Examinations in piano are of international standard and recognised throughout the world. The first exam is usually taken toward the end of second year of playing, with an exam taken once a year after that. They can provide a good yardstick for assessing progress. Each year there are fresh challenges. There are 9 grades in all. Preliminary, then Grades 1-8. Not all children make it right through the exam system, but I find that if children make it to grade 5 or 6 they are more likely to retain playing skills for life. By this stage they should be able to pick up music and play without too much difficulty.
It is not necessary to take every exam, or even take exams at all but they provide evidence of progress which is necessary if children want to study music when they are older.
There are several examining sessions in the year, depending whether you take them in Brisbane or the Gold Coast but I have found the best time to take them is at the end of the year mid-October to early November. Unless we have given prior warning that certain dates are not suitable, we are allotted a time and date and we must stick to this. It is not possible to change times. Therefore it is wise to think carefully before entering.
There are a number of possible paths to follow, all following the international standard. At Music Adventures AMEB, the Australian Board, is the one we follow.
The requirements for the main syllabus are extremely high and beyond the capabilities of all but the most motivated teenagers struggling with a heavy school workload. Therefore, a few years ago, AMEB brought out a new syllabus which has proved very successful, called Piano for Leisure and this is the one most children now follow. There are less pieces but they are of an equal or higher standard. The technical requirements are less and there is a choice to do either sight-reading or ear tests. I am adamant however, that we cover all these areas in our work year, as all are essential for good playing. Serious students should take the standard exams.
ABRSM exams or ANZCA exams may be taken by request.