"It is also good to get into the habit of continuing when you make a mistake, you won’t be able to stop and restart in the exam!"
Piano exam is one of the challenges that almost each student will pass through. There is no denying that the nerves can build up ahead of your ABRSM exam but as long as you prepare well enough, you shouldn't have any concerns.
For this reason, I have compiled a list of fantastic preparation strategies that will help my students to succeed.
1. Practice Performing
It is all well and good being able to perform your three pieces when you’re in a room by yourself, but can you do it in front of people? Although the nerves won’t be replicated exactly, performing for your friends and family can help to ease the pressure. If you can, try and build it up and make a real occasion of it so you get used to all the eyes being on you in the lead up as well as the performance itself.
In addition to this, recording yourself is also a good technique because you are only going to get one shot in the exam. If you listen back and notice errors, simply perfect that section until you have it down to the best of your ability.
2. Listen and Learn
One of the best ways to really feel and capture the essentials is to listen to your piece every time you sit down at the piano and then attempt to use this in your own performance. When you sit down, play your piece of music before attempting to make it sound the same. The more you listen, the more you will learn and you can use this to spot little changes you may not have noticed before.
3. Sight Reading
Furthermore, you also need to pay attention to the key signature and rhythm counting because sight-reading is worth 21/150 of your total marks. When it comes down to it, sight-reading is worth as much as the entire scale book. Try to practice all the exercises in the ABRSM Piano Specimen Sight Reading Test.
Whoever you have around you, ask them to test you on the scales. Not only in order, but randomly too so you know it inside out. If you need a little help, be sure to fill in your practice chart so you are learning each day.
Although this used to be a tough section to perfect, ABRSM now sells the aural book along with a CD which means that you can do it by yourself! In other words, teacher will have more time to go through other session of exam with you. You can even download the App ABRSM Aural Test if you're looking for extra exercise.
If you can play it perfectly at home but not in a lesson, you haven't yet learned it well enough. In truth, you should be able to play it perfectly every time and have the ability to start at any point. If you make a mistake in your performance, you need to skip ahead to the next section with ease.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice
Ultimately, we are all unique and learn in different ways. If you need to start slow to learn it perfectly before then speeding up, go ahead and do it like that. You should be controlling the music as opposed to the other way round and by starting slow, you are in control to then speed it up as and when you feel comfortable. Apparently, develop your own practice routine by setting achievable goal.
8. Mock Exam
Mock exam is an essential because the students are given the opportunity to experience mock version of an exam before the real exam day. I will prepare a mock sheet and highlighted their weaknesses and how should they work in the last few weeks.
So there we have it, some extremely simple tips when preparing for your ABRSM exam. Personally, this is what I do when preparing a student for exam. As long as you remember these, you have every chance of success and at making your exam performance the best one yet!
Ms Liew Hui Jie
A passionate full time piano teacher in Singapore, with great ideas about how to ensure that students start with learning, playing and finally loving the piano.