Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM

Posted by: grandpiano

Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 10/29/06 02:31 AM

Has anyone compared these exams for piano students?

1. The Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada
2. Associated Board of The Royal Schools of Music
3. Certificate of Merit in California

The only comparison I have found is from rcmexaminations.org, where it states that ABRSM Grade 5 theory is only equivalent to RCM Grade 2 theory (Rudiments), and ABRSM Grade 8 to RCM Grade 3 (Harmony).

I am in California, and can't have my kid take the RCM exam. I don't know if ABRSM exam has a higher standard than CM.

Unlike RCM and ABRSM, the CM syllabi are not directly available to parents/students. There are nearly 30 thousand students who participate in CM anually. It seems that it's simply too crowded to have a high quality/standard.

Any comments?
Posted by: Codetta

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 10/29/06 07:51 PM

I'm a CA teacher who has students in CM and I am also an evaluator. From my experience I find the quality very high both in the performance and theory areas. Within each level there are many pieces from which a teacher may choose. The exams themselves are structured and very thorough. THE ABRSM has a time limit on the theory exam whereas CM does not - a student can take as long as he/she needs. Not so with the former.

In quickly looking over the website I noticed that there are no memory requirements for pianists. Now I know this can be a sticky subject but CM does have memory requirements. Each level has a minimum memory requirementand how many pieces one wishes to memorize at a certain level results in being able to perform at the Branch level or at the annual state convention.

I do know that the CM exams require a high level of proficiency in all fields. I allow my students and their parents to look at the syllabus if they choose. I don't know of any reason that you couldn't have a copy - just ask the teacher. If I find out differently I'll post it here.

Does this help? Do you need more info? Let me know.
Posted by: dumdumdiddle

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 10/29/06 08:36 PM

I also have students who do CM. I don't understand the comment about it being too crowded, and how that somehow affects the quality of the program. Each branch is given a certain number of adjudicators based on the number of enrolled students in CM. It's never been a problem for our branch. Although I have a few 'gripes' about some of the technical requirements for certain levels, overall it's an excellent program. Students must know scales/chords/arpeggios for their level, they perform memorized pieces, they must sightplay, and they take a theory/ear training exam. It's a very comprehensive program; students reaching levels 8+ can often place out of their college music theory class.
Posted by: Codetta

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 10/30/06 01:39 PM

The CM syllabus IS directly available to non-members. I don't know why thought it wasn't. Go to MTAC.org and click on to the Certificate of Merit and scroll down to "syllabus". The info is all there - where to call or send in the order for the syllabus.
Posted by: nuteachr

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 10/30/06 06:28 PM

I can't speak for CM.....but here in Oregon, our syllabus is significantly sub-par to RCM's standards at each level. My experience is that most teachers in Oregon would agree with me.

You can't enter your child in RCM syllabus testing? I do know that there are a few places in USA that do hold RCM examinations. The dates and locations are somewhat restrictive, but it is possible. I did find a link somewhere to this info., but can't find it right now. I'll keep searching.
Posted by: SCCDoug

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 10/31/06 02:06 PM

We actually switched our kids out of RCM to Conservatory Canada (CC) a few years ago. Their standards are somewhat tougher than RCM, for example I believe they start keyboard harmony testing about Grade 5, and their syllabus often straddles a couple of RCM grades. The exams are set with adequate time to allow the students to play through all their repetroire without interuption, something that drove me crazy with RCM. You can optionally book a short lesson to follow the exam, where both teacher and student participate. These have frequently been very productive sessions.
Posted by: Piano&Flute

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 10/31/06 02:29 PM

There are actually two new conservatory programs in Canada now, Conservatory Canada and the Canadian National Conservatory of Music. It has been interesting to look at what each one offers, and I love the extended time allowed in the Conservatory Canada exams. The RCM is still the "standard" in Canada though and usually the only recognizable program, which is why I still tend to send my students through them. The other two are fairly new so I guess I would like to wait and see if they stick around and make more of a name for themselves. That could happen pretty quickly though and I would welcome an alternative with the same reputation as RCM.
Posted by: SCCDoug

