ABRSM Music Exam facts and figures!

Grade 8 Distinction - student of Lorraine Liyanage

Grade 8 Distinction – student of Lorraine Liyanage

Click here to view more ABRSM Exam results

Click here to view more ABRSM Exam results

Later today I will be publishing our ABRSM and Rockschool exam results from the July Summer session. In the meantime, here’s some interesting information taken from the ABRSM web site about the number of candidates entering for graded exams by instrument. You can see just how popular the piano is in the UK and also what grades candidates achieved at examinations.

1) Entries by instrument/subject.
Source: ABRSM page 

2009 entries by instrument including graded music exams, Prep Test and Performance Assessment
Instrument Entries
Piano 124,090
Theory of Music 45,275
Violin 35,587
Flute 28,832
Singing 27,657
Clarinet 23,022
Alto Saxophone 10,812
Cello 8,166
Trumpet 7,821
Guitar 5,035
B Flat Cornet 3,401
Descant Recorder 2,897
Oboe 2,768
Trombone 2,459
Viola 2,072
Jazz Piano 1,803
Horn 1,393
Harp 1,392
Jazz Alto Sax 1,209
Bassoon 1,077
Double Bass 1,033
E Flat Horn 960
Euphonium 651
Treble Recorder 574
Tenor Saxophone 509
Organ 490
Percussion 479
Baritone 402
Tuba 379
Practical Musicianship 290
Jazz Clarinet 268
Soprano Saxophone 257
Jazz Trumpet 212
Jazz Flute 172
Jazz Tenor Saxophone 119
Jazz Trombone 53
Bass Trombone 22
Jazz Cornet 22
Jazz Soprano Sax 16
Baritone Saxophone 15
Harpsichord 15
E Flat Soprano Cornet 7
Jazz Baritone Sax 3
Jazz Flugelhorn 2

2) Practical exam statistics
Source: ABRSM Page 

Grade Pass Merit Distinction Fail Total
1 29,833 29,822 14,982 1,253 75,890
2 25,893 19,269 7,370 1,646 54,178
3 22,506 16,262 6,016 1,714 46,498
4 16,337 10,819 4,119 1,610 32,885
5 15,116 9,318 3,772 1,953 30,159
6 6,044 4,258 1,948 855 13,105
7 4,053 3,033 1,782 701 9,569
8 3,307 2,851 2,542 858 9,558

3) Theory Exam statistics
Source: ABRSM Page 

Grade Pass Merit Distinction Fail Total
1 1,004 1,886 4,312 385 7,587
2 615 1,414 2,881 183 5,093
3 1,212 1,662 1,409 533 4,816
4 773 915 636 339 2,663
5 7,709 7,528 3,695 3,094 22,026
6 433 136 27 246 842
7 121 74 16 21 232
8 143 88 12 96 339

I believe that the average age for a candidate taking Grade 1 piano is 10. I cannot find the exact reference for this, although there is mention of this in an old copy of ‘Libretto‘, a magazine published by the ABRSM. This also states that the ‘typical Grade 5 practical candidate is 14 years old’.

ABRSM’s graded music exams for individual instruments, singing and Theory as well as diplomas and Music Medals are accredited by the regulatory authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and are part of the National Qualifications Framework. In Australia, Canada and South Africa, ABRSM exams can be used for credit towards the relevant qualifications taken by students completing compulsory secondary education. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) includes Grades 6–8 in the tariff for UK university and college entrance.


About Lorraine

Music & Kimchi
This entry was posted in ABRSM, Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Exam results, Exams, Piano lessons, Rockschool, Statistics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to ABRSM Music Exam facts and figures!

  1. qwerty says:

    Well I am 13 and grade 8, so I think that many other children like me need to push themselves to achieve their absolute best – it is worth it!

  2. Yaybass says:

    Well I started double bass when I was 14, and I sat my Grade 5 this March, nearly exactly 2yrs after starting, I GOT DISTINCTION! 😀 I’m really wanting to get through the grades, do you think it would be possible for me to do my Grade 6 this June? And what do you think of my progress? Is it okay?

    • Congratulations on your Grade 5 result, especially in such a short space of time!

      As for the June exam entry, ask your teacher’s opinion as they will be best placed to advise you and make the exam entry accordingly.

  3. Elena says:

    Hey, I am 10 years old as of November 2013, and will be 11 on 16 December, I will be taking my Grade 4 piano soon. I started playing in October 2010, aged 7. Here are my exam results:
    I skipped my prep test because it was too easy for me and I was a quick learner.
    In February 2012, I took my Grade 1 and got a Distinction.
    In December 2012, I took my Grade 2 and got a High Merit.
    In May 2013, I took my Grade 3 and got 3 marks off Distinction (another High Merit).
    Do you think this is good? BTW I am the best in Year 6 at piano, although there is an amazing girl in Year 4 who is a Grade 5! (So I’m the 2nd best in our school). 😉

  4. Elena says:

    Oh and PLEASE stay in touch, I will notify you when I get my Grade 4 results (but that will take a few more months!)
    I have this feeling that I was somewhat insecure on Grades 2-3 and messed up a bit, although on Grade 1 I was seriously in my element. But I have another feeling that Grade 4 might just land me another distinction…

  5. Tbox says:

    I am taking my Grade 7 piano exam in 5 days and I am 12 so HA. Distinction is what i’m GONNA get.

  6. Carmen says:

    I’m 13 but grade 4 piano. I’m slower than everyone else and I feel so bad. Those my age are at least grade 5. I have learnt piano for 7 years I don’t know why I can’t do it. Will I be able to finsih grade 8 when I’m 16?

    • Lorraine says:

      Hi Carmen – we all learn at different paces so don’t feel despondent. Have a word with your teacher and let them know your concerns and hopefully they can inspire you to keep going. Wishing you all the best!

      • Sahil Sarangi says:

        I have just finished my Grade 5 piano exam. I didn’t do quite well in my scales and arpeggios, my first piece and my sight reading. I did really well in my aural test and my other 2 pieces. Do you think I passed?

      • Lorraine says:

        Dear Sahil. Have a chat with your teacher as they will be best placed to advise you as they know your level of playing. You should also read through the new exam marking criteria that you can find on the ABRSm web site. Fingers crossed for a positive result!


    I have just passed Grade 2 Piano… Can I try for Grade 3 in March 2017?

  8. Angie says:

    I did my pieces really well but my arpeggios were horrible I didn’t do any of them and my aural was completely but my sight reading was okay do you think I passed btw I’m grade5 and 10

    • Lorraine says:

      Well done on getting to such an advanced level at your age. I would be unable to predict a result without having heard you play but do speak to your teacher as they will be best placed to advise you.

  9. Sally Walker says:

    I have been playing piano since i was 7 and now i am 12 and in grade 5 piano… i progressed slowly until about a month or two ago when i finally got the hang of playing more complex pieces. all my current pieces are mostly fluent although there are still a few errors and they are not at the right speed, and so i was wondering if i should sit my next exam in July (its early April now) or if i should wait until November because i have only been working on the pieces for around 1-2 months.

  10. Ceinwen says:

    After getting 67/99 for G8 theory in 1988 I decided to do it again this November. I made that crazy decision at the end of the school holidays….. EEKK.
    It is a great post so thanks for sharing it.

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