Teaching Diplomas: How long does it take to prepare?

One of the questions I’m asked probably more than any other is how long it will take to prepare for your teaching diploma. As you might expect, the honest answer is “It depends”, but here are some things to think about.

How much time have you got?

Nearly everyone preparing for a teaching diploma 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. Think about how much time you might be able to devote to your teaching diploma preparations each week.

How much time should it take?

As an example, 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 might this fit with the time you have available?

What does the diploma require?

Different diplomas require different things, and this can affect the amount of time it will take for prepare. For example, the DipABRSM written submission has to be submitted with your entry around three months before the actual exam date. For the ATCL, you need to have allowed time for the lesson observations and case studies. In contrast, the DipLCM(TD) is predominantly assessed by what happens on the day itself rather than through work submitted in advance.

How much work have you already done?

Of course, not everyone starts from the same point and each teachers will be at different stages on their journey: 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 the diploma to entail a lot of extra work. These are all things to take into account.

Don’t underestimate the preparation needed

In my experience, one of the most common problems is teachers underestimating the time needed to prepare, often, for example, 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. In general, it is always best to allow more time than you might think.

Plan ahead

For ABRSM teaching diplomas in the UK, there are only two sessions per 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 your written submission with your entry. Similarly, ATCL written materials need to be submitted in advance. 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. In my experience, whilst there is ‘no one size fits all’ approach, most candidates spend around six months preparing for their teaching diplomas.

If you’re looking to get some help with your teaching diploma, again, it’s worth planning ahead. In my experience, 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 or any other mentor or teacher can offer. Teachers and mentors also have a limit to the number of candidates they can work with at any one time, and courses may have limited places.

If you’d like some advice about how long it might take you to prepare, feel free to drop me a message here.


Working on your own towards a teaching diploma can be a lonely, and often, overwhelming experience. If you’re not sure where to start or how to approach your teaching diploma preparations, then one-to-one online mentoring could be for you. I can also offer one-to-one advice and guidance for the quick study itself.


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