Mar 16 2004, 06:57 PM
Thinking specifically about the Associated Board's practical examination appointments, which of the following is most important to you?
Your Chance to Make a Difference
The Associated Board aims to deliver the best possible service to all its customers and your views, suggestions and feedback are vital in helping us to do this.
As part of ongoing research into customer attitudes towards the Board's services, we are keen to know your opinion on the subject of Associated Board practical examination appointments.
Please help us to continue to improve our service to you by letting us know which of the above issues you consider to be most important when applying to sit an Associated Board practical examination.
If the issue that you consider to be most important is not one of those listed above, please select "Other". Then click on the "Add Reply" button and share your thoughts with us.
We look forward to reading your responses. Many thanks for taking the time to give us your views.
Mar 17 2004, 12:27 PM
It would be really nice if we could read a little bit about the examiners before meeting them on the days of the exam. My students often ask me if I know of them; who they are, what they do etc. Certain exam boards have a section of their website for info on examiners so that you can read about who they are - makes it a little more personal I think.
Mar 17 2004, 03:46 PM
Yes, I agree very much with Cath22. It is good if we know a bit about the examiner before we meet them.
Mar 17 2004, 04:15 PM
I voted for good venue facilities because I believe it's essential (especially for pianists as they use the piano provided) for people who have put in a lot of work to have a good instrument to play on (and for other instruments to have a good accompaniment).
However if this is about what needs improving rather than what is most important: I would say more notice and flexibility in exam times; I've always had a good instrument to play on in the exam-that's never been a problem, but it seems many people struggle to get a convenient exam time and to get enough notice to arrange other commitments; again I'm fortunate in being able to be flexible (I'm a student...) but many people who are working/whose parents are working have more problems.
Mar 17 2004, 11:24 PM
We have a great venue and a wonderful piano. Getting the dates is a problem though. I'd love to be able to exclude a particular week instead giving a preference for a week. If they think they may be away for a couple of days in the exam period, I end up having to delay the exam by another term just in case it clashes.
Mar 18 2004, 06:38 AM
agree absolutely with Cath22
I believe it does make a lot of difference to my students confidence and settling down to play their best on that date.
Biodata of late in the exams here in Malaysia seems to be in scarcity
Mar 18 2004, 11:35 AM
|If they think they may be away for a couple of days in the exam period, I end up having to delay the exam by another term just in case it clashes.|
I couldn't agree more - this can be a big frustration.
I have sometimes taken a chance over a couple of days away, and been lucky.
However, there is sometimes a school trip of a few days, which cuts into TWO of the examining weeks. That's too much of a gamble !!
I realise the board has a huge task arranging all the exams but having to make sure that a student is in principle available for any day in a period of several weeks has always been the biggest headache for me.
Mar 18 2004, 11:54 AM
|However, there is sometimes a school trip of a few days, which cuts into TWO of the examining weeks|
Yes, I thought about that. I come across students who are away for a long weekend, so we have Friday and Monday to consider :-(
I know it must be a difficult job, sorting it all out, but it's such a shame to delay it when they are only unavailable for 1 or 2 days in the exam period.
If there was a 'mustn't have' week it would really have to be 'mustn't have!' unlike the preferred week which you can't guarantee.
I had a great one once.....I asked for my preferred week to be the one from last week of the session. I know the last week is in great demand, and I usually like to see them one more time after the exam and before the school hols, so the week before suits me fine.
One period, I had a letter saying that they couldn't give me that week, so they've given me week 1 instead. Bit of a shock.....luckily they were ready.
Mar 18 2004, 06:37 PM
|QUOTE (AnotherPianist @ Mar 17 2004, 04:15 PM)|
| I voted for good venue facilities because I believe it's essential (especially for pianists as they use the piano provided) |
VERY AGREE - This is also very important too! Although I can only choose one, and then I chose "plenty early notice".