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 10/31/06 09:31 PM

Actually Stephanie I don't think there is much of a recognition issue with CC now. Every university programme our eldest applied for (U of Sask., Mount Allison, U of T and Laurier) recognized her CC standing in voice, theory and piano. In Saskatchewan the high school grade level equivalents are accepted similar to RCM.
Posted by: Piano&Flute

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 10/31/06 10:40 PM

Good to know, Doug. More choices can only be better for music students and teachers. I have actually ordered the syllabus for CC and CNCM so that I can compare and contrast each program. As a teacher anything that can help me personalize instruction for different students even more is a great thing!
Posted by: btb

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/04/06 04:10 AM

Having contributed weekly newsletter articles to the UK Piano Teachers Group (now defunct) over a period of 5 years ... with most of the members using the ABRSM for examinations ... it was noticeable however ... news from US members ...that the States prefer students to concentrate more on the *playing* of set pieces than on the theory.

It is my contention that the ABRSM are guilty of making too much of meal of key signature education ... systematically grinding through all
24 key signatures (major and minor) by the Grade 5 exam.

Statistics reveal a resultant wasteful drop-out of pupils at Grade 5.

With 30% of exam marks being taken up by this ill-judged theory component, the ABRSM are further hamstrung in finding suitable set pieces which match the richness of key signatures ... with resultant dull set-piece fare which kills off youthful enthusiasm.

With the majority of the piano-trained population only likely to tackle works with a modest (2-3) key signature in a lifetime ... it is suggested that the US policy (exams appear to be taboo) is far better off in concentrating on the “playing” of set pieces falling within a modest key signature range ... let’s hope the Canadian exam systems follow this lead.
Posted by: Piano&Flute

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/04/06 07:04 PM

Other than scales, I don't remember teaching or playing songs with 5 or more sharps or flats until about grade 7 with the RCM. By the time students get that high up in a conservatory program they should be tackling harder key signatures. For me, the fear of learning a song with 6 or 7 sharps is much worse than actually learning it.
Posted by: caperflutist

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/04/06 10:47 PM

Exactly Stephanie. Once you know your scales and key sigs well, it doesn't really matter how many flats/sharps there are.
Posted by: btb

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 01:51 AM

It’s all very well to make throwaway comments about key signature proficiency ... but the truth is that the higher the accidental richness the scarier the challenge and the slower the sight-reading ... with the inevitable drag on tempo.

As George Gershwin managed to write all his hits within a 3 accidental key signature range (good for business) ... and that nobody in their right
mind would ever compose these days in an absurd
7 sharps or flats ... it is suggested that piano teachers promote their best interests by
including an initial pupil set piece selection of easy key signatures.
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 03:27 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
It’s all very well to make throwaway comments about key signature proficiency ... but the truth is that the higher the accidental richness the scarier the challenge and the slower the sight-reading ... with the inevitable drag on tempo.

[/b]
Btb, what evidence of this do you have other than your own reading experience?
Posted by: btb

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 04:31 AM

A 5 year sojourn with weekly newsletters within the the 400 membership of the UK PTG (as earlier mentioned) provided an independent audit.

My own observations tell the story of pupils ... and for that matter the wider world ... judging their capabilities in terms of the key signature of a new piece of keyboard music ... comments like ... " no way!!" usually followed by a back-turn in utter incredulity of the imposibility of the task ... say that "I'm not ready".

But you don't have to be very bright to know that
the C# key signature is more difficult to sight read than that of C.
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 06:13 AM

D flat major is one of my favorite keys for sight reading. ;\)

You are quite right. C major is easier to read than C# major. But why is that? I would say it is simply because we very rarely read in C# major. If we played in C# major rather than C major all the time there would be no problem.

grandpiano, it seems from your original post that ABRSM is probably the only option for you kid. I have had a lot of experience with ABRSM so I will tell you what I know.

For a start, I don't think it is suitable for everyone. You do get a good choice of pieces (3 to be picked from 18 in the early grades). However, list A pieces are taken from the Baroque and Classical era, list B is romantic and list C something from the 20th Century. This provides a variety of styles but does mean you have to be adaptable and prepared to play piano music from these periods. Many children today are not interested in 'old' music and will struggle to get motivated.

