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Theory Test for advanced student
#2881304 08/19/19 01:06 PM
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Hello people,

Can you recommend a way to evaluate my intermediate - advanced student ? I am guessing he must be around Grade 5 ( out of 8 Grades ) for theory but no way to know for sure. His sight reading is very good and his playing is around Grade 6 or higher.

I would prefer if I could give him a written test ( one that I can use with other students too ) but an online based test would be an option too ( preferably not a formal test though, those are expensive )

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Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2881317 08/19/19 01:37 PM
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How about the ABRSM historical theory tests with the answer sheet? Used, these are around $8-10 ( including shipping)
(Please note I am not a teacher but just had this thought)


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2881344 08/19/19 02:43 PM
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When ABRSM revamped the music theory tests for grades 1 - 5 last year, they published two practice tests for each of those grades. They are still available on ABRSM's website.

Another free resource is MyMusicTheory.com. They have a practice exam at every level (but for 1 - 5 they are for the pre-2018 versions), and also a quiz to determine music theory grade (don't know how good the quiz is).

Hope these help.


Austin Rogers, PhD
Music Teacher in Cedar Park, TX
Baldwin SD-10 Concert Grand "Kuroneko"
Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2881370 08/19/19 03:56 PM
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An open ended question. Must one (as teacher) know and understand theory very well, in order to get an idea of how well a student grasps theory, when using such tests? Or will those tests do it for the teacher?

Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2881376 08/19/19 04:27 PM
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Thanks people, I found an online resource similar to the ABRSM in my country... past exams samples for download. They are cheaper than I thought, and some ( not all ) come with answers. I bought a Grade 5 sample test to see how it was, unfortunately just realized it came without answers . Other Grade 5 sample tests also came without answers. Could this be because some of the answers tend to be subjective ?
In any case, the new problem I have now is how to use this test. Recommended time for a student taking this test is 3 hours ! Not practical if you're charging by the minute. Maybe just let the student do it at home? But he could be tempted to cheat unsupervised....

Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2881403 08/19/19 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by EDV
Thanks people, I found an online resource similar to the ABRSM in my country... past exams samples for download. They are cheaper than I thought, and some ( not all ) come with answers. I bought a Grade 5 sample test to see how it was, unfortunately just realized it came without answers . Other Grade 5 sample tests also came without answers. Could this be because some of the answers tend to be subjective ?
In any case, the new problem I have now is how to use this test. Recommended time for a student taking this test is 3 hours ! Not practical if you're charging by the minute. Maybe just let the student do it at home? But he could be tempted to cheat unsupervised....

I am assuming that you haven't taught music theory before?

The idea is NOT to teaching everything at the same time and get it done in one sitting. Take small bites.

A typical lesson plan is to get ONE concept through during one lesson. You might be able to teach the order of sharps in 30 seconds, but it will take the entire lesson for that idea to sink in and crystallize in the student's brain. And sometimes (okay, many times) it will take several lessons for ONE idea to sink in. I used to teach much smarter kids, so I tend to rush through ideas, but having worked with REALLY slow kids, I now teach very very VERY slowly.

Remember: Your saying it once does not mean the student will know it permanently.


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Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2881500 08/20/19 01:40 AM
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Yes, I understand that. What I was saying is I want to test my student to see where he is at. So my idea was to have him do a Grade 5 test, see how he does, and take it from there. If he gets most of the answers wrong I know we have some work ahead of us. But the test itself is a written one and it takes 3 hours to complete. By the way he is a new student , that's why I don't know what level he is at.

Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2881502 08/20/19 01:46 AM
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Originally Posted by EDV
Yes, I understand that. What I was saying is I want to test my student to see where he is at. So my idea was to have him do a Grade 5 test, see how he does, and take it from there. If he gets most of the answers wrong I know we have some work ahead of us. But the test itself is a written one and it takes 3 hours to complete. By the way he is a new student , that's why I don't know what level he is at.


Can you pick out questions for him to answer so that you reduce the testing time to around 45 min? I’m afraid most students would run away if given a three hour test. BTW; I would not charge him the time to take this test. Let him Do it while you are teaching another student or at home

Last edited by dogperson; 08/20/19 01:55 AM.

