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Piano 8 Piano

Piano Grade 8 exams consist of three pieces, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests.

Total marks in all individual Practical exams are 150. You need 100 marks to achieve Pass, 120 marks to pass with Merit and 130 marks to pass with Distinction.

Piano Grade 8 (2019 & 2020)

Piano requirements and information

Our Piano requirements and information summarise the most important points that teachers and candidates need to know when taking ABRSM graded Piano exams.

They are detailed in the exam sections below (Pieces, Scales and arpeggios, Sight-reading and Aural tests) immediately after the grade-specific requirements, and are available to download as a PDF.

Further exam details and administrative information are given in our Information & Regulations, which you should read before booking an exam.

Eligibility

There are eight grades of exam for Piano and candidates may be entered for any grade irrespective of age and without previously having taken any other grade in Piano. Candidates for a Grade 6, 7 or 8 exam must already have passed ABRSM Grade 5 (or above) in Music Theory, Practical Musicianship or a solo Jazz instrument. For full details, including a list of accepted alternatives, see Prerequisite for Grades 6-8.

Instruments

ABRSM Centres provide a piano suitable for exam purposes. The piano will be upright or grand. Practice before the exam cannot be arranged, but examiners will recognise that the instrument may be one to which candidates are unaccustomed. When exams are held at Visits (premises provided by the applicant and visited by the examiner), a suitable piano must be provided. A digital piano may be used, provided it has a clearly recognisable piano tone, a touch-sensitive keyboard with full-size weighted keys, and an action, compass and facilities that match those of a conventional acoustic piano, including a sustaining pedal.

In the exam

Examiners: Generally, there will be one examiner in the exam room; however, for training and quality assurance purposes, a second examiner may sometimes be present. Examiners may ask to look at the music before or after the performance of a piece (a separate copy is not required – the candidate’s copy will suffice). Examiners may stop the performance of a piece when they have heard enough to form a judgment. They will not issue or discuss a candidate’s result. Instead, the mark form (and certificate for successful candidates) will be issued by ABRSM after the exam.

Before beginning: Candidates are welcome to adjust the piano stool height (the examiner will be happy to help with this if necessary) and to play a few notes to try out and get used to the piano.

Order of the exam: The individual sections of the exam may be taken in any order, at the candidate’s choice.

Further information

Pieces

Candidates choose three pieces, one from each list (A, B and C) – 30 marks each

List A

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 J. S. Bach download Sarabande And Gigue
4th movt And 6th movt from English Suite No. 2 in A minor, BWV 807
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
2 D. Scarlatti download Sonata in D
Kp. 214, L. 165
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
3 Shostakovich download Prelude and Fugue in A minor
No. 2 from 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
4 J. S. Bach download Prelude and Fugue in A minor
BWV 889
J. S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Part 2
ABRSM

More details
5 Handel download Fugue No. 6 in C minor
HWV 610
No. 7 from Baroque Keyboard Pieces, Book 5
ABRSM

More details
Handel: Keyboard Works, Vol. 4
Peters (EP4984)

More details
6 Hindemith download Praeludium
from Ludus Tonalis
Hindemith: Ludus Tonalis
Schott (ED 3964)

More details
Hindemith: Ludus Tonalis
Wiener Urtext (UT 50128)

More details
7 Mendelssohn download Fugue in B♭
from Prelude and Fugue in B♭, Op. 35 No. 6
No. 6 from Mendelssohn: Six Preludes and Fugues, Op. 35
ABRSM

More details
Mendelssohn: Works for Piano Two-Hands, Vol. 2
Breitkopf & Härtel (EB 8317)

More details
8 Soler download Sonata in D minor
R. 25
No. 12 from Soler: 14 Sonatas
Faber

More details

List B

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 C. P. E. Bach download Un poco allegro
1st movt from Sonata in A♭, H. 31, Wq. 49/2
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
2 Beethoven download Presto alla tedesca
1st movt from Sonata in G, Op. 79
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
3 Schubert download Allegro moderato
1st movt from Sonata in E, D. 459
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
4 Clementi download Presto
3rd movt from Sonata in F minor, Op. 13 No. 6
Clementi: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1
Henle (HN 317)