The supporting tests can also be quite limited. In this I would agree with btb. The scale requirements are too broken up for my liking. I don't see why you should wait until grade 5 before playing F# major. It is an easy scale. Within a few weeks it is possible to teach all the scales and key signatures. The ABRSM take a more relaxed approach adding a few keys here and there until grade 5 where all are played.

The sight reading test is rather pointless. The best way to improve this skill is to play more music. If you study for an ABRSM exam it is easy to fall into the trap of playing just 3 pieces for months. If you do this your sight reading skills will not improve. The tests they use for the exams are often contrived and obscure.

Aural tests form a small part of the exam. They are quite basic throughout the first 5 grades which do not provide good preparation for the higher grade tests. I remember having to sing and identify intervals when I took ABRSM years ago. For some reason this useful test has been scrapped.

My main gripe is the marking system. This may be just a problem in the UK but I suspect not. Nobody really fails these exams. I have know people who should not pass and yet come out waving the certificate. What is the point in an exam which is almost impossible to fail? This leads me to believe that it is mostly about making money for the board.

I would rather people learn to play the piano because they want to play music rather than just pass exams. That said, they do seem to be a big motivating factor over here. Many children and their parents are only interested in getting the next grade. It is not that important to me.

Whatever you decide, pay no attention to this ridiculous view of 'key signature education'. Understanding key signatures is something you can't avoid by choosing a different exam board.
Posted by: btb

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 07:59 AM

Hi ChrisH,
Wow! You’ve certainly done a hatchet job on the ABRSM exam system.

“I don't think it is suitable for everyone .
You do get a good choice of pieces ... however, list A pieces are taken from the Baroque and Classical era ... many children today are not interested in 'old' music and will struggle to get motivated.
The supporting tests can also be quite limited. The scale requirements are too broken up for my liking.
I don't see why you should wait until grade 5 before playing F# major.
The sight reading test is rather pointless.
The tests they use for the exams are often contrived and obscure.
My main gripe is the marking system.
I have know people who should not pass and yet come out waving the certificate.
This leads me to believe that it is mostly about making money for the board.”

Agree with every point you made especially the “making money” jibe ... but excepting the “good choice of pieces” ... the 3 out of 18 choice might be good ... but the actual selection ... a rifling of the bones of obscure dead-wood composers ... an insult to the bright Computer generation.




Wow! You’ve certainly exposed the weaknesses in the ABRSM exam system.
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 08:11 AM

At last we agree on something.
Posted by: Piano&Flute

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 09:49 AM

It's all very well to make throwaway comments about key signature proficiency.....but the truth is that the higher the accidental richness the scarier the challenge[/b]

btb: I would hardly call what I said a throw away comment. I am speaking from my own personal experience, not generalizing from comments I have heard only from others.

Especially if one has chosen to progress in music through a conservatory system it would be rather limiting to be stuck to only "easier" key signatures. Gershwin may have stuck to three sharps, but most of the great classical and romantic composers, like Chopin, did not. Also, many of my students love to learn "old" music, as well as other genres.

There are definitely good and bad points to the conservatory system, however if a student wants to go that route and progress to the higher levels or go on to university music, these "scary" challenges should be taken or how do you keep progressing. To avoid the challenge is not only limiting, but kind of wimpy as well. My love for certain songs has made me more than willing to tackle a harder key signature. And lets face it, trying to progress in anything anything (music, sports, mathematics, etc.) means taking on challenges to become better. Not to mention, personally I like keys with 5 or more sharps. Once you get used to them they fit quite nicely under the fingers. As with any part of music, the more you practice playing harder key signatures, the easier it gets.

Everyone wants different things out of a musical education, and quite honestly, if never playing a song with more than 3 sharps is the goal, then a traditional conservatory system might not be the best method. Other options should be available for those people. I should also add, that the new CCM does allow for more popular music choices for students who are not interested in "old" music.