"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2881506 08/20/19 02:12 AM
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Your idea might be a good one. However, I would never test a new student. Why not just start teaching him theory and notice his deficiencies through time? At the same time, he will feel confident when you say he's done something right. Doing a test will feel awful if he can't get much right on the test.

It's not a waste that you bought the test, but I wouldn't use it.

Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2881514 08/20/19 03:59 AM
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Originally Posted by EDV
Yes, I understand that. What I was saying is I want to test my student to see where he is at. So my idea was to have him do a Grade 5 test, see how he does, and take it from there. If he gets most of the answers wrong I know we have some work ahead of us. But the test itself is a written one and it takes 3 hours to complete. By the way he is a new student , that's why I don't know what level he is at.

Hmm....whenever I get a transfer student who is doing piano tests, the first thing I ask for is the last exam they took. If the student has never taken exams before, why would you even consider starting at level 5? Is that normal in your country?

Where I am at, skipping five levels is considered suicide. In all my years of teaching, only one student skipped from level 6 to level 10--and that's because he is brilliant. Skipping levels is frowned upon by most piano teachers here because it's like the teacher is more interested in exam results than actual learning.

Don't assume the student knows anything. Start from the beginning, the most basic of basics, such as drawing a treble clef. You'd be amazed how many kids can't draw a freakin' treble clef. Or a natural sign.


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Re: Theory Test for advanced student
Dr. Rogers #2882016 08/21/19 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Dr. Rogers


Another free resource is MyMusicTheory.com. They have a practice exam at every level (but for 1 - 5 they are for the pre-2018 versions), and also a quiz to determine music theory grade (don't know how good the quiz is).



Hello
Thanks for pointing out the tests were not updated. I have now updated them (grade 5 was already done and all the PDFs and video courses were updated, but somehow I forgot to update the web pages!!)

Re: Theory Test for advanced student
AZNpiano #2882018 08/21/19 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano

Hmm....whenever I get a transfer student who is doing piano tests, the first thing I ask for is the last exam they took. If the student has never taken exams before, why would you even consider starting at level 5? Is that normal in your country?

Where I am at, skipping five levels is considered suicide. In all my years of teaching, only one student skipped from level 6 to level 10--and that's because he is brilliant. Skipping levels is frowned upon by most piano teachers here because it's like the teacher is more interested in exam results than actual learning.

Don't assume the student knows anything. Start from the beginning, the most basic of basics, such as drawing a treble clef. You'd be amazed how many kids can't draw a freakin' treble clef. Or a natural sign.


Here in the UK, Grade 5 theory is a pre-requisite to taking ABRSM grades 6+ in an instrument (there are alternatives). The VAST majority of candidates go straight in at grade 5. They stopped publishing their statistics a while ago, but I used to keep a close eye on the figures, as teaching theory is my main bread and butter. Here's some info from 2012 https://www.mymusictheory.com/learn-music-theory/reference/64-site/exam-boards/218-abrsm-information (noticeable is the decline from 2006, which continued, and is probably why they stopped publishing the stats, but I digress!)

Some instrumental teachers try to incorporate a bit of theory into each lesson right from the start, but many teachers don't teach it at all until the grade 5 exam looms. This is sometimes because they are not confident themselves, but often it's due to time restraints. I teach in a school where the instrumental lessons are 20 minutes a week - it's difficult to fit much in when lessons are so short.

So, yes it is normal in the UK and it's not suicide. And yes, the students (and often teachers) are definitely only interested in psasing the exam rather than learning theory, which is very sad, but on the other hand I have lots of students who came in at grade 5 because they "had to", then fell in love with it and continued to grade 8 and diploma level, so it's not all doom and gloom. ABRSM Grade 5 theory isn't rocket science - it's basically a notation exam with some scales, and intervals etc. It is nowhere near the level of e.g. AP music theory in the States. I've had students as young as 6 pass.

Re: Theory Test for advanced student
Brahms4 #2882042 08/21/19 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Brahms4

Hello
Thanks for pointing out the tests were not updated. I have now updated them (grade 5 was already done and all the PDFs and video courses were updated, but somehow I forgot to update the web pages!!)


I'm glad I could help in some small way! And I want to seriously say a huge thank you. Your website is a tremendous resource; I use it with my students, and I used it myself when I was reviewing for my Grade 5 exam last year. (As a music teacher, G5 was like shooting fish in a barrel, but a systematic review was extremely helpful.) I've also used it for in preparation for my Grade 6 theory in November. I'll probably keep using it on through AMusTCL.


