One of the questions I’m asked probably more than any other, is how long you should take to prepare for your teaching diploma (DipABRSM etc.). As you might expect, the honest answer is “It depends”, but there are things you can do to get yourself on-track.
How much time have you got?
Nearly everyone preparing for one of the teaching diplomas is already teaching or working in some capacity. That means you’re going to need to fit in your diploma work alongside this. Chances are you’ll also have to fit it in alongside family commitments too.
How much time should it take?
According to the Register of Regulated Qualifications, the DipABRSM requires a minimum of 60 guided learning hours, the LRSM 120 hours and the FRSM 150 hours. That means that if you were preparing for the DipABRSM over the course of a year, as a rough estimate, you might be expecting to spend an hour a week; two hours a week over six months or four hours a week over three months.
How much work have I already done?
Of course, not everyone starts from the same point. You may have already sat a performance diploma so the quick study element has already been covered; you may have been granted an exemption from the written submission because you’ve passed the CT;ABRSM; or you may feel you have enough experience already and don’t expect to need a lot of extra work. These are all things to take into account.
Don’t underestimate the preparation needed
One of the most common problems is teachers underestimating the time needed to prepare, often suddenly realising that a month before the closing date they haven’t yet started on their written submission. All the elements of the diploma preparation take time. When you consider the research and reading required, the writing, the checking and the presentation, many candidates will write the written submission over several months. Nearer the time, I often pose potential viva questions for candidates to answer: again, they take time to answer, particularly if they expose an area which you need to read up on.
For ABRSM diplomas, there are only two sessions a year (unlike the graded examinations). The closing date for entries is often about three months before the diploma week. Entries cannot be made online, and you also need to send any written submissions etc. with your entry. Considering all the above, at some stage, you’ll need to make a decision about how long you’re going to need in order to prepare for the teaching diploma in your preferred session.
What if I need help?
The reason I’m often asked this question is because candidates are normally enquiring about the mentoring service which I offer for teaching diploma preparation. Despite my best advice, candidates often fall into two categories: they either start preparing far too early, quickly lose momentum, and then end up with a mad dash at the last minute; or they start too late at which point, with the best will in the world, there is a limit to what I can offer. I also have a limit to the number of candidates I can mentor at any one time which means you should enquire in plenty of time so that, if necessary, I can schedule you in.
Some candidates I support like some help to get them started on the written submission and are then happy to go away and spend a few months working on it before coming back to me to look at it and work on the other diploma elements; others prefer help right the way through. Many people work on the written submission up to the closing date then concentrate on the viva voce afterwards – again, this is a worthwhile consideration.
It’s difficult to advise about the time taken, but as a general rule, too much time is inevitably better than too little time.