I am taking about higher conservatory levels here in Canada. However, on a side note, I have had the pleasure of teaching young students who have immigrated here from Korea. By the time they have been playing for two or three years, they actually cover almost all the key signatures in their method books and have no problem with it. This was amazing to me. Maybe someone from Korea is out there who can elaborate.
Posted by: btb

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 02:02 PM

The term ‘throwaway' has no connotation of disrespect ... your passing comment could give
the impression that knowing all the key signatures is a prerequisite to a quality musical
education ... which you obviously have ... my plea is simply to keep more young hopefuls in
the game by priming their progress within more manageable key signatures.
Posted by: MA

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 04:30 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by StephanieF:
Other than scales, I don't remember teaching or playing songs with 5 or more sharps or flats until about grade 7 with the RCM. By the time students get that high up in a conservatory program they should be tackling harder key signatures. For me, the fear of learning a song with 6 or 7 sharps is much worse than actually learning it. [/b]
There is at least one song (Halloween Prank) in the first RCM repertoire book (introductory level). All the notes in that song are black keys. I don't remember which key signature it is. At least my kid had no trouble with it at all.

I think if you start young children with not just C Major 5-finger position and start them early in all kinds of key signatures (including the flat Major keys, some of which have many black keys) they will get used to them just like the white keys.
Posted by: Piano&Flute

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 04:54 PM

Originally posted by MA:
There is at least one song (Halloween Prank) in the first RCM repertoire book (introductory level). All the notes in that song are black keys. I don't remember which key signature it is. At least my kid had no trouble with it at all.

That song is the exception though rather than the norm. Almost all the songs in the intro and grade 1 books have one, maybe two sharps or flats at most, usually only one. The odd one in the 20th century composer section will have a harder key signature. It is not mandatory that that particular song be learned, as students are not required to learn every song in the RCM repertoire books. However you bring up a good point as that song is level appropriate. The key signature may look scary at first, but the song isn't anymore difficult that the others in the book.
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 05:04 PM

Yes, good point MA. Loads of kids I know can only play one thing on the piano. Chopsticks in F# major.
Posted by: starsea49

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 07:03 PM

In the fareast, candidates who cannot make it in the ABRSM exams are forced into taking the other 3 recognized exams such as the LCM, Trinity and Guildhall.

RCM and the rest still fail to make the mark for college recognition, thus no job market value.

Schools and instituitions do not recognise RCM and the rest for course credits.

Having taken all these exams myself all my life + having all my students in all these various exams ... i totally inderstand why ABRSM is still the benchmark.

Pick up the Oxford Dictionary of Music - look under degrees and diplomas of music .... you'll gain a better understanding ...
Posted by: starsea49

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 07:12 PM

Chris H : I totally agree with you with regards to the ABRSM board making money .... my point would be to point out that other boards have even a lower passing standard with the same objective, only in a greedier sense.

When i was younger, my parents would enter the same piece for me in several different boards to compare their standards .... i would barely scrape the bottom in ABRSM, while scoring distinction with others ... interesting .... i still do the same thing with some of my students'parents who can afford the examination fees ... reading the examiners' reports can be a very hilarious experience.
Posted by: Piano&Flute

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/06/06 10:40 PM

I wish the ABRSM held exams in Canada. It would be nice to have a real internationally recognized alternative to the RCM.
Posted by: starsea49

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/07/06 10:14 AM

The last i heard (that was 3 years ago) ABRSM does hold exams in Canada .... otherwise, you could be their examinations representative - you only need 40 candidates to sign up.
Posted by: grandpiano

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/07/06 04:47 PM

Lots of helpful comments here! It seems that RCM has a higher standard, at least in the Theory part, than ABRSM. However, ABRSM is more well-known internationally.

I suppose if you don't want your child to make a career out of playing piano but still want him to play as well as a professional pianist, something like RCM would be a better choice.

Can any teacher compare Certificate of Merit (CM) in California with ABRSM and RCM? Based on what I have seen, CM's Technique part has a very low standard for passing.

Your child's teacher must be a member of Music Teacher Association of California if you want him to be tested by CM exam. I have heard the same thing about ABRSM. There is probably no teacher who is a member of both. So having your child taking both exams is impracticle.

