Why teach the ABRSM Syllabus?

ABRSM Syllabus

This week’s blog is about why I teach using the ABRSM syllabus

When choosing a music teacher, one of the things you should consider is which exam syllabus they teach – even if exams aren’t for you.

ABRSM (The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) is the UK’s largest music education body and, whilst biggest isn’t always best, I find that following their syllabuses is the best thing for me to do as a teacher.

Some people prefer to follow the Trinity syllabus – often giving the reason that there is no Theory prerequisite. I think that to be a really good all-round musician, you need to have a pretty good knowledge of the theory of the thing you’re studying. With ABRSM you need to take Grade 5 music theory before you can take practical exams of Grade 6 or above, but I really don’t see that as a negative. In Trinity’s exams there are also supporting tests that require candidates to improvise. Whilst this may be a useful skill for some instruments – saxophone, for example – I would say that this is much more of a challenge for many that sitting a Theory test!

The ABRSM syllabus gives my students a really good grounding in a range of different musical genres too. In singing, List A pieces are usually from the Classical or Baroque era, List B pieces are quite often from the Romantic era and require you to sing in a foreign language, and List C are more modern pieces – sometimes music theatre. You then also learn an unaccompanied folk song. So a really good mixture of pieces to learn and I encourage students to learn at least two pieces from each list when starting a particular grade – just to see how things go.

The piano syllabus is fairly similar in the eras it covers, again getting you to use a range of useful techniques and increasing your overall musical knowledge.

And what if exams aren’t for you? That’s completely fine – exams aren’t for everyone and some people just want to learn for fun! But you are paying me to help you to improve then checking in with an exam syllabus – just every now and then – can be a really good way to judge how you’re progressing with your studies.

And if exams are for you and you want to take them for UCAS points, or if you’re thinking about wanting to study music at university or a conservatoire, having studied the ABRSM syllabus (especially if you take their Diploma exams) will set you up really well and your qualifications will be internationally recognised.


If you have any questions about what taking ABRSM exams involves or anything in this blog post, please get in touch!