Talk

Advanced search

Should I let DD fail Grade 1 or stop her doing exam? Advice please!

(40 Posts)
cingolimama Mon 10-Nov-14 10:26:27

Hi all - advice and anyone's experiences would be greatly appreciated. Situation is this: DD is taking her Grade 1 piano exam in two weeks time. In spite of a lot of practice (5-6 days/week for 20-30 minutes), I have huge doubts (not just normal nervousness) about her ability to pass the exam and tbh I think I might look for another teacher after this (but that's another thread).

I wonder what is best - let her possibly/probably fail and deal with that? Or withdraw her from the exam and set a bad precedent?

Piano is her second instrument - violin is her first and though she hasn't done any exams on that, she's about a Grade 4 level and flourishing. I'd hate for a negative piano music exam experience to knock her confidence on her violin, iykwim. But then kids can really learn from failure too. She does love to play the piano, btw.

Views?

flipchart Mon 10-Nov-14 10:30:15

I would let her take her exam for lots of reasons. She may pass.
If she fails she can retake it but she will know what her weaknesses are and work on them for next time. Also if she fails it can help build up resilience that you are not necessary a success first time round at everything.
No harm done IMO.

LooseAtTheSeams Mon 10-Nov-14 13:48:22

With that amount of practice and a background in playing violin I'd be surprised if she failed.

Is there someone else you could get to listen to her pieces and scales to give some independent feedback? It might set your mind at rest! I always have sense of impending doom when the DCs take music exams and I have been completely wrong each time!

berceuse Mon 10-Nov-14 13:50:49

It depends on how she would react to failure.

I wouldn't personally but we don't focus on exams before secondary school age unless the child really really wants it (so I am probably biased).

I especially wouldn't do it if it was her first exam.

s113 Mon 10-Nov-14 13:55:04

Are you musical yourself, how do you know she might fail?

If she is not "afraid of failure", I would say definitely let her take the exam.

Enb76 Mon 10-Nov-14 13:58:38

How would you react to her failure?

Does she think she can do it?

If she's genuinely not ready then I wouldn't put her through it. At 20 - 30 mins of practice a day she should be more than ready to pass Grade 1. If you do pull her out, I really wouldn't bother with Grade 1 again. I'd go straight to nailing the pieces, the scales etc... without taking the exam, then expand repertoire and then when she has lots of grade 1-2 pieces under her belt think about tackling Grade 2 or if you were me wait until she's ready to do Grade 3.

My daughter will probably only do grade 3, 5 and 8 exams. What I do want her to have is masses of new pieces to play, huge amounts of repertoire which I think is far more important that learning to pass an exam, only do those pieces and then as soon as one exam is passed you learn the repertoire for the next exam.

singinggirl Mon 10-Nov-14 14:12:33

As a piano teacher I would be very surprised if she didn't pass given the amount of practice and her violin standard, what is it that worries you? How are her scales, aural and sight reading? Obviously if you are not happy with the teacher you are probably not confident with the feedback from there, but my guidance would be that if there is one piece/ other area that is weaker but everything else is strong she should be fine. (You need to pass overall but not each individual section.) If your worries are about something she hasn't covered though (say if teacher taught her no scales) then I would withdraw her and complain to the teacher.

claraschu Mon 10-Nov-14 14:23:47

What is the point of doing the exam? i don't understand why people do music exams, except occasionally, when a child and teacher agree that it would be a good goal for some particular reason.

DeWee Mon 10-Nov-14 14:34:42

I would agree with the other people that with that amount of practice and already grade 4 music in another instrument, I'd be amazed if she failed.

I suspect you are comparing what she can do on a violin grade 4 with piano grade 1. I did that (dd1 was about grade 4 piano when dd2 did her first in trumpet). Dd2 got a distinction, including full marks on one piece. I was crossing fingers that she wouldn't fail.

tess73 Mon 10-Nov-14 14:34:48

you have to really do quite badly to fail at grade 1.
can she play the pieces? scales? sight read? if so, they don't need to be perfect.
what does she think? how old is she?

cingolimama Mon 10-Nov-14 14:47:53

Thank you all for your helpful responses.

With regard to her reaction to failure - I'm not sure how she will react. Once, a while back she had a violin recital that didn't go very well. She was upset for an afternoon, but it actually made her more determined, and focused.

