COVID-19 - latest exam updates

A message from our Chief Executive – our future plans

Ireland exam updates

Update 26 May – remotely assessed graded music exams (UK)

In August, we are aiming to launch performance-focused graded music exams in the UK that will be assessed remotely, based on a recorded submission. These remotely-assessed exams will be available in the UK only to begin with. We will then start to roll them out in stages to learners in other countries later in 2020. You can find out more about these remotely assessed exams here.

Update 6 May - A message from our Chief Executive – our future plans

At ABRSM we appreciate how much the cancellation of our exams has affected you and we’re working hard on solutions to ensure you gain your qualifications at the earliest opportunity.

On 6 May we announced that we would be making special arrangements to offer adapted exams to learners in the UK. These exams are available to learners in their final year of schooling who were expecting to take Grade 6 to 8 (Practical or Music Theory) or an ARSM by summer 2020, and to have their results in time to provide UCAS points for university entrance. The offer of an adapted exam is an exceptional and temporary measure for this specific group of learners. To ensure we can meet the needs of these learners we are restricting these exams to UK candidates to begin with. We will then consider offering them to other candidates and in other countries, and will provide an update on this as soon as we can.

We also announced that we will be offering online practical graded music exams, with a focus on performance, to learners in the UK from August. The exams will be for all instruments and grades (Grades 1-8 and ARSM) and will use our existing repertoire and resources. To begin with, these exams will be available in the UK only. We will then begin rolling them out in stages to learners in other countries later in the year.

The provision of online exams is a new and very exciting step for us and, we hope, for our community of teachers and learners too. I completely understand that many of you will be disappointed that you cannot use these online exams sooner. However, by launching them in the UK with a limited number of candidates, we can make sure that the processes and systems that support the exams are effective and run smoothly.

In the meantime, we are reviewing our Music Theory offer while continuing to plan for the resumption of face-to-face exams in appropriate venues and under strict management of social distancing requirements, once circumstances allow. Please continue to check our website for the latest information.

Whether you are a teacher, learner or parent, you matter to us, and we will continue to do everything we can to support your musical journeys.

Take care and stay safe!

Michael Elliott

Chief Executive, ABRSM

Update 24 April - When will booking for exams reopen?

When the UK and other governments around the world announced travel and social distancing restrictions in March, ABRSM took the decision to suspend all exams until at least 1 July and to keep this date under review as the situation evolved and future conditions became clearer. Since then, the UK government has extended the duration of these restrictions, which in turn means that we cannot currently make any logistical arrangements for the resumption of face to face assessments. As the situation improves to the point that we can foresee when venues will be open and when our examiners will be permitted to travel and to visit schools and centres, we will be able to resume the planning and delivery of face to face assessments. We will do this as quickly as possible, always with safety as a priority and in accordance with the prevailing government guidance, as we share your frustration at this unfortunate interruption to our normal operations.


Update 16 April – UK and Ireland exam refunds

As promised, we have started issuing refunds for Session 1 exams cancelled due to COVID-19. We will email you to let you know when your refund has been processed. It will take us a few working days to issue all refunds, so please bear with us. Exam fees will be refunded back to the original payment card. We will provide an update here, once all refunds have gone through. 


Update 15 April – UK and Ireland Music Theory results

Due to the current COVID-19 situation we are anticipating a delay to the posting of Music Theory mark forms and certificates. We are very sorry about this. We are working hard to minimise any delay and will post mark forms and certificates as soon as we can.


Update 9 April – An update from the Chief Executive

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on all our lives, the sheer imagination of musicians as they explore different ways of making music - alone, with others, and through their rapidly-adapted teaching - is a daily source of inspiration for me.

Whether it’s the weekly Friday Night Club from the RSNO, featuring exclusive, previously unseen performances, or Jess Gillam’s Virtual Scratch Orchestra, it’s amazing to see how musicians and musical organisations are pushing back boundaries  and finding new ways to communicate their art and connect with their audiences.

