ABRSM Exam Pieces

As a piano teacher, I have seen many transfer students score poorly in higher grades after doing very well at lower grades.  At my studio, it brings me great joy to see many students do even better at higher grades as they develop right technique and listening skills over time.

While you can get quite a good mark playing all the correct notes in the correct rhythm and tempo with clear dynamics in lower grades, this alone is unlikely to score well in higher grades.

How do I keep on doing well?

In order to keep doing well in exams, sufficient time to build up necessary skills is required between exams. It is especially important to make sure that technical and listening skills are adequately built up to tackle the challenging higher grade pieces.

ABRSM exam pieces marking criteria are increasingly stringent, especially after grade 5.

From grade 6 onwards, attention to technical and musical details and excellent control of the piano are needed in order score well.

To do very well, the candidate needs to not only play the pieces well. There must also be a sense of involvement when playing the pieces and communication to the listener of styles and moods of the pieces played.

ABRSM Exam Pieces Marking

Each of the three ABRSM exam pieces carries 30 marks, making a total of 90 marks. Since total score for the exam is 150, pieces have a weightage of 60% of the final score.

Grades 1-5

Minimum to pass (20-23):

Suitable tempo
Continuity of performance
Generally correct notes played rhythmically
Careful preparation

To get a good mark - Merit (24-26):

Suitable tempo
Sense of character or mood
Good rhythmic sense
Technically acceptable
Attention to dynamics and phrasing

To get a very good mark - Distinction (27-30):

Technically very secure
Sensitive to musical detail and mood
Good tempo
Sense of communication

Grade 6-8

Minimum to pass (20-23):

Technically secure
Appropriate tempo
Good accuracy in notes and rhythm
Some dynamics
Some attention to style

To get a good mark - Merit (24-26):

Good technical and tonal control
Musical character
Good tempo
Attention to style
Attention to musical detail

To get a very good mark - Distinction (27-30):

Technically authoritative
Sensitive to tonal qualities, rubato, mood
Sense of communication

Information on ABRSM music exams marking:

ABRSM Scales

ABRSM Sight Reading


› ABRSM Pieces Marking