the same performance of an examination component to within a single mark of each other and that we possess details of constituent marks for all those who examine our candidates. Less than 1% of our results are queried.
Potential forms of action could include one or all of professional support, additional moderation or emphasis in training upon a particular area of concern.
4. Why is there no improvisation incorporated in AB exams at the moment? Surely it is as important a skill as sight-reading and aural?
Improvisation is notoriously difficult to assess and this is a particular problem at the lower grades. Candidates who do not first acquire the musicianship skills developed through the sight-reading and aural components of the exam are unlikely to be strong improvisers! I should point out that there is a large element of improvisation incorporated within our existing Practical Musicianship exams.
5. I notice that exam dates for East Asia seem to start with Singapore, and then split into two streams, a "North East Asia" sequence and a simultaneous "Oceania" sequence.
So does Singapore get two (or more) examiners, who then split up and head north and south, respectively?
Are the poor examiners on the road from March through June??? Are they hoping to be safely out of East Asia before our monsoon steams them a nice shade of cerise?
Our examiners in Singapore change after every six weeks and occasionally even more frequently. Associated Board examiners have encountered monsoons, hurricanes, bombs and SARS on their global travels and so far we have not lost anyone to anything other than natural causes!
6. The new guitar syllabus that will be released later this year - there is mention of new requirements for technical work and scales. I know there has been discussion regarding this area of the guitar syllabus in the past, and my son's teacher was particularly surprised by this area in the current syllabus - can you tell us what direction these new requirements will be moving in?
I would recommend that you read Syllabus Director Nigel Scaife's extensive article on the subject, which is available online at http://www.abrsm.org/?page=newsArticles/item.html&id=443 and addresses the issues you mention.
7. I am concerned about the singing in the instrumental aural tests. I have failed grade 4 and 5 aural tests because of the singing in piano. As I am now 18 and male I find it difficult to pitch notes. Would the board be prepared to review this part of the exam and offer an alternative?
There are no plans to review this part of the exam at the moment and we do already try to provide as much assistance with this particular problem as possible. From Grade 4 upwards candidates are permitted to sing or play the melody in the first aural test. Males with changing voices are also allowed to whistle or hum any section of the aural test that involves singing. The Aural component constitutes very few marks in relation to the entire exam and is marked holistically - marks are not specifically allocated to the individual Aural tests but are awarded for the overall performance.
8. I have a question about examiners. Do they all come from a teaching background? Is that an essential to be an examiner? What other qualifications/experience do you look for when recruiting examiners?
Not all our examiners come from a teaching background and it is not essential. Some of our team of examiners are freelance instrumentalists and others are professors from the Royal Schools. Introductory guidance to the qualities and experience required is provided at http://www.abrsm.org/?page=about/examiners.html.
9. I am interested about the new singing syllabus. Are there still grass-roots meetings going on to confirm repertoire or is this process now over? I would be interested to hear of anyone who has been involved in this process.
The singing syllabus is now fully in place after a long and extensive consultative process. I am afraid that we cannot put people in touch with individuals but I can assure you that a broad cross-section of teachers and examiners were consulted with and that we are delighted with the results.
10. In respect of the statistical analysis of applicants (who are presumably mainly teachers), what use is made of the information gained?
The information gained serves many purposes - it supplements our market research, provides us with feedback about our services and allows us to monitor the results histories of candidates attached to particular applicants. We do in fact know the average candidate mark for all our applicants!
11. Would the ABRSM consider the concept of feeding statistics back to teachers in such a way that would assist pupils/parents to make better informed decisions as to which teacher may be most suitable for them? In some form or another, would the Chief Examiner consider it viable or desirable to consider some endorsement scheme?
This issue has been raised many times but we do not feel it is appropriate at the moment to align ourselves with particular teachers in such a way. This is a potentially very controversial and difficult area and we would not consider an endorsement scheme at the current time.
Please keep the questions coming!