ABRSM aural is a small but essential section of the exam. In my teaching experience, I find that many teachers neglect the aural section during piano lessons. Being good at aural whether in an ABRSM exam or in learning music in general is very rewarding.
Even though it takes consistent training over a period of time to pick up good aural skills, these skills stay with you for a very long time. Besides attaining high scores in aural tests, good aural skills also help overall musical learning.
Many students find this part of the practical exam challenging. However, the time and effort invested in aural training is well worth it and makes a more well-rounded musician.
With my students, earliest piano lessons focus on listening and learning to use their ears effectively - a skill that will reap rewards for a lifetime playing music.
Hearing is keenest between the ages of 3 and 8, hence consistent and systematic training at this age is ideal. In my teaching experience, I've found that early training say at age 4 or 5 in listening to pitch and harmony as well as building a sense of beat and rhythm is invaluable to future music learning. At this age, not all children are mature enough for a formal piano lesson but are often able to manage an interesting music foundation class.
At any other age however, with enough consistent practice, aural skills can still be learnt well. The more consistent the practice, the better the progress.
Most commonly, aural testing is conducted using a piano with someone
playing for you. Alternatively, aural training CDs with pre-recorded practice tests may be used.
Students usually need guidance to know what to listen out for in each aural test. Having good instruction from a piano teacher is often key to being proficient in aural tests. Always remember to listen carefully and always redo a practice test if required!
In Singapore, both ABRSM and Professor Edward Ho have come up with ABRSM exam aural tests and CDs that are invaluable for exam preparation. Consistent practice with CDs can give good results. This is especially essential at higher grades.
Aural tests carry a weightage of 18 out of 150 marks. The tests are progressive from one grade to the next.
At lower grades, recognising basic musical features like beat, rhythm, melody, dynamics and tempo are tested. Identifying musical periods is introduced at Grade 5 for ABRSM.
In higher grades, more in-depth knowledge and keener aural perception are required. Tests may include listening or singing in parts, chords, cadences, modulations and perception of style, period and structure.
Minimum to pass (12-14):
Correct responses to about half the tests
Aware, even though with hesitation and error
To get a good mark (15-16):
Good responses but with little hesitation
To get a very good mark (17-18):
Quick and accurate, perceptive responses