More details
5 Haydn download Moderato
1st movt from Sonata in C minor, Hob. XVI:20
Haydn: Sonata in C minor, Hob. XVI:20
Wiener Urtext (UT 50423)

More details
Haydn: Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2
Wiener Urtext (UT 50257)

More details
6 Haydn download Rondo: Presto
2nd movt from Sonata in C, Hob. XVI:48
Haydn: Sonata in C, Hob. XVI:48
Wiener Urtext (UT 50424)

More details
Haydn: Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4
Wiener Urtext (UT 50259)

More details
7 Kuhlau download Allegro
1st movt from Sonatina in C, Op. 60 No. 3
No. 7 from Kuhlau: Sonatinas, Vol. 2
Peters (EP715B)

More details
8 Mozart download Rondo: Allegretto
3rd movt from Sonata in F, K. 533
Mozart: Sonata in F, K. 533
ABRSM

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Mozart: Sonatas for Pianoforte, Vol. 2
ABRSM

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List C

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 Chopin download Nocturne in G minor
Op. 37 No. 1
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
2 Debussy download Voiles (Sails)
No. 2 from Préludes, Book 1
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
3 Nikolay Kapustin download Sonatina
Op. 100
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
4 Martinů download Prélude en forme de Danse (Prelude in the form of a dance)
No. 4 from Préludes pour piano, H. 181
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
5 Rachmaninoff download Elégie (Elegy)
No. 1 from Morceaux de fantaisie, Op. 3
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
6 Raymond Yiu download Lullaby (for Edna Trident Hornbryce)
Piano Exam Pieces 2019 & 2020, Grade 8
ABRSM

More details
7 L. Boulanger download Cortège
No. 3 from Trois morceaux pour piano
L. Boulanger: Trois morceaux pour piano
G. Schirmer (GS33485)

More details
L. Boulanger: Trois morceaux pour piano
Zen-On (ZO 101835)

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8 Brahms download Intermezzo in B♭ minor
No. 2 from Three Intermezzos, Op. 117
Brahms: Three Intermezzos, Op. 117
ABRSM

More details
9 Chaminade download Scarf Dance (Scene de ballet)
Op. 37 No. 3
At the Piano with Women Composers
Alfred (428)

More details
10 Fricker download Toccata
No. 2 from 12 Studies, Op. 38
Fricker: 12 Studies, Op. 38
Schott (ED 10804)

More details
11 Gershwin download Prelude No. 1
from Three Preludes
No. 1 from Gershwin: Preludes for Piano
Boosey & Hawkes

More details
12 W. Mason download Lullaby
Op. 10
American Piano Repertoire, Level 1
Faber

More details
13 Poulenc download Improvisation No. 13 in A minor
Poulenc: 15 Improvisations
Salabert (SLB 00594400)

More details
14 Pozzoli download Berceuse
20th-Century Italian Piano Music, Vol. 1
Ricordi (NR 13987600)

More details
15 Timothy Salter download Shimmer
Spectrum 5
ABRSM

More details
16 Joaquín Turina download La belle Murcienne (La Murciana guapa)
No. 4 from Femmes d'Espagne, Series 2, Op. 73
The Best of Joaquín Turina in 23 Pieces for Piano
Salabert (SLB 00581800)

More details

Piano requirements and information: Pieces

Programme planning: Candidates must choose one piece from each of the three lists (A, B and C) in each grade. In the exam, they should inform the examiner which pieces they are performing, and they are welcome to use the Exam programme & running order form (PDF) for this purpose.

Every effort has been made to ensure the syllabus lists feature a broad range of repertoire, with items to suit and appeal to candidates of differing ages, backgrounds and interests. Not every piece will be suitable for every candidate due to technical reasons (e.g. hand size) or wider context (historical, cultural, subject matter of the larger work from which it is drawn, lyrics if an arrangement of a song etc.).

It is advised that pieces selected are considered carefully for their appropriateness to each individual, which may require consultation between teachers and parents/guardians. Given the ever-changing nature of the digital world, teachers and parents/guardians should also exercise caution when allowing younger candidates to research items online (see nspcc.org.uk/onlinesafety).

