What are RCM Exams? Should my child be taking one?

We often hear the question from parents “What are RCM exams?” and “Should my child be taking one?”. Those are both very good questions, and ones that we love to answer! Have a quick read of our breakdown to the answers to these questions.

What are RCM exams?

RCM stands for the Royal Conservatory of Music which is a worldwide music education program for a variety of musical instruments. The RCM education program is designed by grade level for each instrument ranging from preparatory to level 10, with an equivalent practical exam that can be taken at the completion of the grade.

RCM examWhat does an RCM exam include?

RCM exams are practical examinations that are completed in a performance type setting and marked by an adjudicator. There are exams for each RCM repertoire level beginning at the preparatory level. As students progress higher through the grade levels there are theory, history and harmony co-requisites as well.

Practical Exams include:
• multiple pieces performed (generally memorized)
• a technique portion (scales, vocalises, studies, etc.)
• as well as a musicianship portion (ear training skills)

Each exam is marked out of 100 and graded according to a very strict rubric by highly trained and qualified examiners.

Should my child be taking one?

Our answer to this question varies on a case by case basis depending on three these general things:

• are they working out of an RCM book?
• are their practice habits consistent?
• do they plan to pursue music as a career path?

If the answer to all or some of these three questions is yes, then our answer is usually yes. For these types of students, the RCM exams are a great route to further their music education by keeping them motivated and goal oriented. What is also important to know is that it is never too late try! If this is something that perks the interest of a student, we are always on board to support and facilitate this path.

On average, preparation for an exam can take anywhere from 6-12 months and requires a serious amount of practice time and dedication to have a pleasant experience and receive a good mark. It is not a small undertaking – but a rewarding one!

What are the benefits to taking an exam?

For a driven student there are many great benefits to preparing and taking an RCM exam. A lot of the benefits come during the preparation period which requires intricate score study, memorization techniques, ear training development, and performance preparation. Learning to hone these skills over the course of several months help to build a long-lasting technical foundation that will last a lifetime! The performance aspect of an exam has many benefits as well for the young performer. Once they have prepared for their exam thoroughly, the goal is to execute and showcase their hard work in a high-pressure situation. This performance setting has a different atmosphere to a regular recital performance which is beneficial for creating a confident and polished performer.

Not a fit? That’s ok!

If the answers to the above questions were not all yes, then that is by no means a reflection of your child’s musical education. Each student is different, and therefore their education paths all vary slightly. Just because they are not taking exams does not necessarily mean they are missing out!

Our goal as music teachers is to create tailored lessons that provide a thorough and inspiring experience, as well as a strong musical foundation whether they are enrolled in exams or not. We ensure all our students have performance opportunities to help build and boost their confidence and have ear training and technique built into their lessons. This provides our students with many of the skills established while preparing for an exam, but in much less “serious” fashion.

We hope this has been helpful in answering some of your burning questions about RCM exams. Please feel free to speak to your teacher more if you have any questions!

If you’d like to do a little more reading on this topic, you can find out more information here: RCM Music