ABRSM Music Theory in Practice

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ABRSM Music Theory in Practice covers all information needed for Theory of Music examinations.

Each book gives detailed advice on ways in which the examination questions might be approached.

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ABRSM Music Theory in Practice

ABRSM Music Theory in Practice covers all information needed for Theory of Music examinations.

Each book gives detailed advice on ways in which the examination questions might be approached.  The text includes worked examples of some typical examination questions, with a set of exercises demonstrating each kind of question. The theory covers both pre-20th-century and 20th-century styles.

ABRSM Music Theory in Practice Model Answers also available:

ABRSM is the UK’s largest music education body, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams, offering assessments to more than 630,000 candidates in 93 countries every year.  They offer pathways and resources for learners and teachers that help build musical skills, provide goals and also encourage progress.

As instrumental skills progress, development in music theory and musicianship becomes increasingly important in helping students to perform with sensitivity, understanding and confidence.

ABRSM’s Music Theory exams aim to give students a thorough understanding of the building blocks of music, starting with the basics of rhythm and notes, and going on to cover harmony and counterpoint, composition, and a broad knowledge of western music, including composers and their works, structure, style and period.

Each Music Theory paper is marked out of a total of 100, with 66 marks required for a Pass, 80 for a Merit and 90 for a Distinction.


Note from the ABRSM BOARD 2018

We have made some small changes to our Music Theory exams at Grades 1 to 5. Our aim is to create a better exam experience for candidates with more focus on the essential music theory knowledge and understanding needed at this level.

Updated exam papers will be used in all countries and are available now, with no overlap period. There are no changes to questions at Grades 6 to 8. (ABRSM)

What’s changed?

We have introduced modernised questions and assessment methods in some parts of the exam at Grades 1 to 5. We have also updated the design of the papers to ensure they are clear and easy to understand.

Revised exam papers will be used in all countries and are available now, with no overlap period. There are no changes to questions at Grades 6 to 8.

The main changes are:

  • Introducing multiple choice questions for musical terms and signs
  • Updating questions to ensure they are clear and easy to understand. This includes:
  • Reducing the amount of information on the page for time signature questions (Grades 1 to 3)
  • Simplifying the layout of intervals questions (Grades 4 and 5)
  • Simplifying the layout for Grade 5, Question 7 (chords at cadence points), with candidates asked to describe chords only using roman numerals.
  • Removing rhythm-writing, melody-writing and word-setting questions, and the Grade 5 SATB short/open score question
  • Refreshing the design of all exam papers to ensure they are clear and easy to read (Grades 1 to 8)

Same syllabus and standards
The revised exam papers are based on our existing Music Theory syllabus and will continue to assess the same broad areas of music theory to the same standards.

The exams will still cover:
Knowledge of western music notation, including common signs and terms
understanding of fundamental musical elements, such as intervals, keys, scales and chords

However from 2018, papers will not include rhythm-writing, word-setting, melody-writing or the Grade 5 SATB short/open score question.

Replacement questions
We are introducing a small number of additional questions to replace the current rhythm-writing, melody-writing and word-setting questions.

The replacement questions are based on existing question-types which focus on specific areas of theory knowledge. They are similar in style and format to questions in the current papers, so will feel familiar to teachers and candidates. Overall there will be far less copying out.

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