4 Ways to Make the Most of the Music Exam Mark Sheet

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably taken a music exam fairly recently. Congratulations! Whatever the outcome, I have a huge amount of admiration for any learner who puts themselves forward for any form of external assessment. To me, simply turning up to play or sing in front of someone else in an exam situation is an achievement in itself.

Students are rightly keen to know the numerical results of the exam they’ve taken, alongside which band (e.g. distinction, merit, pass etc.) the result fell into. But, there’s another piece of paper which comes with your certificate, the mark sheet, and this is something which, when used effectively, offers a lot which can help a learner on the next step of their musical journey.

Accepting that deciphering both examiners’ handwriting and language (special ‘examiner speak’) can be challenging, rather than being filed away behind the certificate, the mark sheet is well worth exploring further.

1. Celebrate!

Most exam candidates come out of the exam remembering all the things which went wrong: the words they forgot, the scale which had a false start and the incorrect answer in the aural tests. This is a natural response, and in some ways, it’s a necessary part of ‘moving on’ to go through that process of reflection.

When your mark sheet comes, there are usually a good number of positive comments and we should take time to celebrate those. Exam candidates are notoriously good at remembering all the things that didn’t go to plan, but it’s worth remembering that examiners see a much bigger picture. I know that following my own candidates’ exams this past term, many of the things they felt hadn’t gone well were, in fact, not even noted by the examiner.

Tip: make a list of all the positive comments. You may surprise yourself by how many there are. Celebrate them! If you like, stick your list up somewhere prominent where you can see it. There are many times on our musical journeys where we need a confidence boost, and these positive comments are something to return to. At the bottom of this blog, there’s a sheet to download to help you with this process of reflection.

2. Is the work you did before the exam reflected in the comments?

Before we enter for an exam, we’ll have almost always worked on specific things which we wanted to improve on. We might have worked on the tone quality of our scales, or the dynamic variation in our pieces. We might have worked on the tuning of our unaccompanied traditional song, or on the singing back the melody in the aural tests. Knowing what we’ve worked on in particular, it’s worth cross-referencing this against the mark sheet. Did the examiner pick up on any of these things? Is the work we put in reflected in the comments?

Tip: if you worked on something and it isn’t mentioned in the comments, don’t be disheartened. I take the fact that it wasn’t mentioned as a positive.

3. What can you learn from the comments?

I think the most important thing about the mark sheet is seeing how the examiners’ comments can help us take our learning forward. It’s easy to see the examiners’ comments as criticisms, but they can offer us some pointers for things we can work on next and seek to improve further.

Part of taking an exam is getting feedback on your performance. The examiners’ feedback can by hugely valuable as you start to learn new pieces, work on specific areas of technique, or seek to improve your skills further.

Tip: make a list of things that the examiner has identified which you’d like to improve and work on. See the comments in as constructive a light as possible. Use the examiners’ assessment to take your learning forward.

4. Reflect on the exam journey

Taking an exam can be a nerve-wracking and often stressful experience. We invest a huge amount of effort into preparing for exams, and we often underestimate the emotional input required. When you’ve got the result and the mark sheet, it can be a good time to reflect on the whole exam experience.

Think about the process you went through as you worked on your pieces, learnt your scales and sought to improve your sight-reading. Is there anything which you might have done differently? Not everyone who takes an exam goes on to take another one, but many do. That said, reflecting on the way we prepared for the exam can help us in areas of our lives beyond music.

Whatever your exam experience, remember that it’s a huge achievement to just put yourself through it. Remember, that as self-critical as we inevitably are, there’s much to celebrate about what we’ve achieved.


To help with your reflections, I have created a worksheet which you can download here. You are encouraged to adapt it to suit your own needs, but it offers a framework by which you can utilise the possibilities of the mark sheet and reflect on the overall exam experience.

Pin for later:

We Pray for Peace

Catalogue Number: PPMO1704
SA Voices & Piano (opt. instruments)
Publisher: Paraclete Press
Difficulty Level: E
Year of Publication: 2017
Duration: 4 minutes
Availability: In Stock

Printed Copy: $2.90
Order from Publisher

 

Printed Copy: $6.00 (set of parts)
Order from Publisher

 

To order in the UK, please contact Norwich Books & Music.

From the publisher’s website:

‘This versatile anthem is scored for treble voices and piano and has optional parts for treble instruments. This is cast in a more popular style and the long flowing phrases and harmonies in thirds and sixths create a lovely atmosphere for the text by English hymn writer Alan Gaunt. A delightful piece for children’s choirs and the instruments could be taken on by children as well.’

