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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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book cover notes

Next UK ABRSM Online Theory Exams Grades 1-5:
16th March 2021
Next UK Trinity Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 1-8:
Sat 8th May 2021

Browse by Music Grade: Grade 1 | Grade 2 | Grade 3 | Grade 4 | Grade 5 | Grade 6 | Grade 7 | Grade 8 | DiplomasWhat Grade am I?


Online Exams from the ABRSM - What has changed?

In response to the Covid pandemic, the ABRSM brought forward its plans to make music theory digital, with a pilot Grade 5 Theory exam taken online in August 2020.

Despite some serious technical glitches and lack of support in place, the pilot was deemed successful enough to roll out completely, and grades 1-5 are now available only as online exams in the UK and most of the rest of the world. (NB Trinity exams are still paper based).

The format of the exam has changed. A short summary is as follows:

  • All questions are multiple choice, with one or two exceptions. No handwriting of music is tested.
  • The syllabus has been truncated, with the removal of some topics for each grade and a large-scale reduction in the number of foreign musical theory terms that candidates need to memorise.
  • The test is marked out of 75 (previously 100)
  • The pass mark is 50 (66%, as before), a merit requires 60 points (80%, as before) and a distinction requires 86.6% (previously 90%).

The ABRSM is keen to stress that there is no overall reduction in the standard of the new tests compared to the old. Personally I don't think this is true, considering that the test is shorter, there is less material to learn, less chance of making an error (due to multiple choice questions) and the bar for achieving a distinction has been lowered.

More information is available on the ABRSM website here as well as some free (but error-prone) practice materials.


Updated materials from

As far as possible I have updated the lessons and resources in the PDFs and video courses available on the site to reflect the ABRSM's changes. Videos are quite difficult to make small edits to however, so in some places I have left videos as they are. Nothing has been added to the syllabus by the ABRSM, with the exception of testing scales in all four clefs at grade 5, and a lesson for this has been included both on the website and in the video course.

Here is a short summary of the updates to my materials:

  • Updated lists of theory terms for grades 1-5 [link]
  • New PDFs with tests for grades 1 and 5 in the multiple choice style. (More grades to follow) [Link]
  • New online multiple choice grade 5 practice test [Link]
  • Updated course PDFs for grades 1-5 [Link