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Traditional Music Graded Exams


Are you a music teacher with students interested in Scottish music? Are you a student looking to take an exam conducted by an experienced performer in your discipline? Our Traditional Music Graded Exams promote traditional Scottish performance skills and the best of traditional and contemporary repertoire by the establishment of a specialist, performance-based series of assessments true to the artistic integrity of Scotland’s musical heritage.

Working in consultation with the Conservatoire’s Scottish Music staff and specialists from across Scotland, the programme acknowledges the value of Scotland’s traditional music to its contemporary culture and identity and seeks further to strengthen traditional music’s ties to education and lifelong learning.

Unlike other music exam programmes, the Scottish Traditional Music Graded Exams are specialist-based – meaning a fiddle candidate is assessed by a fiddle examiner, an accordion candidate by an accordion examiner, and so on.

As is often the case with traditional music students and players, improvisation and ‘having a good ear’ are often more present than an ability to read classical notation. As such, candidates do not have to read music to take the exams: our syllabuses offer the choice between reading music for assessment or playing back by ear.

As a tool for tutors and learners of all ages and abilities comparable in its grading to classical music exams, the programme provides:

  • An escalator for aspiring traditional musicians who wish to widen their scope of opportunities
  • A basis for professional development among traditional Scottish music educators and non-specialist teachers looking to gain further experience of traditional Scottish music
  • A firmer establishment of traditional music tuition in Scotland’s educational curricula
  • Parity of esteem with the classical idiom

However, the exams and assessments can also be fun:

“There was a really relaxed atmosphere in the waiting room while the accordion exams were taking place. Everyone, both candidates and parents, were very supportive of each other, applauding once candidates had finished practising. A few of the candidates even had a wee jamming session between practising! It was an enjoyable day for all involved.” — Steward, Aberdeen centre

The important details

Deadline for booking June exams:
14 June 2024

Exam fees:
see Booking Information

Current repertoire valid until:
December 2024

Our Fiddle, Harp, and Accordion Syllabuses

Working together with a range of Scotland’s foremost traditional musicians and tutors, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is pleased to announce our syllabuses for fiddle, harp and accordions are available direct from our website in the dropdown below. These include new selections of tunes in addition to timeless favourites – a wider range of practice specimens for Quick Studies and PAM tests.

The repertoire for each syllabus is now valid until December 2024.

You can purchase Scottish Music Graded Exam books from our Shop

A student is playing a Scottish Harp. The photo is taken through the strings of another Harp in front

How it Works

Graded exams up to Grade 5 feature the performance of a wide diversity of traditional and modern tunes, brief technical work, a ‘quick study’ and a series of practical and aural musicianship (PAM) tests designed specifically with the Scottish traditional musician in mind. There are no theory tests.

In ungraded performance assessments, there are no marks and no pass or fail: just expert independent feedback on your playing, written by the examiner on the certificate that the candidate receives at the end of each assessment. It is suitable for adult learners, teachers and candidates of any age with specific needs. It’s also perfect for young learners who’d simply like a relaxed and supportive introduction to the exam experience.

Two exam sessions take place annually on Royal Conservatoire premises: a Spring/Summer session and an Autumn/Winter session. The Spring/Summer session usually takes place in March; the session in Autumn/Winter usually in November. Once the deadline for entries to a session has passed, our Graded Exams Administrator collates the entries and notifies each applicant of their candidates’ appointment with the examiner for the upcoming session.

If, however, you are not within easy travelling distance of Glasgow or have a group of candidates ready for exams at other times of the year, you can request a special visit by an examiner near you. Certain conditions apply, but we are always happy to discuss your needs and accommodate them whenever possible.

The examiner is a specialist in the candidate’s instrument and is eager to make the exam a welcoming and enjoyable experience. The exam takes 15- 20 minutes, depending on the grade; and in line with other examination boards, the applicant will receive a detailed mark sheet, an official certificate to pass on to the candidate(s), and our sincere thanks for your participation within 4-6 weeks of the exam session taking place.

Booking Information

We are planning to run exams in June and November 2024. You can book the next round of exams by following the links below:

Fiddle – Friday, 28 June 2024

Clarsach – Friday, 28 June 2024

Deadline for booking June exams is 14 June 2024

Any requests after this date should be requested via email:

Current repertoire is valid until December 2024

Grade 1 – £45.00

Grade 2 – £48.00

Grade 3 – £54.00

Grade 4 – £60.00

Grade 5 – £65.00

Schools and private tutors not within easy travelling distance of Glasgow can book special visits by an examiner for at least a day’s worth of candidates (i.e. 12 or more).

How to book a Special Visit

  • Please email at least 6 weeks prior to the desired date with the request, including preferred date, location, venue, instrument and number of candidates.
  • The administrator will then take a note of the above details and liaise with potential examiners to suit the requested date and location. Flexibility is appreciated. Agreement on date is subject to examiner availability. If requesting a Special Visit, please email us with as many dates as possible so we can check availability with our small team of examiners.
  • Once date, venue and examiner have been confirmed, you will be asked to send a full list of candidate details.
  • The administrator will create an event via our website. All applicants will need to individually book on via our website and a booking link will be supplied by the administrator. If you would rather submit all applicants together and receive an invoice then please advise during the initial booking.

The administrator will send an exam timetable to the person requesting the exam and the examiner.

Please note: we prefer to liaise with only one applicant per Special Visit, so that person must take responsibility for distributing timetable information amongst other tutors/parents.

If any candidate’s fee has not been received as of one week prior to the Special Visit, that candidate will be removed from the timetable, and this may endanger the viability of the entire visit.


Like exams delivered by the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music, the Conservatoire’s Scottish Traditional Music Graded Exams are divided into four sections and last 15-20 minutes depending on the grade.

Total possible marks in each Scottish Traditional Music Graded Exam are 150. 100 marks are required to reach a Pass; 120 marks to pass with Merit; and 130 marks to pass with Distinction. The four sections of the exam are:

Performance (90 marks)

The performance part of the exam has 3 pieces: 1) Airs, 2) Dance Tunes and 3) Recently-composed Tunes. Each piece is marked out of 30. Please see specific instrument guidelines below.

Technical Work (18 marks)

Technical work for Scottish Traditional Music Graded Exams will include a limited number of scales, arpeggios and technical exercises, depending on the syllabus.

Quick Study (21 marks)

This section, in which you are to play back a short piece of music, can be done by ear or by sight the choice is yours. See Quick Study Guidelines for further details.

Practical and Aural Musicianship (21 marks)

Practical and Aural Musicianship (PAM) comprises a short series of tests designed to encourage your understanding of traditional rhythms and tune idioms, and challenge your ability to echo and improvise responses to musical prompts. Please see PAM Guidelines for more details.

Remember the exam is meant to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and the examiner will do his or her best to put you at ease. Good luck!

The current repertoire for Traditional Music Graded Exams is valid until December 2024.

You can purchase Scottish Music Graded Exam books from our Shop