Frequently Asked Questions

On this page you’ll find answers to some of the questions we’ve received about the online Music Theory exams. We've broken these down into the following sections: Online Assessment; Exam questions and syllabus changes; Preparing for the exam; The online exam process; Setting up the exam; Taking the exam and Carrying out the System Check. We’ll regularly add more questions to this page. So if we haven’t answered your question yet please keep checking back for the latest updates.

Online assessment

Moving online is the result of long-term development to ensure that we can offer greater convenience and flexibility for candidates. Due to the impact of COVID-19 on in-person exams we brought forward our plans to introduce online Theory exams so that we could help as many learners as possible progress with their music and education.

Yes. Candidates are randomly assigned different sets of questions to ensure that the security of the exam is preserved. Different candidates are allocated different sets of questions so that each exam experience is unique to the candidate.

Where the site is not suitable for some candidates, we can provide an alternative format. All information can be found on our Accessibility Statement and our Fair Access Guidelines for Theory Exams. Please also note that we have a special considerations policy In the event that your exam experience is affected by circumstances beyond your control.

We undertook comprehensive due diligence, compliance and risk assessment exercises to ensure that we could deliver an online exam experience that is secure, safe and accessible. Our selection process included an evaluation of safeguarding, data protection, exam security, ease of use and global customer service. PSI is a world leading company with extensive experience of providing certification through online exams. You can find out more about them on their website, but please check the procedures and guidance that we have published on ABRSM’s website for specific information about these exams: Remote Proctoring in ABRSM Online Music Theory exams

Online exams have replaced paper-based exams for Music Theory at Grades 1 to 5 worldwide. Physical Paper based Music Theory exams at these grades will only be available if a candidate requires one due to Access Arrangements or Reasonable Adjustments. More information can be found here.

It is central to our approach to music education that we continually explore ways to improve access and lower barriers to musical progress. We are absolutely committed to making sure that no learner is left out and are working to ensure that this is the case. However, we recognise that not all candidates will be able to meet the necessary technical requirements in their home to sit an online Music Theory exam.

By moving to an online exam, available on-demand, we are aiming to give candidates the complete flexibility of being able to choose when they take their exam. They can take it at any point throughout the year and will not need to travel to public centres. We also hope that this flexibility will allow candidates to source a computer at a suitable date and time by asking a friend or relative if they can borrow a laptop, or take the exam in their home. Applicants and candidates may also consider approaching local schools, colleges and universities, as well as local music services to ask if their candidate or group of candidates could use the IT facilities there.

Yes. Candidates can take their exam in their own home or in any other suitable location that meets our requirements. It will be possible for multiple candidates to take their exams at a suitable venue, for instance an educational institution which has previously hosted exams, as long as this can be done safely and in line with government guidelines. More information is available in our Online Music Theory Requirements .

We have rigorous processes in place to ensure that we can identify candidates and that exam conditions meet the requirements set out in our regulations. At the start of the exam, the candidate is required to display their Candidate (photo) ID, take a photo of themselves using the exam software and film a scan of the room. They are then able to sit their exam. Please note, a responsible adult should be in the room to help the candidate with this if they are under 18. This video demonstrates how candidates should do this in the exam.

We have rigorous processes in place to ensure the security and validity of our online exams.

The candidate is filmed for the duration of the exam via the webcam and exam software, and each exam will is reviewed by trained proctors. Further information can be found in our Remote Proctoring in ABRSM Online Theory Exams Policy and our Online Safeguarding Policy Statement. The online exam platform, proctoring and test delivery are provided by a third-party supplier called PSI who deliver over 15 million assessments every year. After the exam PSI supply us with the candidates’ results and inform us of any concerns raised by the exam proctors. We investigate any potential infringements in line with our Malpractice and Maladministration Policy.

Proctoring is a little like remote invigilation and is designed to check that individual candidates take their exams in accordance with our regulations and requirements. The candidate is filmed for the duration of the exam via the webcam and exam software, and trained proctors review each exam. The proctor is the person who views the video recording of the assessment and is responsible for alerting us to any suspicious activity.

For candidates who require a paper-based exam for accessibility reasons, this must be selected at the time of entry by choosing the necessary ‘Access Arrangement’. You are only able to select one access option. If you need to select more than one, please prioritise requesting alternative format papers such as large print. Please then contact the Access Coordinator at [email protected] as soon as you have completed your booking to discuss your additional requirements. For more information, please see our Fair Access Guidelines for Theory Exams

The price can be found on the Dates and Fees page.

