ABRSM graded music exams (Theory & Practical) are accredited by Ofqual in the UK and are part of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). Practical and Theory exams at Grades 6–8 also attract points towards university entrance in the UK (see under UCAS below).
Ofqual is the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator which regulates all national public exams such as GCSEs and A-levels. Ofqual is responsible for accrediting qualifications offered by ‘awarding bodies’ such as ABRSM. Accredited qualifications can only be offered by awarding bodies recognised by Ofqual. All ABRSM graded music exam certificates bear the Ofqual logo.
The National Qualification Framework. All accredited qualifications in the UK are given an NQF level. This allows a qualification to be clearly benchmarked and compared to other qualifications. The NQF has 9 levels (entry level and levels 1–8). The table below lists the NQF levels for ABRSM exams alongside an example of a standard UK qualification with the same NQF level to help demonstrate how ABRSM exams compare to UK school, college and university qualifications.
ABRSM Exams Grades 1-3 (NQF Level 1) attract the same NQF level as GCSE at Grades D-G
ABRSM Exams Grades 4-5 (NQF Level 2) attract the same NQF level as GCSE at Grades A*-C
ABRSM Exams Grades 6-8 (NQF Level 3) attract the same NQF level as A Levels
DipABRSM (NQF Level 4) attracts the same NQF level as a Certificate of Higher Education
LRSM (NQF Level 6) equates to NQF level for Bachelors Degree, Graduate Certificate or Diploma
FRSM (NQF Level 7) equates to NQF level for Masters Degree, Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma
UCAS – the University and College Admissions Service. All students applying to UK universities apply through UCAS. Universities offer places on courses usually on the grounds that a student will gain a specific minimum number of UCAS points. These points are collected through qualifications. ABRSM exams at Grades 6–8 are included in the UCAS points tariff. The point recommendations for ABRSM exams are as follows
ABRSM Grade 6 Practical
Pass 25 | Merit 40 | Distinction 45
ABRSM Grade 6 Theory
Pass 5 | Merit 10 | Distinction 15
ABRSM Grade 7 Practical
Pass 40 | Merit 55 | Distinction 60
ABRSM Grade 7 Theory
Pass 10 | Merit 15 | Distinction 20
ABRSM Grade 8 Practical
Pass 55 | Merit 70 | Distinction 75
ABRSM GRADE 8 Theory
Pass 20 | Merit | 25 | Distinction 30
Explanation of ABRSM Exam Marking
Online Theory exams are marked out of 75
Practical exams are marked out of 150 points
Piece A 30 points
Piece B 30 points
Piece C 30 points
Aural 18 points
Sight Reading 21 points
Scales & Arpeggios 21 points
Performance exams are marked out of 150 points
Four pieces of equal value. This exam is pre-recorded by the candidate.