Around one quarter of Charlotte’s students are interested in exams, and the rest play just for pleasure. The decision of whether to do exams or not is left entirely to the student, although if students aren’t sure Charlotte will advise on whether she thinks working towards an exam would be beneficial for them.
Charlotte uses both the ABRSM and Trinity exam boards. Students who want to take grade exams use the ABRSM syllabus for grades 1-5, which Charlotte believes to be the best one at this level. For the higher grades, the emphasis of the two main exam boards differs, so students taking grades 6, 7 and 8 can choose to stay with the ABRSM, or take Trinity exams, depending on their strengths, goals and preferences.
Charlotte’s students have consistently performed above the national average in grade exams, with the vast majority of candidates gaining merits or distinctions. Exams can provide a useful goal and way to measure progress, but Charlotte believes that they should never be an end in themselves.
She is happy to coach students through a grade exam curriculum, but for those who want to do exams without scales, sight-reading or aural she also takes advantage of the newly redeveloped Trinity Performance Certificate exams, which provide written feedback and a mark based on the playing of pieces. These are well suited to adult students who like the idea of exams but don’t want to do grades, or for students who take grades but want a different sort of goal to work towards.
Some students like to take an exam and then leave it undecided as to whether they will take another, and others like to feel they are progressing through each grade. However, for all students who do take exams, Charlotte emphasises that consolidation time is needed between grades to develop technique and explore new types of repertoire.
Piano teaching diplomas are assessed by written submission, an hour-long viva voce exam, and a quick study sight-reading test. The prerequisites are grade 8 piano and grade 6 theory. For those who already hold grade 8 piano, the average length of preparation and study time for the teaching diploma is two years on a part-time basis. It is highly recommended that candidates have had some teaching experience before taking the diploma exam, although Charlotte helps teaching diploma students to gain that experience by passing on referrals for young pupils who may be suitable for a teacher just starting out in the profession.