Unfortunately not. The sample questions are there only to give candidates the opportunity to try out the type of questions they will find in the online exam.

UK and Ireland candidates

Translations are not available for UK based candidates. The exam must be taken in English. This is a requirement of our Regulators

Internatonal candidates

Candidates are able to sit their Online Music Theory exam in English, Italian, Spanish, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. This option must be selected at the time of entry. If a translation is not selected or the wrong translation is selected at the time of entry, you need to cancel your entry and rebook as we cannot add or amend a translation selection. If no translation is selected at the time of entry, the exam will be in English. hope to be able to offer additional translations in the future and will provide an update on this as soon as we can.

Our on-demand service means that applicants and candidates can choose when to book and take an online Music Theory exam. There are no set booking periods or exam dates. Once a booking has been made, the candidate has 28 days to log in to their ABRSM account and take the exam.

There are a small number of dates when candidates will not be able to take exams. You can check these on our exam dates and fees page.

Candidates can take their exam in any location where they have access to a laptop or desktop computer with a webcam and an internet connection. You can find out detailed system requirements here.

Exam questions and syllabus changes

As a regulated awarding organisation, we regularly review and refresh all of our exams and syllabuses to ensure their continuing quality, reliability and authority. Our aim is to maintain our standards, conform to best practice in assessment design and make sure our exams meet the needs of teachers and learners. We have made these changes to our Music Theory exams in consultation with experts. We have updated some of the Grade 1 to 5 questions to bring them in line with a style of assessment commonly used across the education sector. In addition, there are a few minor changes to the syllabus itself and we have adapted the style of some questions so that they work for an online exam.

No. All online Music Theory exams for Grades 1 to 5 use the updated exam papers and new syllabus.

To support the format of our online exams, we have updated some of the Grade 1 to 5 questions to bring them in line with styles of assessment commonly used across the education sector. Although Grade 1 to 5 exams now take place online and some of the questions have been updated, we are still testing the same musical knowledge and understanding to the same standards. The question types are:

  • Multiple Choice: where the candidate selects the correct answer(s) from a list of given answers. This also includes True/False questions.
  • Fill in the blank: where the candidate types an answer into an answer box. This is usually used to complete a sentence.
  • Matching: where the candidate selects answers from a pull-down list of options.
  • Drag and drop: where the candidate drags an image onto another larger image. An example is dragging a note head onto a stave.

Yes. Candidates can try our Online Practice exams here. We also have step-by-step guidance and video demos available on our Guidelines page which take you through the exam process.

In advance of the exam, candidates should check the compatibility of their systems by completing a PSI RPNow Systems Check. . We recommend using Google Chrome as the browser for this.

We have removed the requirement to demonstrate accurate copying of music. Candidates demonstrate their knowledge of where, on the stave, music sits by using the drag and drop feature. Candidates can try our Online Practice exams here.

Using multiple-choice questions does not make these exams easier. We first introduced multiple-choice questions to the 2018 syllabus. We have included more as they are an accessible, effective and reliable way to test knowledge. They are widely-used in many different types of assessment, including school tests and exams, so are familiar to the majority of candidates.

Our online exams at Grade 1 to 5 are marked automatically. There is a total of 75 marks available.

Yes. We have not changed the value of the marks or the grade bands available. What has changed is the total number of marks available and the grade boundaries.

In order to accommodate the new style of assessment the marks required for each fixed grade boundary are as follows:

  • Total marks available:75 (instead of 100)
  • Distinction: 65 marks (instead of 90)
  • Merit: 60 marks (instead of 80)
  • Pass: 50 marks (instead of 66)

No. The changes to the exam format have had no effect on the level or value of this qualification. If a candidate achieves a Pass, Merit or Distinction having taken an online Music Theory exam, this is equivalent to a Pass, Merit or Distinction for existing exams.

Our graded Music Theory exams are progressive assessments. Each grade builds on the skills, knowledge and understanding gained at the previous grade. Candidates who are successful in achieving Grade 5 in Music Theory will have gained all the understanding needed to embark on studying at Grade 6 level. This is no different for online Grade 5 Music Theory exams.

We have no immediate plans to make any changes to Music Theory exams at Grades 6 to 8 and these exams will continue to be assessed through a written paper.

We have no immediate plans to make further changes to the Music Theory syllabus at Grades 1 to 5. If any future changes are made, they will be to ensure assessments best support candidates – and will follow thorough review and expert consultation.