As to how I'd react to her failure - I would make it clear to her that I was proud of her efforts, and that failure is important sometimes - inevitable when you're attempting something as difficult as an instrument.

s113: yes, I'm musical, though not a pianist. I have, I think, a good sense of the standard required - I don't think I'm being overly pessimistic.

singing: she's fine with scales and a good sight reader. Her pieces, though, have not really improved over time. She keeps making the same mistakes over and over, despite taking things apart bar by bar and practising that section many times. (DD doesn't have this approach with violin, but progresses bit by bit, slowly and steadily until she masters a piece. This is why I blame the teacher a bit.)

cingolimama Mon 10-Nov-14 14:52:24

Ciaraschu, I'm not a huge exam lover, but it can be a very motivating and very focusing for the student. It can give a child a sense of achievement to have the certificate.

For us, it was that DD was set to do her first violin exam (Grade 5) next spring. I thought it might be an idea for her to have a go at a lower grade exam on another (more straightforward) instrument to give her the experience - to do a test run, so to speak.

cingolimama Mon 10-Nov-14 14:54:20

tess I'll take some reassurance from that, thanks! Just how badly do you have to be to fail Grade 1? (serious question)

Sleepytea Mon 10-Nov-14 14:55:04

My ds sat his grade 1 last year. The weeks prior to the exam I thought much the same as you - he kept making the same mistakes over and over again. He practised and practised and still made the same mistakes. He sat the exam and passed with merit. When we got the details he actually did really well in his worst piece (and not quite so well at his best piece). I would let her do it.

cingolimama Mon 10-Nov-14 15:07:24

Aw, that's great to hear Sleepy.

Worriedandlost Mon 10-Nov-14 16:30:53

I agree with the rest-go for exam, it is unlikely she fails it, I bet she will at least have merit. Besides, are you sure that you are not listening to the whole piece and make a judgement based on this, whilst the examiner will probably be looking at some technical bits and pieces and for delivering of those elements, which means that mistakes she is doing are not that essential for exam marking? Plus, you are saying, she is ok with the other parts of the exam... it all sounds like it is the mum's nerves and not daughter's ability to pass the exam tbh smile))) My dd is also doing violin and piano and I have the same problem with her piano, it just never sounds 100% right, but I accepted by now that taking into account her age and abilities violin is easier to master and polish (though her violin teacher reckons it is her teaching that makes violin easier smile). Piano requires more slow and methodical approach, more concentration and body coordination...
Just go for it and good luck! I hope you let us know when she has her deserved, and, I am sure, very good result!

cingolimama Mon 10-Nov-14 16:40:47

Worried, that's very kind and encouraging.

Dumbledoresgirl Mon 10-Nov-14 16:47:53

Definitely go for the exam. My children have taken 18 music exams between them over the years and only one was failed. And that was a surprise to both me and the teacher (blamed horrid examiner!)

My children are not exceptionally musical. Many a time I have been convinced they are going to fail. As someone who took music exams in childhood, I am always asking myself if the standard has fallen over the years or if I exaggerated how proficient I was when I took my exams. Either way, they can falter and make mistakes now and still pass very well.

I was told for Grade 1, being the first exam, the examiners bend over backwards to pass the children as they want to encourage them to continue playing. I don't know how true this is.

Of course, the problem might come later when she takes a higher grade and thinks she only has to be so good to pass but you will have to cross that bridge when you get to it.

JulieMichelleRobinson Tue 11-Nov-14 08:34:20

Go to the exam board website and look at their pass/merit/distinction criteria. For ABRSM, remember you only need 100/150 to pass. You get points for even attempting certain parts of the exam. The pieces don't technically have to be note-perfect - the main thing is character and getting all the way through, with ummm... most of the notes correct. It does, you know, have to be recognisable, but you can make some slips as long as you keep going. The scales don't have to be perfect for a grade 1 pass, and the examiner won't be looking at the fingering so much as knowing which notes are in the scale and fluency.