Mar 18 2004, 06:48 PM
I have been pondering my response for a few days, as it's really difficult to settle for just one. I eventually plumped for plenty of notice, because as an inexperienced pianist I usually have to arrange an accompanist for my students, and no accompanist will commit to playing until they know the date/time. I'm still nervous until the letter with the dates arrives after my very first time of entering students for exams and being given the first week
It's never happened since; I always ask for, and get, the next to last week, but I still remember trying to arrange accompanists at short notice for the first time.
Mar 20 2004, 06:57 PM
I think that being able to specify dates (or days of the week) which are not ok would be really useful.
Also if particular times are not ok.... because of travel arrangements/parents being able to get away from work or start late.
Mar 24 2004, 05:32 PM
Hello! I'm a teacher in Bristol and although I've only ever entered 3 (piano) students for ABRSM grades (I've only been teaching a year) I have never had any problems getting the dates I want. I always state on the application form when is NOT suitable to attend, and this seems to do the trick!
Mar 25 2004, 04:46 PM
Could centres have an allocated accompanist to be available for a particular week say? - and then students who needed an accompanist could contact that person to arrange their rehearsal(and pay the fee).
At the moment pupils have to bring an accompanist with them and it seems that a lot of piano teachers(mainly piano teachers I think?) spend exam weeks dashing to and fro to fit in rehearsals and exams in different places.
Candidates would know that an accompanist was going to be available for their exam week and an accompanist would have a week of work accompanying and be able to fit their teaching commitments around this.
One of my pupils needed to change her exam time due to a school residential trip clash and was offered another date and another venue.
This meant that I had to find a different accompanist who was available to be in Manchester that day just for one pupil. I did find someone but not without making a lot of 'phonecalls and a getting bit of a headache.
There was the distinct possibility that she would not be able to take the exam this time and would have to wait until the next session when she was sooooo ready to take it.
Mar 25 2004, 04:59 PM
I did my first exam on Monday. It was in a small kitchen in a local chapel! Is that usual? There was a good acoustic, but it didn't really have the 'performance' feel about it.
I previously voted for a convenient time, but a good venue is certainly important...
Mar 25 2004, 05:24 PM
Also regarding venue...
I have heard people saying that sometimes the people outside the room can hear what they are playing.
This would totally terrify me at least!!!
Mar 25 2004, 07:38 PM
The ONE thing that would please me above anything else is if the examiners could help tune instruments before the exam - in this case i'm talking about stringed instruments. I teach full time and when my students have their exams it is very rare that i'm actually able to attend. I have a super accompanist, but she doesn't trust herself to tune my students violins, just in case she snaps a string etc. The board say that up to grade 5, students are not expected to tune their violins! - Well, who is expected to tune them then, because I can't afford to take a whole day off work (and sometimes more), just to tune violins.
This problem really came to light today when one of my pupils turned up to her exam with her E string completely out of tune. No one there could tune it and one of my grade 5 students had a go - she snapped the string. There were spare strings of course, but no one could fit it...although i'm sure the examiner could have done so, had they had the authority. She ended up having to play on one of my other pupils violins, having never played any other instrument all her life. She was NOT pleased about this, and said that the examiner wasn't at all sympathetic.
Enabling examiners to tune instruments when teachers cannot be present would be a VERY helpful thing, and i'm sure i'm not the only teacher who feels like this!
I've got over 40 students in for exams in the summer, in two different venues...I can't possibly be there all the time....who will tune their violins and violas??
Mar 25 2004, 09:05 PM
I really think that if I had to choose one option, then I would choose venue. We are very lucky in that the local 'concert hall' is used for exams. The candidates have a real sense of occasion which helps them to perform. They love playing a grand piano on the stage - their parents also enjoy sitting in the waiting area, which just happens to be the coffee shop !!
Mar 26 2004, 02:01 PM
I voted for good venue facilities especially since I'm a pianist myself and I have had bad experiences with pianos that have either hard keys which makes it seem impossible to play f and pedals which were so loose changing pedal was a major problem. It'll definitely help if the pianos were of better quality...even though over here, it's rare that one will be able to play on a grand piano. Playing on a good piano is definitely beneficial...especially at the higher grades.
