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Preparing for exam day

When candidates are properly prepared and parents are fully informed, examination day will generally run very smoothly for all concerned. Nevertheless, there are certain ongoing ‘bumps in the road’ that our examination supervisors notice happen with regularity, and these problems can be easily avoided.

Below, we list a few questions the candidate should be asked before they leave home.

  1. Do you have your Notice?

    Having the Notice of Examination already filled out prior to arriving at the venue saves time and stress before the examination.

  2. Have you read your Notice?

    Check the venue address (and correct building level) and examination time carefully. Many candidates get a horrible shock when they show up at the wrong venue, or sit waiting on the wrong level of the building, and then realise their error too late. Remember that you may have been scheduled at a different venue from your last examination. Check the address on your Notice carefully.

  3. Have you packed your music?

    Even if the candidate has memorised their pieces, the examiner will need the music for the general knowledge section. It’s also a great idea to add flags or post-it notes to your books to access each piece quickly.

  4. Do you have a copy of the accompanist’s music as a back-up?

    Accompanists are human too and the candidate has more to lose than the accompanist if the accompanying part is not there for the examination.

  5. Do you have the accompanist’s contact details?

    Ensuring you have a way to touch base with your accompanist will mean that you are both aware if either has a problem, and find a solution before the examination. It is also important that the accompanist is given a copy of the candidate’s Notice of Examination (this can be emailed) so they have all of the necessary information to find you. It is not only the candidate who has shown up at the wrong venue!

  6. Have you packed your instrument?

    Of course it sounds obvious, but in all of the nervous energy on the day, you wouldn’t be the first to arrive at the exam venue and have that horrible realisation that something important is still at home!

  7. Have you rubbed out the pencil marks on your music?

    Again, doing so before you get to the venue reduces stress for the candidate and is one less thing to worry about.

  8. Have you checked for possible transport delays?

    Particularly if you have a Saturday examination, it pays to check if there is a special event that may cause travel delays or increased parking restrictions if you are driving. If you are relying on public transport, a quick check of the transport website ( the day before will tell you if you need to allow extra time due to delays that may be caused by traffic accidents or trackwork on your train line.

  9. Have you remembered other important accessories?

    Prior to the exam day, candidates should make a list of these with the teacher. Depending upon your instrument, these could include spare strings, resin, reeds, throat lozenges, a footstool, warm gloves in winter or a bottle of water. Any item that might help a candidate be as prepared and comfortable as possible should be included.

  10. Have you packed a ‘waiting room’ note?

    It can be really effective for candidates to have something positive or constructive to focus on as they wait for their name to be called. This might be written by the teacher or the candidate and might either include important last-minute reminders about the things that have been covered in lessons, some relaxing breathing exercises, or just a few inspirational or calming thoughts to read just prior to entering the exam room. A written ‘mantra’ might be just the thing to put a candidate in the right headspace to replace the nerves or self-doubt with thoughts that will bring out their best performance.

    By correctly preparing for music examinations, students set themselves up for a less stressful examination experience, and acquire important life skills. The ability to ‘wrangle’ nerves into something more constructive (adrenaline), to check details and to plan methodically are all transportable skills for any further challenges, musical or otherwise.

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