When will my child be ready for the Grade 1 Piano exam?

When will my child be ready for the grade 1 piano exam? This is the most common question that I get from parents. Here is a detailed description of the skills that one needs to attain before attempting the grade 1 exam. Hope that it clears all your doubts.

Early Beginner (2-9 months)
Pieces Able to play a single-line melody using both hands alternatively
Technique Able to play with legato (smoothly), staccato (detached) and two-note slurs
Sight-reading Able to read notes from C to G in treble clef and   C to F in the bass clef in middle C position
Able to read simple intervals (steps and skips)
Rhythm able to clap and play(after hearing or reading) simple rhythms including crotchets, minims and semibreves
Aural (pitch) able to differentiate between high and low sounds, loud and soft, going up and going down
Mid-Late Beginner (3 months – 1.5 years)
Pieces Able to play both hands with a RH melody with a 2 or 3-note block chord in the LH
Able to play both hands with a non-chord harmony in the LH
Able to play in at least 2 different fixed positions C, F, G position
Technique Able to do simple finger turns, finger stretches and finger substitutions in exercises
Able to play a melody with RH legato and chord changes in the LH
Scales Able to play at least 2 scales in one octave, separate hands
Learn to play scales
Sight-reading Able to read notes from one octave below middle C to one octave above middle C or able to sight-read in C and G positions
Able to read intervals of up to a 5th
Rhythm Able to clap and play rhythms including quavers and dotted rhythms
Aural (pitch) Able to differentiate between steps and skips in soundAble to remember a simple melody of 3-4 notes after hearing onceAble to differentiate between simple rhythms consisting of crotchets and quavers
Grade 1 (before registering for exams) (5 months – 1.5 years)
Pieces Able to play a melody both hands with a broken chord accompaniment in a fixed position (at least 2 different types of broken chords)
Able to play a piece with the melody both in the LH and RH
Able to play a melody both hands with a combination of at least 2 different positions using finger turns, stretches and finger substitutions
Technique Able to play a simple passage using both hands with one hand legato (usually RH) and one hand staccato (usually LH)
Scales Able to play at least 2 scales in two octaves, separate hands. Knows most of the other grade 1 scales in one octave.
Learn to play Grade 1 Scales
Sight-reading Able to read notes in all lines and spaces of the treble and bass clef and find their position on the keys.
Able to sight-read intervals of up to a 5th and play with the correct finger (must be able to tell interval at first sight, not count)
Rhythm Able to clap and play simple syncopated rhythms
Aural (pitch) Able to differentiate between the first 3 tones of each major scale (Do, Re, Mi). Able to remember a simple melody of 5-7 notes after hearing onceAble to differentiate between different rhythms including dotted rhythms.

*LH = left hand, RH = right hand, BH = both hands, SH = separate hands

*For grade 1, it is not necessary to have all the skills listed as some will be taught while learning the exam pieces, but student should have at least most of the skills. For each level, students should at least finish 1 book and be able to play at least 3 pieces from that level fluently (performance standard) – that means accurate notes and rhythm, even speed and tone, and confident playing.

*Note that the requirements stated above are only requirements for a secure pass in the Grade 1 exam, not a distinction.

You would have noticed that the amount of time stated to complete each level varies greatly. This is not only due to how fast each child learns and how much he/she practices, but also how much parental involvement the child receives from the parent, especially for young beginners. I personally have six year olds who took less than a year to be ready for grade 1 exam and older children who took years to be ready for the exam. ABRSM suggests 1.5 years to be ready for the exam, but this is only for an average child starting at around primary school age who has sufficient practice and parental involvement. However, if you child practices regularly (at least 15-20 mins every day on average) and if you made sure that your child learns and becomes natural in every skill that is taught (including sight reading) without much delay, he/she will not take too long to be ready for the grade 1 exam, and may even be faster than average.

There is some strong research that suggests it takes on average 3,300 hours to reach and achieve Grade 8 level, regardless of whether a pupil goes on to be a high musical achiever or not. What’s more, the same highly respected research team estimates that to achieve Grade 1 level takes ALL LEARNERS… approximately 450 hours of practice!  Read – The Power of Practice

You might also like to read
What you need to know about ABRSM Exams
ABRSM Marking Criteria

Here is a video of how a grade 1 exam would be like

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One thought on “When will my child be ready for the Grade 1 Piano exam?

  1. Really find this page useful ,my two younger boys both are both preparing for ther Grade 1 piano exam,found the information very useful in support of what they need to be focusing on

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