Graded Exams: Friend or Foe?

Pathways for Teaching

In the minds of many students (and in the case of children, their parents), two questions are constantly lurking –

  1. How well am I doing?  and,
  2. How can I improve?

I believe teachers should routinely answer these questions, but how best to frame those answers? As a general principle I would suggest that pupils will gain confidence if they have a clear, honest perception of their progress, and goals which are detailed and encouraging.

Graded exams can offer one way – and an important framework – for pupils to gain the meaningful, quantative answers that help foster confidence.

While exams are certainly not without their issues, most of the concerns I see raised relate more to their misuse than to their appropriate use. 

In this article I will consider both, and offer a personal perspective on some of the most common concerns. And in conclusion, I will try to provide an answer to the question: Graded Exams – Friend or Foe?

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LCM Syllabus 2018: The Big Review

Sheet Music Review  by Karen Marshall

November has seen the London College of Music present their new piano syllabus.

Due to staff changes the last time the syllabus was changed was back in 2013. So I was very excited to see what LCM were offering – especially as many of my colleagues Andrew Eales, David Barton, Francis Wilson and Melanie Spanswick have consulted on the main albums.

As a teacher who actively uses LCM, along with Trinity and ABRSM, Andrew asked me to write the review (to maintain impartiality).

As my first full syllabus review on Pianodao, I have worked really hard to get a broad collection of voices – many thanks to my piano teaching colleagues who have helped me shape this review.

I must say that the overall impression is that this is a job very well done by LCM, and a big step up from previously piano syllabi in terms of pedagogical content, variety of repertoire, quality of editing and presentation of the publications. Huge congratulations to William Alexander, David Duncan and the rest of the team at LCM for this achievement.

Now here’s my review, and in true Pianodao style, it is equally as detailed as Andrew’s! I really hope it proves helpful to teachers and pupils.

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LCM ‘In Concert’ anthology

Sheet Music Review

London College of Music Exams may be less well known to readers than the ABRSM and Trinity College London boards which I have written about previously, but that may be about to change. Certainly LCM offer a very wide range of different assessments for piano players. According to pedagogue David Barton:

“I estimate that LCM offer nearly 20 different options for pianists at 15 different levels, right from the earliest stages of learning, through to the Fellowship of the London College of Music (FLCM). The range of options now available is fantastic; I feel enormously lucky to be teaching at a time when the needs of a diverse range of learners of all ages is finally being met by examination boards, led, in my view, by LCM. We live in exciting times, and it will be interesting to see what options continue to develop in the future.”

And it isn’t just in the area of examinations that LCM are looking to innovate and lead the way, but also in the area of publications…

When new Publications Officer David Duncan told me that he hopes to significantly shake up their publications, I quietly thought to myself ”thank goodness, as their previous efforts haven’t been particularly user friendly, well edited, or attractively presented.

That said, nothing prepared me for the extent and speed with which LCM Publications would reinvent itself: their new collection of selected works from their Piano Diploma syllabus has taken my breath away.

Put simply ’In Concert is an extraordinary achievement, and in a completely different league from LCM’s previous published efforts. And whether or not you are interested in LCM’s Diploma exam, this is a highly desirable new collection for players looking for interesting and diverse repertoire at this level.

Let’s take a closer look…

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The Effects of the Gendered Musical Canon

Guest Author, The Reverend Professor June Boyce-Tillman writes about the effect that the lack of female composers in music syllabuses had on a young child’s aspirations…

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Women composers and Graded Exams

Guest Post by David Duncan
Publications Officer, LCM Examinations

Should we care about the representation of women composers in graded music exams?

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