On the ABRSM website there are resources for teachers, including 'mark-an-exam' activities, which you might want to take a look at. It's likely you're over-estimating the pass requirements, which isn't a bad thing in itself. Of course, I could be wrong and your child might not be ready, but have a closer look first. It sounds like she's working up? to the exam rather than taking an exam at a level she finds easy, though.

flowery Tue 11-Nov-14 08:42:55

What is the point of doing the exam? i don't understand why people do music exams, except occasionally, when a child and teacher agree that it would be a good goal for some particular reason.

DS1 took his Grade 1 violin in the summer. He was excited about taking it and the prospect of a certificate. Once he passed (with merit), he was even more excited and his certificate is his prize possession. He is now doing his Grade 2, and has told me he plans to do all 8 grades by the time he is 10. I have informed him that that may not be entirely realistic (grin) and they do get a lot more difficult, but the whole experience of doing an exam has certainly been extremely motivating for him. He sets himself very high standards and sometimes has doubts about how good he is, so an examiner verifying it was great for him.

cingolimama Tue 11-Nov-14 09:50:08

Thank you everyone this has been terrifically reassuring. We're going to go for it, come what may. Will report back when we hear what the results were.

GooseyLoosey Tue 11-Nov-14 10:04:13

I have mixed feelings about exams. We have never pushed the dcs to do them and they really do them if they want to.

The weakest instrument any of the dcs have is dd's piano playing. There she did grade 1 - hated the repetitive playing of the pieces so decided to do no more grades. Changed teacher and did grade 2 within months but this was because he wanted to try and push her forward in small manageable chuncks. Passed but not well so I am not sure if we will do grade 3 but she is playing grade 3/4 pieces.

The strongest instrument is ds on the guitar. He plays bass and ordinary guitar. He has only done 1 exam - grade 4 on bass. His teacher describes him as the most gifted pupil he has ever had. Ds loves his guitar but he says that that is because he can play what he wants when he wants and does not have to spend forever on one piece. He hated preparing for the exam and says he is not keen to do more. As I don't want to kill his love of the instrument, I am fine with that.

On other intruments - they play to about grade 4 but have only done 1 exam between them.

I would leave it to your dd to decide and then think hard what you will get out of her doing any more exams.

GooseyLoosey Tue 11-Nov-14 10:04:22

I have mixed feelings about exams. We have never pushed the dcs to do them and they really do them if they want to.

The weakest instrument any of the dcs have is dd's piano playing. There she did grade 1 - hated the repetitive playing of the pieces so decided to do no more grades. Changed teacher and did grade 2 within months but this was because he wanted to try and push her forward in small manageable chuncks. Passed but not well so I am not sure if we will do grade 3 but she is playing grade 3/4 pieces.

The strongest instrument is ds on the guitar. He plays bass and ordinary guitar. He has only done 1 exam - grade 4 on bass. His teacher describes him as the most gifted pupil he has ever had. Ds loves his guitar but he says that that is because he can play what he wants when he wants and does not have to spend forever on one piece. He hated preparing for the exam and says he is not keen to do more. As I don't want to kill his love of the instrument, I am fine with that.

On other intruments - they play to about grade 4 but have only done 1 exam between them.

I would leave it to your dd to decide and then think hard what you will get out of her doing any more exams.

claraschu Tue 11-Nov-14 10:08:14

My husband and I are both musicians, and our three teenagers all play quite seriously (beyond grade 8 level, NYO, one at a specialist music school etc). I just feel that, yes, exams might sometimes be useful as a way to give a particular child a goal, but as a nationwide way of organising music education they stink.

I think concerts and small groups are much better and more natural ways for kids to be inspired and excited; the goal then is to communicate with other young musicians and with an audience, I think exams are a convenient shortcut and don't often do much to help kids really love music.

Mistigri Tue 11-Nov-14 12:50:24

I'd be inclined to have her do the exam as she's already entered, because I think withdrawing sends a negative message about her not being good enough (and as discussed above this is probably more about parental nerves than ability).

FWIW we don't do exams, although DD may need to do some eventually if she wants to pursue music professionally. The disadvantage is that there is less motivation to ensure that all aspects of playing progress in a balanced way. The advantage is that it makes it much easier to preserve the enjoyment and to enable students to develop musically rather than just technically. (You can do this alongside an exam syllabus of course but the temptation for parents and teachers alike is to spend too much time focussing on the next exam hurdle).

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now