Potential Uses

Choir, Church, Worship, Choral, Remembrance

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Waiting List Application

If you would like me to add your name to the waiting list, please enter your details below and I’ll get in touch when I have a suitable opening:

Instrument or Subject (required):
FlutePianoMusic TheorySinging / Music Theatre

*Please note that current teaching hours operate as follows:

Mondays 2:00-8:30pm
Tuesdays 2:00-8:30pm
Thursdays 11:30am-7:00pm
Fridays 10:30am-6:00pm

Piano Lessons FAQ

Find out below a bit more about the piano tuition I offer:

What can I learn?

I teach all styles of music including classical, jazz and popular styles. All lessons are tailored to individual needs and interests. Lessons cover a good balance of repertoire, sound technique and general musicianship skills.

Who can learn?

I accept piano pupils from the age of 8. There is no upper age limit and I have taught pupils well into their 70s. All ability levels are catered for from beginners to advanced levels.

Why should I learn?

Learning an instrument is very rewarding. Not only can it develop musical skills, but a whole host of interchangeable skills, including increasing confidence and general well-being. Learning the piano allows you to play with others (duets, trios etc.) and accompany singers and instrumentalists.

What will I need?

You will need access to your own instrument; this might be either a digital or an acoustic piano, but should not be an electronic keyboard. If you are in any doubt about this, check out this blog post I wrote a while back. New digital pianos start at around £300, acoustics starting around £1,500. There are also many second hand options available.

Flute Lessons FAQ

Find out below a bit more about the flute tuition I offer:

What can I learn?

I teach all styles of music including classical, jazz and popular styles. All lessons are tailored to individual needs and interests. Lessons cover a good balance of repertoire, sound technique and general musicianship skills.

Who can learn?

I accept flute pupils from the age of 9. There is no upper age limit and I have taught pupils well into their 70s. All ability levels are catered for from beginners to advanced levels.

Why should I learn?

Learning an instrument is very rewarding. Not only can it develop musical skills, but a whole host of interchangeable skills, including increasing confidence and general well-being.

What will I need?

You will need access to your own instrument: I do have a spare instrument if you would like to try it out first. Beyond that, Just Flutes run an excellent hire-to-buy scheme and you can find out more here. Beginner flutes start at around £200. A small number of books will also be needed initially. I am happy to advise further about hiring or purchasing a flute. Please don’t buy cheap instruments on eBay: many are of a poor quality and will prove a false-economy long-term.

Singing Lessons FAQ

Find out below a bit more about the singing tuition I offer:

What can I learn?

I teach both classical and music theatre. Lessons are tailored to the individual’s needs and interests. They contain a good balance of repertoire, healthy vocal technique and general musicianship skills. Most people sing a selection of styles including classical, folk, jazz and music theatre. I don’t focus on a particular ‘method’ of singing, but rather adopts a holistic approach, drawing on the best that each offers. Please note that I don’t teach pop/rock/karaoke singing (this is not a criticism of the styles, but that I am primarily classically-trained, and therefore specialise in that repertoire – it is very rare to find a singing teacher who specialises in every style in equal measure). For those who particularly want to specialise in music theatre, I also offer speech and drama training alongside the singing.

Who can learn?

I accept pupils from the age of 11 upwards. Other teachers accept pupils younger, but in my experience, this is a good age to start. In the early years, voices are continuing to change and develop and the lessons will reflect this. There is no upper age limit and I have taught pupils aged well beyond 70! All ability levels are catered for from beginners to advanced students. Please don’t worry if you think you’re tone deaf, sing out of tune or don’t have a very good voice – I cater for all these too!

Why should I learn?

Singing offers an enormous array of benefits. It can enhance well-being and increase confidence. It offers the opportunity for pupils to sing in choirs and make music with others. A number of exams and assessments are offered for those who are interested. Singing is a very personal thing – you are your instrument – this makes it a hugely rewarding pastime.

What will I need?

The advantage of learning to sing is that you already own an instrument! You will need a few books along the way and there are costs involved in taking exams and assessments for those who are interested.

Difficulty Level

Instrumental and vocal music is assigned a rough difficulty level as follows:

Beginner, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Advanced

These levels roughly correspond with ABRSM, Trinity Guildhall and LCM examination levels in the UK. This does not imply that the piece has been set on any of these syllabi, and the difficulty level is given as rough indication only.

Choral music is assigned a rough difficulty level as follows:

Easy, Medium, Difficult

You are advised to view the sample sheet music and listen to the corresponding audio recordings to check whether the pieces meet your needs. If in doubt, please contact the composer who’ll be pleased to provide further information.