Mar 26 2004, 07:24 PM
Would the problem of venue/pianos be slightly alleviated if there were easily available lists of the exact venues or facilities? I also believe some small venues do not offer exams on all weeks, but this does not seem to be well publicised either. I realise the number of applicants will vary, but there must be a reasonable idea beforehand. That way entrants could choose to travel to the next town to the concert hall if that was important, or enter at a different venue to increase the likelihood of a convenient time.
Mar 26 2004, 08:11 PM
Although I agree that a convenient date and time is important, i think there are things that can be done to improve the examination system.
I think the Associated Board are stuck in a bit of a time warp. I agree that it would be nice to know a little about the examiner (other than their name), but also the examiners need to be a little more friendly. In my experience, they don't move from their desks and barely speak other than to tell you what they want you to do. How hard is it to talk to the students, say good morning and how are you, what school do you go to etc etc. It doesn't take much to make it a little less scary for people - especially younger children. I'm glad I accompany my own pupils - they always look at me at the end of their pieces wanting to see someone smiling at them. I dread to think how nervous they'd be if they were in there with a pianist that they didn't really know. The examiners from other exam boards are much friendlier - chatting to the student, helping out with chairs, stands etc and most importantly making them feel at ease so they can give their best performance.
Mar 26 2004, 10:07 PM
|QUOTE (sbhoa @ Mar 25 2004, 05:24 PM)|
| Also regarding venue...|
I have heard people saying that sometimes the people outside the room can hear what they are playing.
This would totally terrify me at least!!!
In my clarinet exam, everything I played or anyone else taking an exam played, could be heard outside the room!! That really made me worry!!!
Mar 31 2004, 10:48 PM
Regarding friendliness of examiners.
I've found that the attitude of examiners in recent years is much more human than when I first entered pupils for exams nearly twenty years ago. Some are better than others, but, generally speaking, I've no complaints. One examiner pinned up a short welcome message in the waiting room, telling students to relax, not to be nervous, that he was looking forward to hearing them play. That was a lovely idea and did a lot to boost the confidence of the examinees. Several examiners have offered help in setting up music stands for my flute pupils.
The one thing that really bugs me about examiners is their impossible to read writing!!! It sometimes takes ages to decipher their comments, in one recent case I gave up! The writing was so small I could not understand it! If I have trouble I'm sure my pupils do!
It would be really helpful if evening or weekend appointments were available. I don't think this is the case ( my teacher has never mentioned it to me. As a parent I find it very hard to get time off work to take my daughter to exams. Most parents work nowadays and this would be a big step forward. If anyone knows whether it is possible to specify an 'out of hours' appointment could they please let me know.
Apr 7 2004, 01:19 PM
I voted plenty of notice but i think that a good venue is also important.
For myself, having a convenient time of day is particularly important if I am playing for pupils as well as having to teach, so as to cause minimum disruption to other people's lessons.
For my pupils, better facilities are indeed the priority. Our local centre has a fairly well arranged set-up for the examiner, in a sound-proofed room, but the poor pupils have to warm up in a music shop with no privacy and no security for their possessions. Not good enough!
There are obviously many different interested parties involved in the exam process - I would have preferred to have seen the sort of poll here where you can indicate priorities in order of preference, rather than just choosing one over all the others.
Apr 8 2004, 09:35 AM
Like most people (so far anyway), I voted for the convenient date as being the most important. As I am mostly teaching adults, they are usually juggling many commitments. But just a small gripe - while the entry form lets me specify a preferred week, and I always select a preferred week, I have never once got the week I selected.
I certainly wouldn't expect to get my preferred week every time, but I have been entering students for ABRSM exams for about ten years now, and surely by the law of averages I should have got at least one preferred week in that time!
So, exam schedulers, does anyone ever get their preferred week? If no-one, or very few people, do, why bother having that field at all? The danger is that it may just get people's hopes up, even although they know there is no guarantee.
Apr 8 2004, 11:52 AM
As a convenient way to enter my students I use the online entry form. Speaking to my HLR I have been told that if you do this you automatically get earlier weeks as the information is already on the system. I am getting sick of asking for later weeks only to be given the first or second week. My only alternative is to apply to a centre 30 miles away as I know that they only have two weeks of exams and usually get a later date. I don't think my students' parents would appreciate this trip. Regarding the moving of exams due to school trips or exams, I am usually lucky that my HLR will EVENTUALLY help but a fellow teacher tried to contact the board for this and found them extremely unhelpful!!!
