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Exams can generate panic in all ages and ability, but it's only an isolated performance. Here's some hints and tips on how to prepare for the big day, with some notes on perspective! 

  • Know the syllabus.
  • If you’re undertaking Trinity Exams, you may be doing Musical Knowledge over Scales, Improvisation instead of Aural. Regardless of the exam board, be clear you know what you’re doing, and what the examiner is marking you on.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Fail to prepare – prepare to fail. It’s harsh, but true. If you’ve put the work in, you’ll know you’ve done the very best you can. The exam is an opportunity to demonstrate what you can do.
  • Face your fears. Know which part of the syllabus you need to work on most, and what you can improve, and then work on it. If you hate sight-reading or aural, don’t put off working on it – it won’t go away! But at the end of the day, things like aural aren’t worth many marks, and it really doesn’t matter if it goes wrong on the day, just know what type of questions the examiner will ask and try your best.
  • Don’t be late! Try and get to the exam in plenty of time so you’ve got chance to warm up. Know the order you are playing the pieces in, and rehearse with the accompanist beforehand. And make sure you have a spare reed - just in case!
  • Keep calm and carry on! Remember the examiner wants you to do well and will take into account nerves. Your teacher entered you for the exam because they believe you will pass. The exam is an opportunity to demonstrate how well you can play. So stand tall, take a deep breath and smile; try to relax and really express your musical ability.

Afterthought: Seriously, it’s only an exam! It is not the be all and end all; no matter how it goes or what mark you get, playing music is supposed to be fun, and the fact you can play an instrument is a great achievement regardless if you’re doing Grade 1, or a diploma. So just enjoy yourself and show off!


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