Preparing for the exam

ABRSM continues to value and strongly support the teaching and learning of Music Theory. The knowledge and skills tested, and for which marks are awarded, remain the same, with some very minor changes to some details in the syllabus. Practice papers in the online format are available here and these show the different question types included in online Music Theory exams. We have also produced a free set of Sample Papers and Model Answers for Grades 1 to 5 and a new series of workbooks, Discovering Music Theory, that support the teaching and learning of Music Theory.

Yes. As the core musical understanding required for the exams has not changed , our existing books are still helpful along with preparation resources available here. We have also published new Discovering Music Theory books, which provide the best and most up to date preparation materials for Grades 1 to 5. We recommend candidates use these resources now that they are available.

No. The core musical understanding required for the new Music Theory exams remains the same, so you don’t need to change your teaching approach. However, it is important that candidates are familiar with the different style of exam questions that will be used in the new exams.

To help, online practice exams as well as free Music Theory Sample Papers and Music Theory Sample Model Answers for Grades 1 to 5 are available.

We have also published new books of Music Theory Sample Papers and Music Theory Sample Model Answers for each of Grades 1 to 5, as well as our new Discovering Music Theory books, designed to support teachers and learners as they prepare for exams at these grades. You can buy these books on the ABRSM shop.

The online exam process

The safeguarding of young people is of paramount importance to us, and we are entirely confident that PSI’s policies and systems uphold this fundamental principle. The proctoring service is one that records and reviews videos for potential issues of malpractice. There is no live monitoring, nor does a proctor have access to the candidate’s computer. PSI proctors will review the videos for behaviour that could call into question the security of the exam, and provide a report to ABRSM for further investigation. Access to the videos is tightly controlled, restricted to the corporate VPN, and monitored. All proctors are subject to background checks that are commensurate with our own safeguarding policy, including criminal record checks.

Please see our remote proctoring guidance here which tells you more about it.

ABRSM is the data controller for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 2018, which means that we remain directly responsible to you for all the personal information you share with us in order to do the exam. PSI is our supplier, and the data processor, and is bound contractually to meet not only the requirements of European data protection law, but also ABRSM’s service levels. PSI’s security infrastructure is maintained to the highest international security standards, including holding ISO27001 industry standard accreditation for information security management and GDPR compliance.

In order to take the exam, candidates download a secure browser and go through an ID authentication process. The whole session is recorded through the RPNow product via recording of both webcam and desktop and the videos are encrypted and stored on servers in the US. The videos are streamed one by one by a certified proctor who reviews the recording to flag and report any potential violations that could compromise the integrity of the exam.

The test data collected by the ATLAS Cloud software is held on EU servers. This blog piece may be helpful for those with concerns about security and proctoring. You can find more information on PSI’s privacy standards here and more information about ABRSM and data protection here.

We have produced step by step guidance and video demos, which take you through the exam process.Online Music Theory practice questions are also available here

We know exams can be daunting, and we certainly don’t want to add to candidates’ anxiety. Due to the uncertainty around gathering in public venues, we have prioritised moving exams onto this online platform so that we can offer exams more safely and reliably.

The exam is recorded via the candidates’ webcam and watched at a later time by a proctor (the exam invigilator). No candidates are watched live. Recording in this way allows us to maintain the integrity of the exam as we can identify candidates who do not following the exam regulations. This ensures the exams are fair to all, and candidates achieve the results they deserve.

Access to the videos is tightly controlled, restricted to the corporate VPN of our exam supplier, and monitored. All proctors are subject to background checks that are commensurate with our own safeguarding policy, including criminal record checks. The exam recording is securely stored and deleted after 90 days. The Responsible Adult (for candidates under 18) can be present for the duration of the exam if desired.

Candidates can complete a quick system check before or on the day of their exam by going to We recommend using Google Chrome as the browser for this.

No. The RP Now proctoring software will prompt you in advance of starting the exam to close these. This is integral to ensuring security of exams. This is a temporary measure while the RP Now proctoring software is running.

Yes. PSI undertook their standard tests to ensure the system could handle the expected volume of candidates. PSI and ABRSM also carried out joint testing.

For candidates outside of China, you can find out the detailed system requirements here.

For candidates in China, you can find out the detailed system requirements here.