Apr 8 2004, 12:05 PM
|I always select a preferred week, I have never once got the week I selected...............I certainly wouldn't expect to get my preferred week every time, but I have been entering students for ABRSM exams for about ten years now,|
That's terrible, and I think you must have been extremely unlucky. I have had a few bad experiences in the past, but it's been fairly ok in the past 5 years or so.
I have to say that if I'd had such a consistently bad response for ten years, I don't think I would still be bothering to enter students, but would use another board! Do you generally get a week somewhere close to one you have asked for? I quite often get my preferred week but not always. I do use the online form, and find it easier than the postal system.
Apr 8 2004, 03:33 PM
|QUOTE (Louise @ Mar 17 2004, 11:24 PM)|
|I'd love to be able to exclude a particular week instead giving a preference for a week. |
[I'd love to be able to exclude a particular week instead giving a preference for a week. ]
How I agree.... quite often pupils of school age are on school trips during the last two weeks of term, especially in the summer, but this can apply also at Christmas and Easter. I never worry too much about a particular week, as I try to make sure all my pupils are ready for any date, including the earliest, of any examination session, but worrying about an exam appointment being on a day when the candidate is definitely not going to be available can sometimes be a bit of a headache! Although there has always been a space on the form to give a 'last available date', this is not of much help if there is only one awkward date, and it is somewhere in the middle of the examination period! I often enter my candidates with a friend who organises special visits for this very reason, as we know well in advance (in fact I will know even before the entry is submitted) exactly what date the exam will be. However, when she does not organise a special visit I use the local centre and have always been very happy with the warm welcome we receive there. The only problem is that of the date.
Apr 8 2004, 07:15 PM
I clicked on good venue facilities, and by this I mean a good piano for pianists - they can't take their instrument with them and it doesn't matter how convenient the day of the exam is, if after months of practice candidates have to play on an inferior instrument. Also it is so useful to have a practice room, to warm up, roughly tune and do something other than sit staring at other nervous people (my local centre doesn't have a practice room).
Apr 8 2004, 08:00 PM
I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of evening and weekend appointments being an option. I have entered pupils for many years and at one stage had so many pupils that I could arrange a visit at my house once a year. I did this in the February half term as I am also a full time teacher. However, as my responsibilities at school have grown, I have had to reduce the time I spend teaching private pupils. Unless I can arrange future exams out of school hours I won't be able to enter them.
Apr 9 2004, 07:38 AM
|QUOTE (lyegreen @ Apr 8 2004, 08:00 PM)|
| I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of evening and weekend appointments being an option. |
Nearly all my exams have been on a Saturday! I don't know if thats what my teachers have asked for but they are usually always on the weekends!!
Apr 9 2004, 09:00 AM
I think piano teachers are always going to consider the quality of the venue as very important. Not only are students at the mercy of the examination instument provided, invariably good in my experience, they are also subjected to varying provisions for a practice piano in a relatively private situation.
However, I would also have voted, if a second vote had been allowed, for the opportunity to ask for a date to avoid on the entry form. This term, a Muslim boy was kept on tenterhooks in case his exam fell during Eid.
Apr 9 2004, 02:59 PM
Iâ€™m surprised to see a questionnaire with just one question, and only one option available to choose â€“ but then it was certainly a way to get me involved in a forum, which otherwise I wouldnâ€™t have done!
THE QUESTIONNAIRE ANSWER I CHOSE
Iâ€™m very keen, as I see other forum contributors are, to have the exam dates for centres as early as possible, as Iâ€™d be grateful to know them more than two weeks in advance â€“ it would help me as I prepare my pupils. Of course I should have my pupils prepared for the earliest possible dates, but life isnâ€™t always like that! Exam dates by email is Iâ€™m sure going to happen soon, which may speed it up administratively, anyway.
