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The world’s leading provider of music exams

Founded in 1889, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) is the UK’s largest music education body, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams.

Fundamentally, the ABRSM is about providing graded music exams, assessments and diplomas. It is a worldwide currency. Every year, around 630,000 candidates from more than 90 countries - from China to Ghana, from Vietnam to Turkey - will be assessed according to the ABRSM’s rigorous standards of formal music Grade examinations.

While their present structure of grades 1-8 was actually only introduced in 1933, the requirements of musical grade have remained constant: the performance of three pieces, a strict array of scales, a piece of sightreading and an Aural test. And as Rosie Millard wrote in The Telegraph, “grades are a gold standard which everyone understands...the result is always listed as follows: Fail. Pass. Merit. Distinction. Grades are unashamedly highbrow. Aspirational. Uncompromising. They start at One, and end at Eight.”

As a charity, ABRSM invests £6m annually in music education annually. It provides more than 80 scholarships for talented musicians to study at the four Royal Schools of Music in the UK. It sells nearly two million books and CDs each year and has built up a wealth of teacher training and digital resources.

But it's not without critics, such as Julian Lloyd Webber who has accused the charity's trustees of conflicts of interest and being at odds with best practice in the way it is run. The ABRSM is conducting a governance review.

However, the important note to strike is ABRSM's rather wonderful aim: to inspire achievement in music.


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