Which exam board has the most relevant aural and tech work requirements? Which has the most music to choose from? Which system allows students to practise their sight-reading in the exam before being tested? Which has the shortest enrolment lead-times? Which exam board is the cheapest?
In this Australian Piano Exams post, I answer these questions and more.
I put together a spreadsheet (Comparison of Piano Exams) comparing what I felt were important aspects of each system and the results were quite surprising.
For example, I was sure that the 2.5 months lead-time that the AMEB needs to prepare each exam period had to be way longer than the others, but no, they are actually the shortest on average.
Similarly, I was surprised to know that the AMEB’s repertoire list for each grade is substantially larger than any other exam syllabus – many of the others only offer 6-8 pieces maximum for each list at each grade.
By the way, please be aware that there may be errors or omissions, so please do check things our yourself before you make any decisions about changing exam systems. If I’ve got something wrong, please let me know as I’m eager to learn more myself, but I certainly don’t make any claims that I’m an expert in this!
Here are my condensed findings:
1. AMEB is the dominant music board in Australia and has earned a strong reputation. They have been first to introduce online exams and are now progressing into Rock & Pop exams and other innovations.
2. Not all students should sit the same kind of exams, so I encourage teachers to explore other exam boards if they believe that another method might be more developmentally and pedagogically sound for their student.
2. ANZCA seems to have the most diverse offerings for students including “modern piano”, “piano for all occasions”, “digital piano”, ensembles, etc. but the level expected of each exam seems to be less than the AMEB equivalent standard.
3. Trinity looks like a more progressive version of the AMEB (consider recent changes to technical work in 2012 syllabus). But they still have very limited repertoire choices for candidates. Otherwise, these systems aren’t that dissimilar.
4. Strangely enough, given the importance given to AmusA and LmusA qualifications in Australia, they are still the cheapest diplomas of them all.
With all that said and done, I can’t look past the huge number of pieces offered for each level by the AMEB compared to all the others. It’s so important that students can choose pieces they enjoy playing for their exams; until the other exam boards can match AMEB in variety of repertoire offered, I think I have to put this feature in front of any improvements to sight-reading, aural or technical work for my students. Mind you, the AMEB still has a lot to learn from the other boards!
So which one is the best? Well, I guess that still comes down to your own opinion, but I hope the above information has been useful.
Since writing this article, I’m now aware of two other systems available in Australia (click to find out more):
I shall be doing more research on these in the coming months!
Also check out my recent podcasts examining all the exam boards around the world and interviewing the key players. You can watch or listen at the podcast page.
Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.