THE PROBLEM OF MORE OPTIONS
Iâ€™m sure in this computerized age that there are many ways that options (for dates etc.) could be given and sorted by computer to give the â€œbest fitâ€. The right consultant could Iâ€™m sure do an excellent job, after a fuller questionnaire or consultation, and after a bit of logical thinking (Iâ€™m thinking of the exam times and dates issue). I donâ€™t know how much it would cost, of course. Also I guess that the ABRSM would need to make a conscious choice between providing few options (as at the moment) that it feels it can attempt to fully meet (and hopefully re-arrange when problems happen), and the other possibility of providing more options for which it needs to state that they may or may not be met (but at least if it makes no difference to anyone else, they can be met â€“ which is the missing possibility for most of us I imagine, as there is no box on the form to write a sentence about our times preferences or do anything other than just fill in the boxes as provided).
OPTIONS IN TWO GROUPS
This second possibility of providing more options for entrants to show their preferences, seems problematic at first (as the ABRSM wouldnâ€™t know what was impossible for the entrant and what was just preferred) until it is considered that the options could be given in two groups: some options given as ones which the board will do its best to meet (such as impossible dates) which could perhaps be called â€œcritical optionsâ€ and other options which are then used to find a best fit within whatâ€™s left, perhaps called â€œpreferencesâ€. Difficult to sort in the old days using paperwork, but oh so easy for a computer to sort after a little time, with patience and intelligent work by a computer programmer/consultant (some flutists will almost [just in case re copyright] see a quote thereâ€¦!). It all depends really on how serious anyone is about this as an exam â€œserviceâ€ rather than an exam â€œprovisionâ€, I suppose â€“ not that itâ€™s that easy or that black and white Iâ€™m sure!, and I have very great respect for the ABRSM for the service it provides, very much so!
Regarding impossible dates, itâ€™s important Iâ€™m sure to consider what the abuse of the option would be, so that it can be limited if appropriate, and qualified by other options as need. This would be true for other options too, I guess. For example, if an impossible dates option is provided, I guess the â€œABRSM fearâ€ (so to speak!) would be that some people would feel the need to put lots of impossible dates, because for them it would then leave only their preferred dates area as available! The solution I think, actually, would be to limit the number of impossible dates you can enter to, say, 3 (or 5?), and then have the current â€œlast possible dateâ€ option also, to help those with other genuinely impossible dates to give a cut-off date at the end, to include those dates impossible for them but not included in the 3 given above. (Obviously a â€œfirst possible dateâ€ is unworkable, as weâ€™d all be tempted to use it to get a late exam, whereas an early exam is not such an alluring prospect â€“ though hopefully few would abuse a â€œfirst possible dateâ€ option overmuch!). These options could be in the â€œcritical optionsâ€ group rather than in the â€œpreferencesâ€ group.
HOW THE OPTIONS ARE SORTED
I guess the Saturdays option would go in the â€œcritical optionsâ€ group, as Saturdays are impossible for some perhaps, but this could only be done if the ABRSM could generally hope to meet such requests. Also, there would be no reason why a Saturdays option could not also be given in the â€œpreferencesâ€ group, since the computer would sort the options in two stages: first, restricting things down to what is available within peopleâ€™s â€œcritical optionsâ€, and secondly finding a best fit within peopleâ€™s â€œpreferencesâ€. The first process would work by finding what dates are left, but the second would work by percentages of preferences (or some similar process) to find a best fit â€“ two quite different processes.
As a teacher who has chosen to provide the â€œlessons in the pupilâ€™s homeâ€ option, rather than providing â€œlessons at the teacherâ€™s homeâ€ or â€œlessons at schoolâ€ services, I would be interested in an A.M./P.M. choice, as my work hours are mostly afternoons and early evenings, to suit school pupils and adults â€“ and when I accompany instrumental or singing pupils on piano, an A.M. exam is useful as it then doesnâ€™t disrupt my lesson schedule. Most exams seem to be in school hours in my recent experience, so I guess the option would be useful for teachers but wouldnâ€™t make much difference to the school pupils taking the exams â€“ but then if it makes no difference to anyone else, the option could be easily met if known to be a preference.