What about RCM? Is it true that your child's teacher must be a member of RCM?
Posted by: Piano&Flute

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/07/06 05:04 PM

You have to apply for a teacher number with the RCM to send your students for exams. To be perfectly honest I am not sure if they have a minimum requirement for a teacher to get an RCM teacher number. I know of teachers who only did their Grade 8 exam and are able to send students for RCM exams. So, as for a teacher being a member of the RCM, it is no guarantee of their education level. If somebody knows more, I would love to hear.

The Registered Music Teachers Associations in Canada are totally separate and have minimum standards for membership (conservatory diploma or B.Mus).

Can't help you with the other organizations though.
Posted by: caperflutist

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/07/06 08:14 PM

I think for RCM you just have to submit students to get a number though I am not 100% sure of that
Posted by: Codetta

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/07/06 08:31 PM

grandpiano: I'm a bit confused as to what you consider "very low" technique standards for passing CM. In studying the ABRSM requirements (and I couldn't find any RCM requirements so I don't know enough to comment on them)) I noticed that they don't seemed to be as inclusive as CM, overall. Each CM level has a set standard of requirements that are to be accomplished and played within a certain time limit according to the level proficiency. The student is graded on scales, chords, progressions, optional improvisation as well as sight reading - all within the set time limit. In the sight-reading portion elements such as rhythm, recognition of key signature, accuracy of notes, phrasing and dynamics are graded as well as overall musicality. There are 5 categories in which to grade the student: Excellent, Good, Average, Weak, Incomplete. Those students who have a achieved a high rating (this also includes their performance scores, technique and theory scores)will then be featured at the Branch Honors Recital where they are honored for their achievement. The student is also eligible to perform at the annual MTAC State Convention. This is a high honor, for only about 10% of the 30,000 CM participants are eligible to apply.

I believe the CM program is a VERY comprehensive program and allows both the student and teacher to "set their own pace".

When a student has successfully passed all CM requirements there is a program called THE YOUNG ARTIST'S Guild. These students are the cream of the crop and are put on a 5 year list where they can be asked to perform for any branch throughout the state and get paid for it. This is and has been a great stepping stone to help in the launching of a career.

If you want to know more I will once again direct you to the MTAC website where you can read all of this for yourself:

www.mtac.org

CM is a very good program and I highly recommend it. I hope this answers your questions and alleviates any more doubts you may have regarding this program.
Posted by: drumour

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/08/06 04:56 AM

"Each CM level has a set standard of requirements that are to be accomplished and played within a certain time limit according to the level proficiency."


Would you please explain this time-limit idea?


John
Posted by: Codetta

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/08/06 12:19 PM

Because there are so many students who participate within each branch there has to be a time limit allowed so that everyone can be heard, otherwise we'd be there all day and every day for weeks on end (as would the parents). Now, there is no time limit for the theory portion of the exam. A student can come in at 9am and be there all day if needed but the performance evaluation has to maintain some kind of schedule (just as what happens in juries at the college level). Evaluation time limits for technique, sight reading and repertoire are set to help the entire procedure to remain on schedule. The total time allotted is as follows:
Prep - Level 2: 10 minutes
Level 3-5: 15 minutes
Level 6-9: 30 minutes
Advanced Level: 30 minutes

The technique requirements vary according to level within that total allotted time frame.
Prep - Level 5: 4 min
Level 6 - 9: 5 min

If a student is prepared there is ample time to perform all the elements. Its rather obvious for the evaluator to ascertain whether or not a student is prepared and can perform all the technique at a proficient level. Now don't get me wrong - we understand how nervous the student is so if the technique takes a few seconds longer its not held against them. I think you know what I mean. We just want the student to demonstrate proficiency at that level so that he/she can pass to the next level.
Posted by: grandpiano

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/08/06 03:25 PM

Codetta: I didn't mean to say CM has a low standard. I had listened to some of the MIDI recordings played at the convention by children as young as under 12, and boy they played like a pro!

However, I have seen children who have passed Level 5 or higher but played so terribly. This makes me wonder whether CM has a very low passing score (or very easy scoring) for performance so that most students can pass it. After all, it is a very subjective part of the exam.