Some of these inspiring ideas are featured on Play On, just one of the ways in which ABRSM is working to keep you connected and itself doing things differently in these extraordinary times.

We’re working hard in other ways too. The disappointment experienced by ABRSM candidates whose exams were cancelled in recent weeks has made our work to develop remote assessments and online measures of musical progress even more urgent than it was before.

Since the pandemic emerged we’ve diverted resources from other projects and stepped up our efforts to develop effective alternatives for teachers and learners, finding the best way in which ABRSM can continue to support musical progress in the utterly changed landscape in which we find ourselves.

Working within the framework of recently issued guidance from our regulators, we are fast developing ways to adapt our existing assessments for these exceptional circumstances so we can again offer exams to learners around the world.

Some of this is about finding online solutions, some of it is about looking differently at certain elements of our practical exams, such as accompaniment and supporting tests. These complex issues require thought and careful planning if we are to continue to offer high quality assessments that meet the high standards you rightly expect from ABRSM.

You have told us that you need robust, comprehensive digital solutions that allow us to award a fully recognised qualification. The challenge for us is to use our own creativity to develop a response that is timely and able to support musical progression during this extraordinary era, while avoiding over simplification and hasty promises. Our aim is to develop remote assessments that are fit for purpose and that give you what you want.

Striking this balance is one of our greatest priorities and we are working at pace to bring you the best solution. We seek to meet the immediate needs of learners looking to progress to further or higher education later this year. At the same time, we are looking beyond the current pandemic to offer new online and live assessments to complement our existing ones.

I know the whole ABRSM team is genuinely excited about the opportunities that online assessment can, when delivered effectively, unlock for teachers and learners. We will tell you more about our plans as soon as we can.  In the meantime, I hope music will give you moments of relaxation, sustenance, comfort and enjoyment in these uncertain times. If you haven’t explored Play On yet, do take a look and see what resources are there to help you.

Right now, more than ever, we would love to share your musical journeys, hear about what is inspiring you and find ways to celebrate the thing we all value so much - music.

Michael Elliott

Chief Executive, ABRSM


Update 8 April – Exam refunds

We are still working on refunds for Session 1 exams cancelled due to COVID-19. (This includes exams at Public Venues from 18 March to 4 April and at Private Visits up to and including 30 June). Unfortunately this is taking longer than expected and we will not meet our original 28-day target. We are very sorry for the delay. We know how important it is for us to reimburse all those affected and we are doing everything we can to make these payments as quickly as possible. We will provide an update here when have more information to share.


Update 17 March - Exam refunds

Following the decision we made yesterday, we will process 100% refunds for the UK and Ireland exams in Public Venues that we have cancelled from 18 March to 4 April. We will also process 100% refunds for Private Visits booked until 1 July. Please bear with us while we do this.

In the meantime, please do not make any further bookings for future Private Visits until further notice.

If you have had to withdraw from your exam up to and including 17 March, our Withdrawals, Refunds and Non-attendance Policy applies. Please consult the website for how to apply.

Thank you for continued patience and understanding.


Update 16 March -  Suspension of exams

Further to the Prime Minister’s statement this evening, we have decided to suspend all music exams in the UK and Ireland from Wednesday 18 March until further notice.

This decision affects all Graded Music Exams, Diplomas, Choral Singing and Ensemble exams at all Public Venues and Private Visits.

Exams on 17 March will proceed as planned to minimise disruption for candidates while we phase in this decision.

We know that you will be disappointed, but this decision is made in everyone’s best interests.

Our staff will start to work from home from tomorrow. Please bear with us as we adjust to this new way of working.

We will update our website and Facebook and Twitter in due course, so please check them regularly.

At this challenging time, we really appreciate your patience and we thank you for your loyal support.


Useful Links


Where to find sheet music

Many retailers are continuing to provide sheet music, books, instruments and accessories through online or mail order services. View our shops list here.

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