OPTIONS FOR EACH PUPIL?
It certainly is a help if sometimes a teacher can put in two different applications for two different groups of pupils. (Iâ€™ve done this with one board I think, or was it a music festival?). This is probably available at the moment, certainly using paper applications, as you can just send in two forms, but is it available online? â€“ Iâ€™m not sure. Forgetting my suggestions above for a moment, this is important in the current system, as one pupil with various impossible dates doesn't then need to dictate dates (or times) for other pupils. Regarding my option suggestions above, I would tend to put the pupils I need to play piano for on a different application, if I had an A.M./P.M. option. Actually, if things are sorted by computer, the options could all be provided for each pupil â€“ again, at first this sounds like a headache-provider for the ABRSM, but with computerization this makes it easy to sort (perhaps easier?), and with a well laid out form provided, is very simple to do â€“ just a few boxes to fill in or tick at the end of each pupilâ€™s fill-in line. Teachers if they wish could just choose to fill them in all the same for every pupil (for example if they have no parent contact, or choose to not provide the options to their pupils). I see parents at each lesson, so it would be easy and beneficial for me.
WHAT OPTIONS TO PROVIDE
I guess the easiest way to know what â€œcritical optionsâ€ and â€œpreferencesâ€ are really needed, is to start with what people, like myself, have felt they have needed to write on the paper form even though no box was provided, as these were surely the more necessary requests that are currently unavailable (online anyway). This forum discussion is also likely to be immensely valuable for this. The current â€œpreferred weekâ€ option would of course go in the â€œpreferencesâ€ section. If options are done for each pupil, the choice of centre could go in the â€œcritical optionsâ€ for each pupil, which would make it a lot easier for teachers to fill in forms â€“ if they have advanced pianists that they wish to send to a centre with a grand piano, for example, or if they have pupils on both sides of a city to go to different centres.
VENUE & EXAMINER INFO
I agree with others on this that it would be good to have some more details (only a bit on examiners, so as to respect their preferences too). The website would be a great place to give locations and profiles of each venue (a multiple choice type profile, rather than a paragraph of text?), and profiles of each examiner.
Apologies if Iâ€™ve been a bit wordy, just trying to be clear! Many thanks for this opportunity to contribute to the discussion.
Apr 9 2004, 03:01 PM
|QUOTE (AnotherPianist @ Mar 17 2004, 04:15 PM)|
|I voted for good venue facilities because I believe it's essential (especially for pianists as they use the piano provided) for people who have put in a lot of work to have a good instrument to play on (and for other instruments to have a good accompaniment). |
[QUOTE] I SO agree with the fact that it is only fair to offer students a good piano to play and also for the accompanist to play too. Those of us fortunate to have a good piano may well be thrown (as I was only last week) by having to tackle a somewhat veteran piano which is well "past it's sell-by date". Are there criteria by which examination centres and their pianos are assessed? Is it necessary to offer both a grand piano and an upright piano for the examinee to choose from?
Apr 9 2004, 08:11 PM
|Iâ€™m sure in this computerized age that there are many ways that options (for dates etc.) could be given and sorted by computer to give the â€œbest fitâ€. The right consultant could Iâ€™m sure do an excellent job, after a fuller questionnaire or consultation, and after a bit of logical thinking (Iâ€™m thinking of the exam times and dates issue). |
Could this be a job for me ? I am currently doing a PhD in computer science and deal with problems which are quite similar to this one. I can certainly say that this is the sort of thing that can be done by a computer.
Impossible dates would be fairly easy to deal with: my only worry would be that everyone would say the first week is impossible (because anyone not saying that would get the first week as everyone else said it!) so there'd have to be some way of preventing that. Limiting the number allowed would probably help too (although holidays would then not be allowed). The system could, however, track certain people who always say the first week is impossible and give them less priority in an attempt to stop it happening all the time. A preferred-not week would be a lot easier to honour than a preferred week as there's more chance of doing this! The point about being able to split a given teachers pupils if only one pupil has problems with certain exam times is a good one.
