What are AMEB exams?

Exam time, the stress, the tension, the hours and hours of practice. Then the day comes, it is your turn to enter the exam room. You play your set pieces; you fly through your technique. The aural tests and sight reading are easier than you thought they would be. What's left? The general knowledge section, it's the section that seems to elude many students. The questions they ask are easy! It's over, you wait for the envelope marked "to the teacher" it holds your exam mark in it. How did you do? You have a peek, you passed! All that hard work finally paid off. What a relief, now to start on your next exam.

The Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) emerged in 1918 as a national body with the purpose of providing graded assessments of the achievements of music students. They now also assess speech and drama students. The exams are a way to see what kind of standard students are at compared to other students at the same level. In almost all instruments there are set guidelines set out in the manual of Syllabuses for teachers and students to follow.

There are basically two (2) types of exams that you can do with the AMEB. There is the practical exam and the written exam. I'm going to talk about the practical exam.

The practical exam is where students get to show their skills as a musician. You are tested with one examiner in the room with you. There are a minimum of 5 sections to the practical exam, they are: studies and pieces (including extra lists), technical work, aural tests, sight reading and general knowledge.

Studies and Pieces

The studies and pieces are the music that you will be playing in the exam. When you buy a grade book for your instrument, there are lists of songs. For example List A, List B, and List C (higher grades have more lists). Each list has a number of music pieces for you to play. For the exam you get to choose one song from each list. I recommend trying to learn all the pieces then choosing the pieces you can play the best, and ones that show off all your skills. From second grade to seventh grades you need to present some extra list pieces. These can be taken from your exam book, or you can find another song at a similar standard. There are lists of extra list pieces in the Manual of Syllabuses. Check it out with your teacher.

Technical Work

Technique books can be bought for your grade level. Usually they have more than one grade in them. Technique is stuff like scales, arpeggios, and all types of little exercises, a lot of which, to be played from memory. No reading music here! Check with your teacher what technique you would have to do from memory.

Aural Tests

Depending on what grade you enter into, there are different aural tests the examiner will ask you to do. You can guarantee though, there will be some singing required in any grade. So get those vocal chords out and start practicing. In the lower grades you will be required to clap a rhythm. Work on your pitch and rhythm and you should be fine.

Sight Reading

This section of the exam requires the student to play a piece of music they have never seen before. They will give you a minute or so to look over it before you play. Use this time wisely. Look at the key signature, the time signature and the speed.

General Knowledge

In general knowledge, the examiner will look at the pieces you have played and will ask you some questions about them. The questions may be as simple as "what type of note is that?" but they may ask you some harder questions. General Knowledge is different for each grade. Check out the syllabus for more information.

Most of all you should try to enjoy the exam. Stressing out will only make your playing worse! Have fun.