Austin Rogers, PhD
Music Teacher in Cedar Park, TX
Baldwin SD-10 Concert Grand "Kuroneko"
Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2885258 08/30/19 03:56 PM
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My student has more than 6 years of piano studies behind him... and he can read music at roughly Grade 8 level... so he would know a lot of the theory even if he didn't learn it from a book or pass an exam. But I have decided to gradually "review" the main concepts as we go. If some concepts seem new we will spend more time on those.

Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2885408 08/31/19 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by EDV
My student has more than 6 years of piano studies behind him... and he can read music at roughly Grade 8 level... so he would know a lot of the theory even if he didn't learn it from a book or pass an exam. But I have decided to gradually "review" the main concepts as we go. If some concepts seem new we will spend more time on those.


I’m surprised to read that playing and theory knowledge are correlated. Is this usually true?


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Theory Test for advanced student
dogperson #2885486 08/31/19 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
I’m surprised to read that playing and theory knowledge are correlated. Is this usually true?

I / we don't know EDV's thinking, so I want to be careful.

In the way I view things, theory and music are related, and so playing music can be related depending on what you do. The way they can relate is, for example, if you understand circle of fifths, you'll have a grasp of cadences; of your key signatures, and in turn that can give you a handle on the three sharps in A major so you don't miss them. If you have some grasp of ABA form, whether or not you know names such as "rounded binary", of sonata allegro form, etc. this can greatly help you work on a piece of music, because it makes it more predictable and in "packages".

Conversely, if you have a sense / ear for patterns, you might pick up patterns subconsciously. That is what happened to me when I was given an instrument, passed on scores, and just had at it as a child. Most of the music was sonatinas. I got a feel for the underlying structures, so that when decades later I decided to study theory rudiments from scratch it was child's play. I was given the names of things that were old friends.

I also see the possibility of someone memorizing endless strings of notes; being choreographed; being told to copy recordings; and manage to play (parrot?) material at a highish grade level, without having developed any intuitive feel for patterns (= theory) and without having been taught anything in that sense.

Ideally I'm thinking that as the very first things are taught in piano playing, elements of theory start getting introduce. If the first pieces have block chords of C G7, I & V; if your piece is in G major with the 7th being F#, something can be introduced in a way that makes sense for the age and level of the student.

Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2885512 08/31/19 01:21 PM
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I don’t think you understood my question: it is not whether music and theory should be intertwined during learning but whether an assumption should be made that a grade 6 level does usually have an equivalent proficiency with theory.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Theory Test for advanced student
dogperson #2885519 08/31/19 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Keystring
I don’t think you understood my question: it is not whether music and theory should be intertwined during learning but whether an assumption should be made that a grade 6 level does usually have an equivalent proficiency with theory.

Ah yes, gotcha. In fact, I had similar misgivings, which is why I started mine so cautiously.

"Theory" itself is a hornet's nest. So is "grade level".

I think the OP's decision to review from bottom up is a good idea.

Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2885599 08/31/19 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by EDV
My student has more than 6 years of piano studies behind him... and he can read music at roughly Grade 8 level... so he would know a lot of the theory even if he didn't learn it from a book or pass an exam. But I have decided to gradually "review" the main concepts as we go. If some concepts seem new we will spend more time on those.

I just got a transfer student who has three years of piano studies behind him, and he can't read music fluently. His previous teacher gave him Level 8 music to play by rote, and there are finger numbers and letters written all over the music. I asked him what that dot below the note means, and he has no idea. I asked him to play a scale, and he has no idea. He thought flats and sharps must be black keys. He can't sight read a Level 1 excerpt. He pays no attention to finger numbers.

He said the piece I assigned him sounds minor, but he doesn't know what a key signature is, nor does he know how to play any scale. ANY scale.

I have decided to drop him down all the way to level 2B in the method books and review intervallic reading. If some concepts seem new we will drop down to a lower level. Maybe we should just start over and pretend nothing happened the last three years.


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Re: Theory Test for advanced student
EDV #2886345 09/02/19 06:30 PM
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EDV, any chance you can contact his previous teacher and get that teacher's assessment of his level? Have you asked the student if theory was part of his previous lessons?


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