I know one parent who just want his son to pass all levels of CM before he enters high school. He has made it very clear to the teacher that he doesn't care how well his son plays. Just get him (barely) pass the levels. It's doable with CM.

Have you administered any CM performance exams? Have you seen a wide range of skills in technique among students at the same level to the point that some are 1-2 levels above the others?
Posted by: Codetta

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/08/06 04:34 PM

Thanks for responding. Now I better know where you're coming from. Unfortunately there are some parents who have this crazy expectation about passing all CM levels. That's where the teacher and evaluator need to step in - most sensitively and lovingly - and point out the harm that can be done.

Unfortuntely there are and always will be parents/teachers/evaluators who are in it for the wrong reason. And who suffers the consequences????/ The student, of course. I've also heard some rather "interesting" interpretations both at the branch level and unfortunately at the Convention in performance. As far as a parent with high expectations regardless of proficiency - "just get him to pass the levels" : if that were my student I would take the parents aside and really "talk turkey" with them. Somewhere along the line this parent may have adopted a skewed version of what CM means and what it aims to accomplish.

With that being said, there are some teachers who play around with the rules also by advancing a student WELL before he's ready - or playing around with the required repertoire list. This is all done to make THE TEACHER look good in the eyes of their peers. But, we all know this happens in every program to some degree - CM not being the only place.

CM is revamping the program by placing stricter regulations on the evaluators and how they evaluate a student. This takes time - and in the process, hopefully some evaluators will see the need to bow out of the system and/or retire. A new syllabus is in the works and I've suggested to some members of the board to perhaps make the syllabus available online. There seems to be some interest there so we'll just have to wait and see.

Yes, I've been around the CM exams for many years and have seen a wide range of skills. If, and I say IF, the student is motivated to take CM to the highest level, then there is ample opportunity to do so. IF that student is not qualified to do so, believe me, he will be stopped from doing so.

Have I helped at all?
Posted by: aznxboy1228

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/12/06 03:19 AM

Personally, as a student that has taken both CM (Made panel honors last year, going for YAG this year)and ABRSM, I find ABRSM's standard to be much higher and more comprehensive.

ABRSM tests a student on three prepared pieces, TONS of scales and arpeggios, difficult "ear training," and sightreading. CM tests four prepared pieces, a few scales, arpeggios, or an etude, and some reading.

Now, in 2003, I took ABRSM Grade 8 and CM Level 9. I scored a 100/150 (the exact passing mark) for ABRSM, but for CM, I passed and was selected for the convention and branch recital (in addition, the adjudicator said that I was extremely talented and an amazing pianist, but I wasn't really).

The scales and arpeggios for ABRSM are much harder than CM's. For CM, I might've only practiced them a few times. For ABRSM, I would sometimes spend an entire session just working on scales and arpeggios. Likewise, sightreading for CM was very easy for me, but I was completely dominated by the ABRSM one. Aural training for ABSRM was so difficult for me...I had no chance on anything (I guessed on everything). Ear training for CM was pretty easy...its just differentating between types of chords and intervals and rhythms, much simpler than ABRSM.

I find that the standard of performance to pass ABRSM is higher too. One cannot just try to "beat the system" and achieve all the levels quickly, whereas this is doable under CM. In my opinion, the "average Joe" that practices two hours a week can pass CM, but definitely not ABRSM.

I hope this helps. If I don't make sense, its because its really late and i'm tired. Good night.

-ASC
Posted by: grandpiano

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/13/06 03:23 AM

What you have said about ABRSM is in line with what I read online. (Unlike CM, ABRSM has posted its syllabi online.)

