Skip to main content

About Performance Grades

Introducing Performance Grades

To avoid 28-day exam deadlines falling during the Christmas holiday period, we are closing booking for all digital exams from 23.59 on 24 November to 00.00 on 5 December (UK times). 

Performance Grades are digital exams. They are assessed from a video recording submitted by the candidate and are available for the following levels and subjects: 

  • Initial Grade: Piano and Bowed Strings only 
  • Grades 1 to 8: a range of instruments and singing plus Singing for Musical Theatre 
  • Grades 1 to 5: Jazz instruments – exams available from January 2024 

The exams are equivalent in demand and value to our Practical Grades but have a different emphasis with a strong focus on performance, including communication, interpretation and delivery. 

Performance Grades are available on-demand. There are no booking periods or exam sessions so you can choose when to book, record and submit the exam. You can submit your video when you book or at any time during the next 28 days.   

The qualification specification, available to download on this page, includes detailed information about exam requirements, preparing for the exam, the marking criteria and results. For repertoire lists and information about choosing and performing your exam programme use the syllabus selector below.  

You should also read our information about recording, uploading and submitting your exam, available on our Performance Grades guidance page.

Why take a Performance Grade?

Performance Grades are open to learners of any age and you can start with any grade and skip grades if you want to. We've designed them to inspire and challenge and to recognise and celebrate progress.  

Working towards a Performance Grade encourages learners to develop their performance skills and get the most from their music making. 

Who can take Performance Grades

What’s in the exam

Pieces or songs 

  • A performance of four pieces or songs presented as a continuous programme.  
  • For Jazz Performance Grades, all pieces must be from the syllabus – with at least one from each list.
  • For all other subjects, three pieces or songs must be from the syllabus (one from each list) and one is your own choice.   

You can find repertoire lists, programme requirements and timings in the syllabus for your subject, see below.    

young girl smiles with a violin
How we mark exams

There are 150 marks available in total. You need: 

  • 100 marks for a pass 
  • 120 marks for a merit 
  • 130 marks for a distinction 

Each piece or song is marked out of 30 and there are 30 additional marks available for the performance as a whole. 

You can find more information about marking, including the marking criteria that examiners use, in the relevant qualification specification, available to download at the top of this page.   


Why don’t Performance Grades include scales, sight-reading and aural tests?

Performance Grades provide an alternative to Practical Grades. All our exams offer a framework for motivating and recognising achievement, rather than a curriculum for teaching. 

We believe that learners should develop a wide range of skills to provide a foundation for musical performance and help them to grow as musicians. These skills include those assessed through our technical, sight-reading and aural tests: technical agility, responding to notation, and hearing and understanding how music works. We will always encourage and support the development of these skills through our books, resources, apps and teacher development work. 

We also know that all teachers have their own approaches and will continue to build technical, sight-reading and aural skills into their lessons in the way that best suits their students. When it comes to exams, they can now choose between one that assesses these skills individually in different sections, and one that assesses them holistically by focusing entirely on performance. Strengths in these core areas of musical skill will still be of enormous benefit and will positively affect the musical outcome in the exam. 

How should I select the fourth, own choice, piece?

The fourth piece can be another piece from the ABRSM syllabus or any published piece of a similar level.  It should be broadly the same standard (or above) as the repertoire set for the grade being taken. There are plenty of ways to identify suitable music, from looking at exam listings past and present to the guidance publishers give on their books. 

Choose music you enjoy, that matches your musical personality and that you can play confidently. Aim to choose a piece that completes the set of four in a musically satisfying way. 

You can present your pieces in the order that feels best as a performance.  

a man plays his bowed strings instrument

Don’t miss out!

Join our community today. Subscribe to our mailing list and be the first to receive updates on all the latest news from ABRSM

Cello with colourway