It would, of course, be possible to have all the available dates and times available through the online entry system and people could choose from the available slots on a first-come-first-served basis; this would, however, be unfair to those using the postal system and may annoy teachers with a large number of pupils (such people generate a large amount of business...) if they enter late.
Is the system currently automated or is it done by hand at the moment?
Apr 14 2004, 01:12 PM
Convenient date is important (it would be very useful to be able to specify one or two unavailable dates, although an administrative nightmare, I'm sure) but No.1 on my list is:
A warm-up room, with a piano!
I'm a brass teacher, and I've learnt the hard way which centres to avoid - those in private houses where the waiting room is the lounge, and if the student blows a note the invigilator appears instantly and says "shhhh"... or those where if you're a brass player you warm-up in the kitchen with the cat food bowls and the dishwasher for company.
My students need at least 15mins playing beforehand to be at their best, as do most professional brass players. I also like to have a piano to test the speed of the pieces and try a few aural tests - for students playing with an unfamiliar accompanist, the opportunity to play a few bars and check that the accompanist has the correct tempo is vital.
Maybe somebody could post a list of centres with/without this facility or start a thread here... my two-penn'orth so far is: in Herts, avoid Watford and Bushey like the plague, Hemel is fantastic, Harpenden is fine, St Albans has a room but no piano, and in the SE, avoid Hastings, Tunbridge Wells is an excellent centre, even has a cafe on site!
Apr 15 2004, 06:24 AM
I am lucky in that the venue used for my pupils(singing) is wonderful. The acoustics are splendid, the piano superb and the atmosphere could not be better. This is nothing like the awful venues I endured as a child. A waiting/warm-up room is available but perhaps facilities for singers could be improved by the availability of drinking water.
I am impressed by the attitude of examiners and their efforts to put pupils at ease.
Apr 15 2004, 07:54 PM
This term my 4 pupils taking exams were sent to a venue I'd not been to before.Luckily I heard rumours about the place and managed to move 3 of them to other places. The venue was awful;we sat in a rather grubby,cold kitchen waiting.Still,at least we weren't in the shed where we were sent once to wait at one centre.I feel so sorry for the kids when they have worked towards this special day and they are sent to this sort of place.
Apr 15 2004, 08:21 PM
|QUOTE (liz @ Apr 15 2004, 07:54 PM)|
| Still,at least we weren't in the shed where we were sent once to wait at one centre. |
how awful!!!how on earth are exams allowed to take place in places like that?!
Apr 15 2004, 10:15 PM
i would say a variety of things.
first of all, although a candidate's performance is not based solely on who the examiner is, it helps if the examiner seems more like just another person and not someone who will either pass/fail them. perhaps a little more info about the examiner/s and kindness (although i know the board is already working on this) b/c i know of some ppl who have complained that the examiner was too strict on them.
flexibility and times is also very VERY important! i know that the board cannot always make suitable exam appointments for everybody, but it seems to me that many students are dropping their exams b/c of conflicting events. for example, during the week of my teacher's students' exams, there is STAR Testing(CA Testing for middle-schoolers) the whole week and one cannot miss school. i myself have an AP exam on the day of my ABRSM exam - fortunately, i was able to rearrange my AP exam to later in the week. but in the event in which i was not able to do so, i would probably be forced to drop the ABRSM exam as i am still in secondary school and my parents see education more vital to completing. The board must take into consideration that some candidates are still in school and that some people will prioritize school over music (parents).
anyway, this is what i see . . .
Apr 15 2004, 10:47 PM
I agree that a convenient date is the most important thing. At 1 of the centres I use (I teach in different areas) I have found that the date I'm given always falls at the start of the exam period these days, despite my requesting the last available week.
I understand that lots of other people request the last week- it does lead me to question whether, as so many teachers would like exams at the end of term, and the pressure on the last week is so great, a change in the exam weeks might not be overdue. With the best will in the world, it can be difficult to avoid school exams, which in my schools usually are timetabled for earlier in the term;as well as potential clashing dates, it can cause conflict with the demands of practicing/revision. In an ideal world, every student would be ready at the start of term, so the dates shouldn't make a difference-in the real world this isn't always the case!