Have you been studying under two teachers, one of which is a memeber of MTAC and the other of ABRSM? How do you find an ABRSM teacher in California?
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/13/06 06:03 AM

I wonder if the standard required to pass ABRSM exams varies depending on where you live. I feel that in the UK the standard is not always that high. I have seen many people who 'beat the system'. They know that as long as they make a reasonable job of the three pieces they have a very good chance of passing. The supporting tests (scales, sight reading and aural) are often not taken seriously. If your sight reading is terrible you will still get a mark of around 10/21. If it's quite good you might score 15/21. No disrespect to aznxboy1228 but he said he had no idea in the aural tests but still passed. I would like to see a requirement to at least pass each part of the test. This is how the ABRSM diploma exams work so why not the other grades? This may of course be different in other parts of the world.
Posted by: starsea49

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/18/06 01:14 PM

This is my very personal opinion - certainly not designed to offend anyone ...

Having taken all these exams myself, having entered students into these exams for the past 10 years in UK, Malaysia, Singapore and currently USA ...i must say, US students are the most laid back
.... pampered with too much words of affection without having done too much .... there's very little structure here ... education is too much fun here !!!

I was so frustrated with the standards of
education in this country when i first moved here 2 years ago .... sustaining interests is always the first priority as opposed to imparting quality skills which requires the student to work really hard with discipline..
Posted by: starsea49

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/18/06 01:17 PM

Of course, there are a few exceptions here and there .... anyzboy and one or 2 of my 30 handful students are some prime examples.
Posted by: starsea49

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/18/06 01:23 PM

Chris H - you are right - you can pretty beat the ABRSM exam with some effort on the 3 pieces and scales and arpegios.

And i'm with you on this one - annzboyy - one could easily spend an entire lesson on the scales and arpegios of ABRSM.

With the other boards though, beating the pass mark requires NO effort at all!!!!
Posted by: Codetta

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/22/06 05:21 PM

starsea - in your first post you said you didn't want to offend anyone. I will take you at your word, however, I was offended when you said that "with the other boards though, beating the pass mark requires NO effort at all!!!!" I would take issue with your other broad sweeping statements of our students in the USA and the structure here, but I will focus on your last statement due to my many time constraints.

Please explain your criteria and from what country you came from, i.e. the curriculum, structure, mode of discipline, etc. . It sounds like your home country may have had much stricter guidelines than the USA - for good or not.
Posted by: starsea49

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 11/25/06 12:39 PM

I came from Singapore ..when i mentioned ""passing other boards requires no effort at all" - i meant after going through the rigorous training of ABRSM-most students can cake-walk pieces of other boards .... playing at ABRSM's sight-reading level would still guarantee a pass at other boards exams
Posted by: lagin

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 12/07/06 12:19 AM

Well, I'm only really familiar with RCM, so I'll touch on a few points that have been mentioned. Someone said that gr. 5 ABRSM is equivalent to gr. 2 RCM. This might be true, but let me clarify. RCM has 10 "practical" grades and then diploma level, but only 5 "theory" grades. Meaning, you don't do gr. 2 theory with RCM until you are doing about gr. 8 pieces. They hold off on the theory until about gr. 6. Then they hit you with it big time in grades 9, 10, and ARCT (diploma). Theory grades 1 - 2 is basic key signature, transpostion, intervals, ect. Grade 3 theory (paired up with grade 9 practical) introduces harmony and history. (Actually, there is an introduction to harmony paired with grade 8, but it's optional). Grade 10 practical is paired with grade 4 theory, which continues harmony and history. Then in ARCT all of a sudden, you need to finish harmony, and history, learn counterpoint, and analysis.

RCM grade 10 and up is considered "audition" level for colleges and universities.

Over the course of grades 1 - 8 you learn scales, chords, and arpeggios in almost every key, and grade 9 is the first grade that you have to be prepared to play any technical requirement in any key for them. Grade 10 adds scales in 3rds and 6ths. There is a minimum tempo required that increased with each grade.

They publish books that have a good selection of exam pieces in them, but you can use any piece out of the syllabus. The more advanced the grade, the more choices. There are hundreds of choices for ARCT. Most Beethoven Sonatas, most Chopin Nocturnes, ect.

You need to play your pieces memorized in the exam for full marks, and automatically fail in ARCT if you use the music. Grades 1 - 9 have marks alloted for memory. Grade 10 just takes marks off your pieces if they aren't memorized. And for a performer's ARCT, you simply fail if you don't memorize.

