Whether playing for pleasure or as a professional, there is likely to come a time when you will be faced with a piano examination, such as the ABRSM piano exam. Like any exam, preparation is key. But when the time comes, how can you make sure that everything goes according to plan?
Before the Exam
- In the weeks leading up to your exam, this is when you will want to increase your rehearsal. Focus specifically on the pieces that you will be playing on the day. It can be easier (and more satisfying) to only go over the pieces that you find easier to play. In your piano lessons, your teacher is going to notice the pieces that you are struggling with. Don’t be afraid to tackle them head-on. Working on the toughest parts is going to make you feel more confident on the day of your test.
- Also, do a mock version of the exam, so you know exactly what to expect and what will be required of you. The more familiar it feels, the less nervous you are likely to be on the day. Do a run-through of what will happen on the day, under exam conditions.
On the Day of the Exam
- If you have never been to the place where your exam is being held before, leave plenty of time to make the journey. Being late and turning up flustered is going to throw your focus. Remember: early is on time and on time is late. Aim to be at least 10 minutes early. Keep the phone number of your piano teacher and the address of the exam venue handy, because no matter how much you prepare, sometimes things do happen outside of your control. If you’re likely to be late, call ahead of time.
- Make sure that you have something to eat. A great breakfast or a healthy lunch on exam day will improve your focus. We all know that it’s difficult to concentrate if you’re hungry, so even if it’s just fruit, do try to eat something.
- This isn’t one that many think about, but avoid wearing something that is going to hinder your playing or be a distraction during your exam. Wear something practical and comfortable — leave the loud bangles at home.
During the Exam
- Get your instrument ready before you go in. Whether you’re at a grand piano or an upright, it is key to make sure that you are comfortable. Take time to adjust your stool if necessary and play a few scales, to get you in the zone to play at your best.
- As you likely know what to expect by this point, take a few deep breaths and pace yourself. Try not to worry about pausing between pieces. If you would feel more comfortable doing the exam in a different order, that is usually fine as long as you ask your examiner.
- Don’t panic if you make a mistake. You won’t be the first or the last. Carry on as best you can from it. It is never as bad as it seems at the time. If your examiner stops you during a piece, don’t be alarmed — it may be because they have heard enough to determine the mark.
If the thought of a piano exam is overwhelming, remember that it is just a chance to show off what you and your piano teacher are already sure that you know. The time goes by much faster than you would think and the examiner is rooting for you. Try to enjoy the experience. Good luck!
Need help preparing for a specific test like the ABRSM piano exam? Check out our tips here.
About the Author:
Freya is an avid pianist. Along with her love for cooking, she also deals in piano sales & write in her spare time.
Photo by Yuliya Nemova