ABRSM Scales and Arpeggios in Exams

To do well in the ABRSM scales and arpeggios section of the exam simply takes well-guided practice. Where there are tell-tale signs of poor technique, take the time and effort to correct the technique. Prepare for this section and it will pay off both in this section and in the overall exam and musical learning.

Playing ABRSM Scales Well

Playing scales well involves having good control of the fingers and a generally relaxed posture which includes body, arms, shoulders and wrists.

In my piano lessons, I often correct scales technique that surface these tell-tale signs:

1. Uneven tone (loudness) including thumb accents
2. Uneven rhythm
3. Unsynchronised hands when playing hands together
4. Inability to play the entire scale without stopping
5. Tired/Tense back, arms or shoulders during/after playing scales

If you are able to play your scales well and confidently without error, it is much more likely that you are technically adequate for the pieces in your grade.

Listen for a completely even tone or sound quality for every note. Avoid accenting the the thumb that tends to be heavy and often louder than the other notes.

To score a very good mark, you will need to think of scales as phrases or beautiful musical sentences (no matter how "boring" they may sound).

Enjoy this excellent video Piano Masterclass on Scales and Arpeggios!

Practice tips for Scales and Arpeggios

1. Memorise your scales and arpeggios securely

2. Start practise slowly - as slow as needed

3. Use appropriate fingering (usually the suggested fingering works)

4. Practise hands separately before playing hands together

5. Keep relaxed with firm fingertips

6. Increasing the tempo or speed should be the final important goal, and should be worked at in small incremental steps

7. Always listen carefully to the evenness and clarity of the tone produced

8. Aim to make the scale or arpeggio sound beautiful with a musical shape

ABRSM Scales and Arpeggios Marking

The maximum score for scales and arpeggios in an ABRSM exam is 21.

Minimum to pass (14-16):

Respond with little hesitation
Moderate tempo
Sufficient preparation
Little unevenness

To get a good mark - Merit (17-18):

Respond readily
Good tempo
Mostly secure and even

To get a very good mark - Distinction (19-21):

Respond quickly
Technically effortless
Musically presented
Confident and even

Information on ABRSM music exams marking:

ABRSM Exam Pieces

ABRSM Sight Reading


› ABRSM Scales Marking