• Sandra Howe

How to Get the Most from your Exam Results

How to Get the Most from your Exam Results

Congratulations! You made it through your exam. Now it is time to make it through your results. How do you get the most from your exam results, even when they are not quite what you wanted or expected?


Firstly, exams are not real life. They only give an indication of your ability at a specific point in time – it does not, and cannot, ask the question of your ability in terms of your musicianship. Exams are so limited in this respect and therefore results matter less in the grand scheme of things.


Before any of my students take an exam, I always make sure they understand that in my eyes they have already passed. I have seen them perform their pieces/scales etc many times during the lesson and I know the extent of my students’ knowledge and that very often it far exceeds the requirements for an exam. That’s because learning music is about music, not exams!


Marking schemes vary with different exam boards and different examiners. Some will focus on writing predominantly positive comments, however, all will make a comment on areas of improvement – this is necessary so that you know what areas you lost marks on and know what to improve going forward. This can come off as ‘critical’ to a student, especially those who are more sensitive. It’s important to remember that this is constructive criticism on performance and is not a reflection of the student as a person or as a musician. Examiner remarks should be taken as teacher instructions – in other words, they help me, as a teacher, prepare what to work on going forward and gives me further insight on strategies that worked.


Whether you passed or failed, got a merit or distinction – remember the most important thing. Musicians play music, not exams.


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