Exam music and editions: Wherever the syllabus includes an arrangement or transcription, the edition listed in the syllabus must be used in the exam; in all such cases the abbreviation ‘arr.’ or ‘trans.’ appears in the syllabus entry. For all other pieces, the editions quoted in the syllabus are given for guidance only and candidates may use any edition of their choice (in- or out-of-print or downloadable). See information about obtaining exam music.

Interpreting the score: Printed editorial suggestions such as fingering, metronome marks, realisation of ornaments, etc. need not be strictly observed. Whether the piece contains musical indications or not, candidates are always encouraged to interpret the score in a stylistically appropriate manner. Ultimately, examiners’ marking will be determined by consideration of pitch, time, tone, shape and performance, and how control of these contributes to the overall musical outcome.

Pedalling: The use and control of pedalling, and its effect on tone and shape, will be taken into account by examiners, who will be assessing the overall musical outcome rather than the strict observance of any printed pedal indications (which may therefore be adapted or omitted, as appropriate). Pieces whose full musical effect is heavily reliant on pedalling (whether marked in the music or not) should be avoided if appropriate pedalling cannot be managed.

Hand stretch: Candidates should choose the most suitable pieces for their hand size from the syllabus lists. If necessary, they may occasionally adapt the music by ‘spreading’ chords or omitting notes at wide stretches, provided the result is musically satisfactory.

Repeats: All da capo and dal segno indications should be observed but all other repeats (including first-time bars) should be omitted unless they are very brief (i.e. of a few bars) or unless the syllabus specifies otherwise.

Performing from memory: Candidates are free to perform any of their pieces from memory; in such cases they must ensure that a copy of the music is available for the examiner to refer to if necessary. No additional marks are awarded for playing from memory.

Page-turns: Examiners will be understanding if a page-turn causes a lack of continuity during a piece, and this will not affect the marking. A variety of solutions for awkward page-turns exists, including the use of an additional copy of the music or a photocopy of a section of the piece (but see ‘Photocopies’ below). In cases where candidates at Grades 6–8 believe there is no solution to a particularly awkward page-turn, they may bring a page-turner to the exam (prior permission is not required; the turner may be a candidate’s teacher). Examiners are unable to help with page-turning.

Photocopies: Performing from unauthorised photocopies (or other kinds of copies) of copyright editions is not allowed. ABRSM may withhold the exam result where it has evidence of an illegal copy (or copies) being used. In the UK, copies may be used in certain limited circumstances – for full details, see the MPA’s Code of Fair Practice at mpaonline.org.uk. In all other cases, application should be made to the copyright holder before any copy is made, and evidence of permission received should be brought to the exam.

Scales and arpeggios

21 marks

 

 

 

 

Scales (similar motion)

C, D, B, F#, F, Eb, Ab/G#, Db/C# majors & minors
(minors both harmonic and melodic)

legato or staccato, hands together or separately, as chosen by the examiner

4 octaves

Scales a third apart

keys as above
(majors & harmonic minors only)

legato or staccato as chosen by the examiner, hands together

4 octaves

Scales a sixth apart

keys as above 
(majors & harmonic minors only)

legato or staccato as chosen by the examiner, hands together

4 octaves

Legato scales in thirds

C and Bb majors

legato, hands separately

2 octaves

Chromatic scales a minor third apart

beginning on any notes named by the examiner

legato or staccato as chosen by the examiner, hands together

4 octaves

Chromatic scale in minor thirds

beginning on A#/C#

legato, hands separately

2 octaves

Whole-tone scale

beginning on E

legato, hands together or separately as chosen by the examiner

2 octaves

Arpeggios

keys as for scales (similar motion) above

legato, hands together or separately, in root position, first or second inversions as chosen by the examiner

4 octaves

Dominant sevenths

in the keys of C, D, B, F#, F, Eb, Ab, Db

legato, hands together or separately as chosen by the examiner

4 octaves

Diminished sevenths

beginning on any note named by the examiner

legato, hands together or separately as chosen by the examiner

4 octaves

Purchase Piano Scales & Arpeggios (Grade 8).