Yes, you can do this here

Setting up the exam

All candidates sitting an online Music Theory exam will be required to show their ID when prompted. We accept a wide range of ID, including a completed ABRSM Candidate Identification Form. You can find out more in our Candidate ID Policy

The room is expected to be free from notes, books of any kind, any depiction of musical notes or any representation of a piano keyboard. If this is not possible then all books should remain closed and out of reach, and any depiction of musical notation or representation of a piano keyboard, including an actual piano, should be covered so they are not visible. 

The room must be free from visible keyboards, or any representation of a piano keyboard. If it’s not possible to remove the keyboard altogether, it should be covered so it is not visible.

Candidates can check what is required to be seen during the room scan by viewing the step by step guide found here, or by viewing our guidance video found here.

When the room scan is requested, the candidate or Responsible Adult can film a room scan on their mobile phone and then play this back to the webcam. The recording of the room scan must be done during the room scan section of the exam set up so that we can confirm the room is suitable for the exam.

Taking the exam

The Responsible Adult can be present for the duration of the exam if desired but for venues hosting multiple candidates this is required. For candidates under 18 or vulnerable adults the Responsible Adult must be present at the beginning of the exam to aid with the necessary room scans and ID checks.

Yes. This can be any type of paper (e.g. manuscript; plain) as long as it is blank and does not show any musical notation or any representation of the piano keyboard. Candidates must show any paper to the camera at the start of the exam to confirm that both sides are blank. At the end of the exam they must hold up the paper to the camera and destroy it, ideally by tearing it into pieces.

We encourage candidates to use the toilet before their exam. Essential toilet breaks are allowed, but they should not be frequent and shouldn’t last more than five minutes. If a candidate will need frequent toilet breaks, they should contact our Access Coordinator to discuss this. Candidates should let the proctor know they are having a toilet break by speaking or holding up a written note to the camera. Candidates will not receive any additional time to complete their exam.

Water and other drinks are allowed during the exam. Candidates just need to ensure their drink is in a transparent container, with no writing or design on it.

In the top right-hand corner of the exam screen there is an ‘End Test’ button you can click to end the test.

In the top right-hand corner there is a countdown clock which displays how much time you have left to complete the exam. This starts once the candidate has begun the exam.

Technical support

Systems check – before the exam make sure your device is compatible with the exam software by carrying out a PSI systems check, available here: PSI RP Now Systems Check. PSI recommend using Google Chrome browser for this check.

Help and support – For any technical advice after you have clicked ‘Start Music Theory exam’, please contact PSI Customer Support on the relevant telephone number below. This information can also be found on under ‘Customer support and technical enquiries’ on our Guidelines page. We have local rate numbers for territories where we run exams but where this is not available, please use the general number: 1-617-564-9052 (Please be aware this is a US based landline number and calling this number outside the USA will be charged at an international rate).

For online Music Theory booking and result enquiries, please contact ABRSM: Contact us. We will not be able to assist with technical difficulties during your exam.

Support is also available on the exam software, so if you experience any technical issues, please click on the Contact Support button at the top of the screen to access PSI’s Live Chat for help and support.


Territory Telephone number
ANDORRA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
ANGUILLA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
ANTIGUA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
AUSTRALIA +61 2 9052 4927
AUSTRIA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
BAHAMAS 1-844-644-8245
BAHRAIN 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
BANGLADESH 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
BARBADOS 1-246-622-0209
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BULGARIA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
CANADA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
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CZECH REPUBLIC +420 228 887 695
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DOMINICA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
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FAROE ISLANDS 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
FINLAND 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
FRANCE 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
GERMANY 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
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GIBRALTAR 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
GREECE 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
GRENADA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
GUYANA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
HONG KONG +852 5803 0024
HUNGARY 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
ICELAND 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
INDIA +91 22 7127 9168
INDONESIA 62 21 50996965
IRELAND +353 818 003 131
ITALY 1-617-564-9052
JAMAICA  1 (876) 613-9117
JAPAN 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
JORDAN +962 6 429 6194
KENYA 254 20 3894117
KOREA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
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NIGERIA 234 1 227 9268
NORWAY 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
OMAN 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
POLAND 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
PORTUGAL 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
QATAR 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
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SAUDI ARABIA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
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SIERRA LEONE 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
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SWEDEN 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
SWITZERLAND 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
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TANZANIA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
THAILAND 66 2 105 6157
THE PHILIPPINES 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
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TURKEY +90 850 390 2146
UGANDA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
UK +44 20 3885 0911
USA +1 702 939 6745
VIETNAM +84 28 4458 1401
ZAMBIA 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 
ZIMBABWE 1-617-564-9052 (General number) 

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