Where Can You Find Practice Materials for the DipABRSM Quick Study?

As I’ve written previously, whilst it’s worth the fewest number of marks, the quick study is often the element of the DipABRSM which causes candidates most anxiety.

I’ve written previously about the difference between the quick study and sight-reading, and I think that understanding this can be a huge aid to your preparations. If you have a better idea what’s expected of you, the better you can target your practice in the run-up to the exam.

But, what can you find in the way of materials to help you practise?

The first thing to say is that there is very little in the way of specimen tests available. ABRSM freely offer one example, for each instrument, for download on their website. ABRSM examiner, Mark Tanner has produced five books, one each for flute, piano, violin, trumpet and clarinet. Each gives example tests and guidance on how to approach them. These are published by Spartan Press. ABRSM have produced a separate volume of specimen tests for piano.

The reality is that eventually, you’re going to run out of these materials, so where can you look next?

At DipABRSM level, the quick study will comprise of an unaccompanied piece, to quote ABRSM, ‘similar to ABRSM Grade 6 repertoire’. Broadly, pieces fall into two categories:

  • Modern pieces, indicated by ABRSM as being in an ‘approachable style’ (pianists may associate these with their List C pieces);
  • Pastiches, in other words, pieces composed to reflect earlier styles and forms (e.g. waltz, polka, Hungarian dance, nocturne etc.).

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions of additional practice materials for the DipABRSM quick study:

  1. Firstly, try the free downloadable example from the ABRSM website as this will give you a good idea of the style and standard of the quick study tests;
  2. See if there are any additional specimen quick study tests for your instrument (e.g. ABRSM produce one for piano and there are the Tanner books mentioned above);
  3. Start with the current ABRSM Grade 6 syllabus for your instrument. If you play an instrument where the pieces come in books (e.g. piano, flute, violin etc.), then explore the alternative lists too;
  4. Take a look at the current Grade 6 syllabus offered by other boards, for example LCM and Trinity;
  5. Explore collections of pieces which are pitched at Grade 6 level (e.g. More Romantic Pieces for Piano, Alan Bullard’s Fifty for Flute, Book 2 etc., The Art of Song etc.). As previously mentioned, the alternative exam lists can be helpful in locating these;
  6. Take a look at previous syllabuses. Anything which suggests that a piece is around Grade 6 level will be useful in locating suitable practice materials.

Whatever pieces you find to practise, I would urge a degree of caution. Take note:

  • Not all pieces labelled as Grade 6 will necessarily reflect the style and standard of the DipABRSM quick study;
  • Some pieces at Grade 6 level will almost certainly be longer than the quick study test you will receive in the DipABRSM;
  • The quick study tests are written specifically for the exams, so they will not be anything you’ve previously played;
  • In general, the DipABRSM quick study tests balance difficulty, for example, you are unlikely to get one which is both complex and long (but you may get one which is complex and short).

I’ve focussed here specifically on finding materials which are closest in standard to the DipABRSM quick study tests themselves, but any piece can be used at any level. Whilst the standard of the pieces you practise matters, the process of how you work on them and develop your quick study skills matters more.

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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