Which exam board has the most relevant aural and tech work requirements? Which has the most music to choose from? Which system allows students to practise their sight-reading in the exam before being tested? Which has the shortest enrolment lead-times? Which exam board is the cheapest?
In this Australian Piano Exams post, I answer these questions and more, but before we begin, let’s find out what system everyone currently uses:
The opening questions were the basis of my online research this weekend after becoming frustrated with aspects of the AMEB system on which I was brought up and now prepare my own students for. So my first question is – do you still use the same exam system that you experienced as a child or have you ‘crossed over’?!
So, to the results. With Google at my fingertips, I put together a spreadsheet (Comparison of Piano Exams) comparing what I felt were important aspects of each system and the results were quite surprising. For example, I was sure that the 2.5 months lead-time that the AMEB needs to prepare each exam period had to be way longer than the others, but no, they are actually the shortest on average. Similarly, I was surprised to know that the AMEB’s repertoire list for each grade is substantially larger than any other exam syllabus – many of the others only offer 6-8 pieces maximum for each list at each grade.
By the way, please be aware that I only have exam experience with the AMEB so all the information in the attached spreadsheet I have gathered from online sources. There may be errors or omissions, so please do check things our yourself before you make any decisions about changing exam systems. If I’ve got something wrong, please let me know as I’m eager to learn more myself, but I certainly don’t make any claims that I’m an expert in this!
Here are my condensed findings:
1. Love ’em or hate ’em, the AMEB is still the music exam standard in Australia and likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. That said, I encourage teachers to explore other options if they believe that another method might be more developmentally and pedagogically sound.
2. ANZCA seems to have the most diverse offerings for students including “modern piano”, “piano for all occasions”, “digital piano”, ensembles, etc. but the level expected of each exam seems to be less than the AMEB equivalent standard.
3. Trinity looks like a more progressive version of the AMEB (consider recent changes to technical work in 2012 syllabus). But they still have very limited repertoire choices for candidates. Otherwise, these systems aren’t that dissimilar.
4. Strangely enough, given the importance given to AmusA and LmusA qualifications in Australia, they are still the cheapest diplomas of them all!
With all that said and done, I can’t look past the huge number of pieces offered for each level by the AMEB compared to all the others. It’s so important that students can choose pieces they enjoy playing for their exams; until the other exam boards can match AMEB in variety of repertoire offered, I think I have to put this feature in front of any improvements to sight-reading, aural or technical work for my students.Mind you, the AMEB still has a lot to learn from the other boards!
So which one is the best? Well, I guess that still comes down to your own opinion, but I hope the above information has been useful.
Since writing this article, I’m now aware of two other systems available in Australia (click to find out more):
I shall be doing more research on these in the coming months!
Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.