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Tips For Preparing For Your Piano Exam

Whether you’re a new pianist or a full-time professional, exams can be a demanding and often daunting task. Each exam has its own challenges. However, preparing properly for the exams can mean the difference between passing and failing.

In this example, let’s pretend we’re sitting for a sixth grade piano exam. Let the record show that I sat for a sixth grade exam and passed. Although I admit, I did not do well – this was caused by a severe lack of preparation for the exam. I didn’t spend time and energy preparing for the music exam. I can assure you from my own experience that you need more than 15 minutes of practice three to four times a week to effectively prepare for the sixth grade piano exam!

THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE EXAM

During this time, you should practice for about an hour a day, five days a week. You must be able to press at least all the correct notes in the selected pieces. It’s time to start developing your pieces from a series of notes into a piano masterpiece. Focus on things like expression, dynamics, and tempo. Put some feeling and emotion into your pieces.

Also, you need to thoroughly study all your theories and scales. Too often at this point scales and theory are ignored and only revised about two weeks before the exam. This is a terrible mistake! Remember, the more you study now, the more you retain this information, so you have a better chance of recalling the knowledge you need during the exam.

ONE MONTH BEFORE THE EXAM

Time to step up the anti a bit. You must spend one and a half to two hours a day practicing, six days a week. It’s time to smooth out minor flaws in your music pieces. Practice things like making the trick triad sound fluid and making sure you hit the F-sharp with your fourth finger instead of your fifth finger. These problems may seem minor, but they are a huge help in the exam.

Practice without the sheet music and see how well it goes. If you rely too much on your score during the exam, I can guarantee you will stuff yourself. Learn your music by heart.
Also, make sure your exam is your number one priority. Don’t get distracted by other problems in your life. Don’t be distracted by relationship, financial, or other problems that may distract you from the exam. You will be stressed and tired, and you will not perform up to your potential.

ONE WEEK BEFORE THE EXAM

It’s time to practice, practice, practice! I recommend two to three hours a day for now. You must have all the knowledge required for the exam. It is simply to revise for the exam.

While we are working hard and studying, we must remain calm. Put it in perspective; it’s just an exam. No need to worry about it 24/7.

DAY BEFORE EXAM

Most people practice for 5-6 hours the night before the exam and study until some ungodly hour in the morning. This is a big no-no! Play through your pieces at most once. I like to pretend I’m actually taking an exam. So I did my scales first, then my pieces in order, and then I read.

Do not try to revise the exam at the last minute. Chances are, you’ll only be putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, and more importantly, you’ll have little chance of remembering it for the exam. Don’t get distracted by other things in your life. Tomorrow is your piano exam – everything else can wait another day.
Relax! It is very important that you sleep well. I recommend getting 8-10 hours of sleep if you can afford that luxury.

MORNING BEFORE THE EXAM

Do not do any work, piano related or not. Do something fun that doesn’t require a lot of brain power. Watching a movie. Kick a soccer ball. Do whatever feels right.

Try to have a healthy breakfast. However, if you suffer from butterflies in your stomach, which I suffer immensely from, don’t try to push anything down. It just comes straight back! (Trust me!)

I’ll say it again, KEEP CALM! Try not to think about your exam. Don’t try on your theory, scales, pieces, catches, etc. to think. Don’t think about what you did and didn’t do in the exam. It will only confuse you and it will seriously hinder your exam.

30 MINUTES BEFORE THE EXAM

By now you should be at the location where the exam is being held. Do an ultra-light rework. Go through the sheet music and visualize yourself reading the notes. Play some “air piano”. Test yourself with some theoretical questions.
Under no circumstances should you discuss the exam with others. Don’t ask each other theoretical questions. Don’t argue your pieces. Do not talk about previous exams or examiners. This is nothing more than an unwanted obstacle. Take a few deep breaths, relax, and focus on the exam.

5 minutes BEFORE THE EXAM

Close the books for a moment. Take three deep breaths and concentrate. Think of it like any other piano practice. Start the exam with positive thoughts. Whether you prepared for the exam as described above or not does not matter now. Now you can only concentrate on the upcoming task of the exam.

DURING THE EXAMINATION

Two things will happen to you now. First, you think you’re doing it right. Large! Ride this wave of euphoria until the end of the exam. But you mustn’t relax! I still have a couple of pieces or a couple of scales or some theory. You have to concentrate until the end of the exam. A lot can happen until then.

The second thing that can happen to you during your piano exam is that you think you are doing poorly. Forget it! It doesn’t matter what happened. You still have the exam to impress the examiner. A lot can change between now and the end of the exam.

Another thing to think about is that just because you think you did a bad job, it doesn’t mean the examiner knows you did a bad job. He won’t catch every single mistake you make. Just forget what happened, clear your mind and start again with the next task. Think about what will happen, not what just happened.

AFTER EXAM

Congratulation! You passed the exam! Now you can breathe a sigh of relief! It’s finally over!

Analyze the exam carefully. what did you do well What are you doing wrong? What could you have done to improve it? Make notes to use as a reference for future exams.

Be careful not to be overconfident during your exam. You may be disappointed when you see the results. On the other hand, don’t be too negative about your exam and don’t think you did poorly. You will most often get a pleasant surprise!

FEEL THE RESULTS

After waiting a week or two for the results, you will naturally be excited or at least curious about the results. Did it perform well and/or better than you expected? Did you do worse than you thought? Either way, read the examiner’s notes at least three times. See what they liked and didn’t like about your piano exam. No matter how well you’ve done, you can always improve! Next year’s exams are guaranteed to be more difficult than this year’s.

Consider the evaluator’s comments, but also consider your own thoughts. Was your exam preparation as good as it could have been? Nine times out of ten, if you’ve done it wrong, you usually know why. Think about why you went wrong and improve! Learn from your mistakes. Don’t get depressed! It’s not the end of the world. There’s always next year.

I hope this article was useful for preparing for the exam. I personally do this when preparing for a piano exam. Obviously, if you have your own routine that works, then by all means stick to it. However, if you take one piece of advice from this article and apply it successfully, then I will consider this article a success. Good luck with your exams and most importantly remember that you can only do your best.

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