Apr 16 2004, 08:17 AM
I don't think that it is about when the exam periods are.
There are some (possibly a large minority) who will always ask for the last week because they put in entries before the exam work is completed.
They want the last week to give extra time to finish preparation instead of making sure that their pupils are ready for the exam at the time they post the entry.
Apr 16 2004, 05:35 PM
I think a nice, happy, smiely examiner always helps, especially wen ur nervous.
Apr 16 2004, 09:22 PM
I teach quite a few students at about Grade 8 - diploma level. Despite the fact that I always get my students to practise or give them a lesson on as many different pianos as possible, I notice that they always remark on the quality of the piano that they are examined on. Given the fact that pianist in particular have to cope with different circumstances in a way other instrumentalists do not, would it not be an idea to build into the examination timetable some availability to practise on the "examination piano". I have, in fact in the past, arranged that privately with my local examination centre, but should the Board not cater for this?
Apr 17 2004, 08:39 AM
My choice for the poll is a toss up between two of the points - lots of advance notice of the date and a convenient time of day. I teach after picking my daughter up from school, so any appointment after about 2.30pm causes me a lot of reorganisation for my daughter and then for my pupils. It can get quite awkward. I also accompany other people's students in their exams, so I have no say as to when (date or time of day) these happen either.To be able to specify the time of day for exams would be great. Alternatively, lots of advance notice of the date of the exams are essential so that I've got time to make other arrangements.
Apr 17 2004, 12:30 PM
As a piano teacher I see this issue from two perspectives. Good facilities, expecially the piano, are essential to the piano pupil. So often the pianos that pupils are asked to take exams on are not up to scratch. Pianists do not have the luxury of playing on their own instrument for exams! Therefore the piano should be up to the job. Too often the exam is taken in a room far too small for a piano to sound properly and the action can leave an awful lot to be desired. Often the room is so small the examiner is almost sitting on top of the candidate as he/she plays.
My other perspective is as an accompanist. Often venues do not have a practise room available. Too often I have seen, for example, Grade One pupils of other teachers, waiting nervously for an accompanist, that they may have never met, turn up "only just in time" for the exam! This is definitely not a good exam experience for the pupil. I know from personal experience how hard it is for accompanists to fit in all their commitments during exam season. So I have no answers to this issue. However, the last thing I would want, would be (sorry to mention this here) for valuable income to be restricted to a favorite few accompanists favoured by specific exam centres as they are the "Authorised" accompanist for the session.
Apr 17 2004, 09:49 PM
|QUOTE (sbhoa @ Apr 16 2004, 08:17 AM)|
| I don't think that it is about when the exam periods are.|
There are some (who will always ask for the last week because they put in entries before the exam work is completed.
Obviously as teachers we make a professional assessment as to whether a student is ready before entering them-that's part of our job! But it's interesting that the biggest majority in the poll so far have been in favour of a convenient date. I think the demand for exams towards the end of term goes further than students not being prepared early enough. I have also used LCM board in the past; our local centre runs their exams at the end of term, which is very popular with teachers - like it or not, there are a lot more conflicting pressures on able students these days than when I was learning! :
Apr 18 2004, 09:54 AM
As a teacher I have been tutoring in MK for 5 years and I have no problems with the venue or the piano. From both the parents point of view and my own, the only issue we have is not knowing early enough about exam dates. However, this concern is only a problem in the summer term, due to booking holidays away. I agree with an earlier posting that an exclude week option would be highly beneficial.
Apr 19 2004, 10:38 AM
The way in which the Board asks for date options is very limiting. It ought to be possible to answer in much more detail if the need arises.
eg Which day of the week would you prefer?
Which days of the week should be avoided?
Which time within the day would you prefer (eg morning early, late morning late, early afternoon early, late afternoon)?
Outside school hours?
Outside business hours?
Which dates should be avoided altogether? (Subject to a limit of say 6 working days, otherwise everyone might ask to exclude all days except the last)
Why can't exams be during the school holidays?