You need to usually do 3 pieces and 1 or 2 studies for each of the earlier grades. Grade 8 is four pieces and 2 studies - so is grade 9. Grade ten is 5 pieces, and 2 studies. Performer's ARCT is 5 pieces and one Etude. A piece from each era - Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Early 20th century, and Late 20th Century. A classical piece is usually a Sonatina or such for grades 1 - 7 ish. A movement from a sonata for grade 8 and 9. Two or possibly 3 movements for grade 10 (usually just 2, though). And a whole sonata for grade 9.

RCM differs from ABRSM in that the pieces in each grade do not overlap. Meaning, you will not find a ARCT piece in the grade 10 syllabus and visa versa. The standard of playing increases, and so does the difficulty of the repertoire. I am led to understand that there is some overlap in ABRSM with various pieces.

ARCT performers (as opposed to teachers) only has pieces and the etude. No technique, sight reading, sight clapping, or ear tests. Yipee! Teacher's ARCT sure does though!

Examples:

Fur Elise = gr. 7
Chopin nocturnes start in gr. 9
Debussy's Girl with Flaxen hair = gr. 9
Pathetique sonata (middle movement and either first or third) = gr. 10
Ranging in difficulty from say Moonlight Sonata (all movements) to Hammerklavier = ARCT. I know. It's insane. Nobody would pick the Hammerklavier anyway because you need to keep it under an hour. Why they even put that on there is beyond me. But as you can see, there is a large range. Another example would be Debussy's Sunken Cathedral to say Chopin's Ballades and Scherzos. So you can take your pick for where you are at musically and technically.
Posted by: LoFi

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 12/07/06 07:30 AM

I was going to comment on the RCM Grade 2 Theory = ABRSM 5 statement, given lagin's post about the content of RCM G2 - my initial thought was "No way, AB G5 was much harder than that".

However, looking at the syllabus on the AB's website, the requirement to harmonize a given phrase (probably one of the harder tests) seems to have been removed/shuffled to grade 6.

Given that it's been about 15 years since I took that exam, am I simply making it up, or has the syllabus become easier? I wonder if someone that's been teaching a long time can respond.

Also, re an earlier post about the A,B and C selections in the Associated Board syllabus - as a child, it was always the contemporary piece that I struggled to "get" and as a result, scored lower on this piece - I was quite happy rattling out Mozart and Scarlatti.

Finally (and this experience is purely as a student of several instruments, not as a teacher (I guess I shouldn't even be in here)), I found Trinity College exams significantly easier than AB. Guildhall I found to be much on a par with AB, but their "Practical Musicianship" option was more suited to me than standard aural tests. Whether it was easier is another matter.

Ramble over.
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 12/07/06 07:44 AM

LoFi, I think you are right, the standard of AB exams has dropped over the years. When I took my grade 8 many years ago I had to play an entire classical sonata. Now you only need to play one movement.

Regarding the G5 theory. I think this exam covers the rudiments of theory without testing much on their practical application. If you look at a G6 paper you will see a huge difference. The advanced grades focus on harmony, counterpoint and music history. You do have to suggest chords to harmonise a melody at G5 but it is very basic.

What you say about the pieces is interesting. The C list nowadays will always have a jazzy piece which most students choose. Perhaps your teacher made you do one of the more contemporary works to stretch you? I don't have a huge problem with the choice of pieces but they will certainly not suit everyone.
Posted by: LoFi

Re: Piano Exams: RCM vs ABRSM vs CM - 12/07/06 08:56 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Chris H.:
What you say about the pieces is interesting. The C list nowadays will always have a jazzy piece which most students choose. Perhaps your teacher made you do one of the more contemporary works to stretch you? I don't have a huge problem with the choice of pieces but they will certainly not suit everyone. [/b]
I don't remember there being any jazzy pieces on the syllabus (certainly never played any in exams), but my memory could be fading (sat Grade 8 about 10 years ago) - these days, a piece like that would be my first choice, since I spend about half my time playing jazz. It's very possible he was trying to stretch me, as at the time all I was really interested in was playing the flashy movts from various Beethoven sonatas.

Still am, actually \:\)