Chaos keeps on spreading at ABRSM

Chaos keeps on spreading at ABRSM


norman lebrecht

May 26, 2022

We hear reports of bullying and intimidation of people who complain about the systems collapse at the international examining board.

We have therefore made a rare exception and decided to publish this update anonymously (the author is known to the SD team):

Recently SD published a letter signed by hundreds of examiners for the Associated Board (ABRSM) criticising the software that was causing huge difficulties for them when trying file their exam reports. The problem is not confined to examiners. Those taking exams are also seeing huge frustrations: punters who have fought their way through the overly complicated online exam booking system (and when they get stuck, messages to the helpline go answered), paying significant exam fees (for instance, a lowly Grade 2 exam, lasting just 14 minutes, involves payment of a fee of £55) are being sent an email which tell them that their exam has now been scheduled. When they click the link, the computer tells them that they are in a queue with waiting times of up to 30 minutes. “I really don’t know why I am bothering with the Associated Board any more”, writes one experienced teacher. “It takes way longer to get through the booking process for the exam than it does for the pupil to sit the exam. And then to have to sit in front of my computer screen for 30 minutes so that I can simply find out what time a pupil’s exam will be is the final insult”.


  • Maria says:

    Yeah, well… the whole exam systems of ABRSM and Trinity need to be revamped, and the mindset of parents. Little Johnny getting Grade 1 distinction and then having a party! And that’s before you use any software!

    • AndrewB says:

      I think Trinity has made considerable efforts over the past decade to diversify the syllabuses to match different styles of learning and performance. My contact with them has been very good over the years.
      Ultimately if a pupil is going to sit an exam there are plenty of boards to choose from.
      The key factor being the question of the repertoire list which suits the student best.
      ABRSM has a long and distinguished history and I hope it gets back on track.
      The financial aspect cannot be ignored though. An exam board cannot give the impression its exams are better simply because it charges more money. As I say there are viable alternatives on the market and more teachers are moving towards those all the time.
      So many parents make sacrifices to finance music education for their children and they deserve respect for that.
      It is worthwhile reminding folks though that some very brilliant musicians never sat a music exam in their lives. These exams can be a useful framework for progress if approached in the right way, but it is the quality of the tuition received and student’s dedication to rehearsal that are essential I would say. In addition access to musical scores and opportunities to hear high quality musicmaking whatever the style.

  • Patience Karma says:

    It’s not really an update though, is it? It’s just having another go at ABRSM, reiterating issues that have already been overstated in the media, with a couple of anecdotes thrown in, which is not helpful and does not fairly represent everyone’s dealings with the exam board. And ‘we hear reports of’ is hardly substantial evidence to justify further kicking ABRSM while it is down.
    ABRSM has put its hands up, admitted errors, shortcomings and failings, and said that it is doing its utmost to rectify matters.
    Why doesn’t everyone just back off a bit, show some support and encouragement, and give ABRSM chance to stabilise after an horrendous couple of years? It’s in everyone’s interests to have ABRSM back on track, and is going to be a sad day for music education worldwide if ABRSM can’t pull it back together, or has been kicked to bits before it has chance to do so.
    So come on, please stop all the negativity and show some humanity, solidarity, patience and encouragement to try and bring about positive change.

    • Boulez o'Dinnertime says:

      ABRSM blamed everyone but itself and used the word ‘sorry’ once deep in about the fifth paragraph of its press release before saying ‘we make no apologies for ..’. Their arrogant style will be their undoing.

    • Goodchild says:

      Do you accept that their services have been shoddy for at least two years? and should we accept that level of shoddiness? A one off error is ok, but several is so bad

      So how do you show humanity to them? They have not shown it to examiners and teachers

    • Myra Hall says:

      Absolutely – ABRSM bashing has spread like a virus! Furthermore the letter that was posted on SD was a private one, sent in confidence to ABRSM management and was not intended for public viewing. The fact that it was leaked is shameful.

  • Martin Cohn says:

    What pray tell is: ABRSM?????

    • Peter San Diego says:

      As a non-UK subject, I infer from the evidence so far that AB = Associated Board and speculate that RSM = Royal Society of Music. But what does a Board associated with the RSM actually do, other than deploy apparently ineffective software associated with music pedagogy?

      • AndrewB says:

        Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music is one of several examining bodies working internationally. They offer a series of graded examinations designed to accompany pupils of all ages through the process of learning an instrument, singing or music theory. They are both an encouragement scheme for some who are learning music for pleasure, but also certain levels count for points on University application forms and are a way stage for aspiring professional musicians. The diplomas of the board receive credit on various qualifications frameworks.
        I believe the oldest examining music board is Trinity College London( TCL) which is also very active and popular.
        ABRSM qualifications carry the seal of 4 music colleges- Royal Academy , Royal College, Royal Northern College and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – the board.

    • christopher storey says:

      Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music

  • Goodchild says:

    This is not an update pianonetworkuk facebook group led me here… surprise surprise! Just an excuse to moan about abrsm which is what the group is good at ‍♂️

  • Tony Yungster says:

    Yes I agree! ABRSM is a constant thread in piano network uk group, but the worst of all is the (unofficial) ABRSM exams group on FB, it is dire! Admin are obsessed and constantly talking over any issues…….