 


Piano requirements and information: Scales and arpeggios/broken chords

Examiners will usually ask for at least one of each type of scale/arpeggio/broken chord etc. required at each grade and will ask for majors followed by minors within each type. They will also ask to hear a balance of the hand requirements and, in Grades 6–8, of the specified articulations across the requests as a whole. When asking for requirements, examiners will specify:

  • The key (including minor form – harmonic or melodic – in the Grade 6–8 scales) or the starting note
  • Left hand or right hand, or hands together
  • The articulation (where chosen by the examiner)

All scales, arpeggios and broken chords should:

  • Be played from memory
  • Be played in even notes (with the exception of the Grade 1 broken-chord pattern)
  • Ascend and descend according to the specified range (and pattern)
  • Be prepared legato, unless the syllabus specifies staccato (or both)
  • Be played without pedalling

Candidates are welcome to use any fingering that produces a successful musical outcome.

Candidates are free to start at any octave, provided the required ranges are covered. For all ‘hands together’ requirements, the hands should be one octave apart, unless otherwise indicated.

Arpeggios and dominant sevenths are required in root position only, except where otherwise indicated. Scales in thirds or a third apart should begin with the tonic as the lower note, while scales in sixths or a sixth apart should begin with the tonic as the upper note.

See recommended minimum scale speeds.

Purchase Piano Scales & Arpeggios (Grade 8).

Sight-reading

21 marks

Piano requirements and information: Sight-reading

Candidates will be asked to play a short unaccompanied piece of music which they have not previously seen. They will be given half a minute in which to look though and, if they wish, try out all or any part of the test before they are required to play it for assessment. The table below shows the introduction of elements at each grade. Please note that these parameters are presented cumulatively, i.e. once introduced they apply for all subsequent grades (albeit within a logical progression of difficulty).

Grade

Length (bars)

Time

Keys

Hand position

Other features that may be included

Grade 1

4

4/4
3/4

C, G, F majors
A, D minors

Each hand:

  • playing separately
  • in 5-finger position

Simple:

  • dynamics
  • note values
  • articulations

Occasional accidentals (within minor keys only)

6

2/4

C, G, F majors
A, D minors

Each hand:

  • playing separately
  • in 5-finger position

Simple:

  • dynamics
  • note values
  • articulations

Occasional accidentals (within minor keys only)

Grade 2

As Grade 1

As Grade 1

D major
E, G minors

Hands playing together

  • dotted notes
  • tied notes

Grade 3

up to 8

3/8

A, Bb, Eb major
B minor

Hands playing together outside 5-finger position

  • 2-note chords in either hand

Grade 4

c. 8

6/8

As previous grades

Hands playing together outside 5-finger position

  • anacrusis
  • chromatic notes
  • pause signs
  • tenuto

Grade 5

c. 8-12

As previous grades

E, Ab majors
F#, C minors

Hands playing together outside 5-finger position

  • 4-part chords (2 notes max. in either hand
  • simple syncopation
  • slowing of tempo at end

Grade 6

c. 12-16

9/8
5/8
5/4

C#, F minors

Hands playing together outside 5-finger position

  • triplet rhythms
  • clef changes
  • use of right pedal

Grade 7

C. 16-20

7/8
7/4

As previous grades

Hands playing together outside 5-finger position

  • tempo changes
  • 8va sign
  • use of una corda pedal

Grade 8

c. 1 page

12/8

B, Db majors

Hands playing together outside 5-finger position

  • 3-part chords in either hand
  • spread chords
  • simple ornaments

For practice purposes, books of sample sight-reading tests are published for Piano by ABRSM for each grade.

Purchase Specimen Sight-Reading Tests (Grade 8).

Aural tests

18 marks

  1. (i) To sing or play from memory the lowest part of a three-part phrase played twice by the examiner. The lowest part will be within the range of an octave, in a major or minor key with up to three sharps or flats. First the examiner will play the key-chord and the starting note and then count in two bars. (If the candidate chooses to play, the examiner will also name the key-chord and the starting note, as appropriate for the instrument.) If necessary, the examiner will play the phrase again and allow a second attempt (although this will affect the assessment).

