• Rahul Sharma

What happens in a Rockschool London (RSL Awards) exam?



Here’s a complete guide on how the Rockschool London grade exams are conducted and the steps included in the exam.

A Rockschool exam can be of two types – Grade Exams Performance Certificates.

GRADE EXAMS – A grade exam is a mixture of music performances, technical exercises and tests. The student is required to prepare three pieces and the contents of the technical exercise section. This accounts for 75% of the exam marks. The other 25% consists of either a sight reading or an improvisation & interpretation test, 2 ear tests and finally 5 general musicianship questions are asked.

PERFORMANCE CERTIFICATE - In a performance certificate exam, 100% of the exam marks consists of 5 performance pieces of 20 marks each.



What happens in a Grade Exam?

On the exam date, students reach the exam hall 30 minutes prior to their respective exam timings. Parking themselves inside the waiting room, each student is asked to fill an “appointment slip.” An appointment slip consists of the details of the student . As per instructions, the student needs to write down three points on the appointment slip itself:

1) Name of three performance pieces they are going to perform during the exam

2) Whether the student would choose sight reading or improvisation (GRADE 1-5 only)

3) Name of the piece for which the student would prefer oral questions (general musicianship questions)

The student, after entering the exam hall, is asked to set up his/her guitar, amps, lead etc. After a quick soundcheck by the examiner, the exam starts-


Part 1- Performance Pieces – Candidates are required to play 3 pieces for a grade exam and 5 for a performance certificate. They will be asked to play chosen performance pieces along to a backing track.



Part 2Technical Exercises – The technical exercises consist of chords, scales, arpeggios and stylistic studies (GRADE 6-8 only). Fingerpicking, hybrid picking and percussive techniques are also part of acoustic grade.

Part 3Sight Reading or Improvisation (GRADES 1-5 only) – In this section, candidates can choose to sight read a short melodic phrase or play an improvised melody along to a short chord progression. Both are previously unseen and examples of each are given in the corresponding grade book.

All GRADE 6-8 students are required to prepare and perform a Quick Study Piece to a backing track. The QSP is in the form of a lead sheet and includes both sight reading and improvisation requirements. Candidates are able to choose from 3 genre group options and are given 3 minutes to prepare.

Part 4- General Musicianship Questions – Candidates are asked 5 questions to test general music and instrument knowledge. Questions related to harmony, melody, rhythms from a selected section of the piece can be asked by the examiner. Also, questions on the technical requirements of a piece and genre of the piece are often asked.


With this, comes the end of the Rockschool London grade exam.




About Rockschool London - Rockschool was founded in 1991, with the first Guitar, Bass and Drum syllabus launched in 1993. The Rockschool team has a wide range of experience across the academic, music industry and live performance sectors. This hands on practical experience is what makes Rockschool qualifications and Rockschool Ltd, unique as an exam board. Rockschool is a fully accredited exam board that offers music qualifications to musicians of all ages and abilities. The qualifications regulators of England (OfQual), the Welsh Government (DCELLS) and Northern Ireland (CCEA) accredit Graded Music Exams, Entry Level (Debut) to Grade 8. The qualifications regulator of Scotland (SQA Accreditation) accredit Graded Music Exams, Grades 1 to 8. Grade Exams and Performance Certificates are available from Entry Level (Debut) up to Grade 8. Each grade has a wide choice of rock, pop, funk, and world music tunes that cover all the key skills required at that grade. Do check out this link to know more about Rockschool London - https://www.rslawards.com/



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