    (ii) To identify the cadence at the end of a continuing phrase as perfect, imperfect, interrupted or plagal. The phrase will be in a major or minor key and will be played twice by the examiner. The chords forming the cadence will be limited to the tonic (root position, first or second inversions), supertonic (root position or first inversion), subdominant (root position), dominant (root position, first or second inversions), dominant seventh (root position) or submediant (root position). Before the first playing, the examiner will play the key-chord.

    (iii) To identify the three chords (including their positions) forming the above cadential progression. The chords will be limited to the tonic (root position, first or second inversions), supertonic (root position or first inversion), subdominant (root position), dominant (root position, first or second inversions), dominant seventh (root position) or submediant (root position). First the examiner will name and play the key-chord, then play the three chords in sequence, finally playing each chord individually, pausing for the candidate to identify it. The candidate may answer using technical names (tonic, first inversion, etc.), chord numbers (Ib, etc.) or letter names (C major in first inversion, etc.).

  2. To sing the lower part of a two-part phrase from score, with the upper part played by the examiner. The candidate may choose to sing from treble or bass clef. The lower part will be within the range of an octave, in a major or minor key with up to four sharps or flats. First the examiner will name and play the key-chord and the starting note and then give the pulse. A brief period of preparation will follow during which the candidate may sing out loud. The examiner will play the key-chord and the starting note again and then count in two bars. If necessary, the examiner will allow a second attempt (although this will affect the assessment).
  3. To identify whether the modulations at the end of two different passages are to the dominant, subdominant or relative minor/major. The first passage will begin in a major key and the second will begin in a minor key; each passage will be played once by the examiner. Before playing each passage, the examiner will name and play the starting key-chord. The candidate may answer using technical names (dominant*, subdominant, relative minor/major) or the letter name of the new key. (* Minor-key passages may modulate to the dominant major or minor but the candidate is only required to specify ‘dominant’ in such cases.) 
  4. To describe the characteristic features of a piece played by the examiner. After hearing the piece, the candidate should describe any notable features (such as texture, structure, character, style and period, etc.). The examiner will prompt the candidate with questions only if this becomes necessary.

 


Piano requirements and information: Aural tests

Listening lies at the heart of all good music-making. Developing aural awareness is fundamental to musical training because having a ‘musical ear’ impacts on all aspects of musicianship. Singing, both silently in the head and out loud, is one of the best ways to develop the ‘musical ear’. It connects the internal imagining of sound, the ‘inner ear’, with the external creation of it, without the necessity of mechanically having to ‘find the note’ on an instrument (important though that connection is). By integrating aural activities in imaginative ways in the lesson, preparation for the aural tests within an exam will be a natural extension of what is already an essential part of the learning experience.

In the exam

Aural tests are an integral part of all Practical graded exams. The tests are administered by the examiner from the piano. For any test that requires a sung response, pitch rather than vocal quality is being assessed. The examiner will be happy to adapt to the vocal range of the candidate, whose responses may be sung to any vowel (or consonant followed by a vowel), hummed or whistled (and at a different octave, if appropriate).

Assessment

Some tests allow for a second attempt or for an additional playing by the examiner, if necessary. The examiner will also be ready to prompt, where helpful, although this may affect the assessment.

Marks are not awarded for each individual test or deducted for mistakes; instead they reflect the candidate’s overall response in this section. See marking criteria.

Specimen tests

Examples of the tests are given in Specimen Aural Tests and Aural Training in Practice (from 2011).

Deaf or hearing-impaired candidates

Deaf or hearing-impaired candidates may choose alternative tests in place of the standard tests, if requested at the time of entry. See more information on alternative tests.

Piano 8 Piano

Piano Grade 8 exams consist of three pieces, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests.

Total marks in all individual Practical exams are 150. You need 100 marks to achieve Pass, 120 marks to pass with Merit and 130 marks to pass with Distinction.

Publications & audio

Translations for this page are available in: English, 简体中文

 

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