Aptitude Tests for Music and Art for Secondary Admission

(15 Posts)
Tensmumym Tue 13-Oct-15 13:14:23

If you have been through this with your dc, could you let me know what these tests involve? Is there a good way to prepare for them or are they really designed to test aptitude? Dd is very musical - is in year 4 and has been learning to play the piano for a couple of years, is in the choir - but I'm not sure if this would be enough? Thanks.

orangina Tue 13-Oct-15 22:55:08

I went through a music aptitude test recently with dd who is currently in year 6. Round 1 was a load of ear tests with multiple choice answers ("Is the second note higher/lower/the same as the first note?"). No revision possible, apart from going over ear tests to make sure he/she hasn't forgotten them all.

Dd then was called back for the second round, which involved more ear tests and a chance to sing or play their instrument. They said that any performance it was optional only, but there was no way you were going to turn up and NOT play an instrument or sing. Also, by the time we got to the second round, it was being referred to as a 'scholarship', which rather racks up the pressure I think.

Having done it (and we will find out later this week if we are successful), I would have prepared dd for answering the question "What music do you hope to be involved with in secondary school", to which I think dd may have delivered an underwhelming answer. That would have been a useful one to have prepared for a little bit.

I think they are looking for potential and enthusiasm to give something to the school, not necessarily someone who has been practising their scales every day for years.

No134 Wed 14-Oct-15 07:46:16

It will depend on how over-subscribed the school is, I suspect. For highly sought-after schools (both private and state) a music candidate would be at least grade 5 or even 6 on their main instrument (possibly slightly lower if you are playing an unusual and in-demand instrument like double bass or oboe).

For less over-subscribed schools a reasonable level of competence (say grade 3 or 4) plus experience of ensemble playing might be enough.

Other schools only use the aptitude test and don't do auditions at all. But tbh the aptitude tests are based on aural and ear-training tasks, so a child who had practised those kinds of tasks for eg music exams would have an advantage.

meditrina Wed 14-Oct-15 08:02:41

State maintained schools have to select by aptitude, and cannot require or expect certain grades (recognition that not all children have access to tuition).

But, in practice as No134 ability honed by playing or singing, individually or in ensemble, is likely to lead to better showing in assessment, and there isn't much that can be done about that.

No134 Wed 14-Oct-15 10:45:51

Meditrina, there are definitely state schools that select by music audition, usually after doing the aptitude test as a first screening.

Camden Girls

Dame Alice Owens

QE boys used to insist on a G5 music certificate before allowing people to apply, but I notice they've dropped taht now.

meditrina Wed 14-Oct-15 11:18:50

I've just looked at those links, and one has 3 places aptitude, and 5 aptitude plus playing; and the other has all aptitude plus playing, but excludes all grades from the selection process (you're told not to send them in). They are both looking for aptitude/musicality not a particular level of grade achievement.

Dropping requirement for specific/expected grades is what must happen for state schools.

A candidate who does not play or sing at all would of course have difficulty with any performance tests. But a good enough performance plus high aptitude is a strong combination, and it must be really rare for a pupils to have gone right through primary without any opportunity to perform.

Of course, the better the music department, the better they are at recognising rough diamonds. The performance is meant to assist in assessing aptitude, not ability. So musicality (and enjoyment) matter, rather than how complicated the series of notes. Or at least, that's how it should be.

No134 Wed 14-Oct-15 11:52:21

Yy, I realise they're not allowed to ask for specific grades, which is presumably why QE have dropped that requirement. I notice that some schools which have historically had a tranche of music places have dropped them - my guess would be that it's because it's not worth the school's while to take in people with aptitude but no experience and teach them an instrument from scratch, when what they actually want are kids who can some straight in and be useful confident performers in a high-standard orchestra.

But for those who do want to use the music place route into schools that are ridiculously selective and that do have an audition, I stand by my statement that in practice you need to be at a minimum of high G5 standard to be in with a chance, irrespective of whether you've actually done exams - I know quite a few kids of G5+ standard in a popular instrument like violin who've only got in off the waiting list when other people turned down their places.

But that is London, where people get excessively obsessed with particular schools, who can set the bar as high as they like because they are inundated with applications from outstanding candidates. There are lots of other schools that offer music places where the standard is not as high - so for the benefit of the OP, you would need to get some inside info on the level of the dc who've been offered places in the past to see whether your child's level would be likely to get them a place. There are lots of schools where a bit of musical experience and lots of enthusiasm will be sufficient.

Tensmumym Tue 20-Oct-15 00:45:26

Thanks very much for your responses.

LilyBolero Tue 20-Oct-15 17:49:22

Admissions Code is not happy about any sort of audition, it should all be aptitude, not ability. The adjudicator is very clear on this.

lfcbgoogle0415 Tue 20-Oct-15 21:06:16

My daughter did the music aptitude exams this fall. A lot of it was in line with what they do for the aural portion of the ABRSM exams. Ask your daughter's music teacher to practice these with her to get her familiar with how she should respond. You cannot learn musical ability, but at least she will be familiar with terminology and expectations. Here is what the school told us they would be tested on:

The Music Aptitude Test is a multiple-choice test split into five categories.

1) Pitch:
A number of sounds will be played and applicants have to answer whether they think the sound is higher or lower in pitch than the previous sound.
2) Rhythm:
Rhythmic patterns will be clapped and applicants have to identify whether the second example is the same as or different from the first example.
3) Melody:
a) Applicants have to indicate whether two melodic patterns (played one after the other) are the same or different.
b) Two melodic patterns will be heard and applicants will have to indicate how the second pattern is different from the first (if at all).
4)Comparing pieces:
Two performances of the same piece of music will be heard, but in the second piece of music there has been one change. Applicants will have to choose from a variety of sentences to best describe the change that has been made.
5) Graphic notation:
Applicants will be given several examples of graphic notation on their answer-sheet, and will hear a piece of music. They must indicate which of the graphic notation examples best represents what they hear.

knittingwithnettles Tue 20-Oct-15 22:44:56

Ds1 was only the low middle range for the aptitude test for Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School (he was on Grade 2 violin at the time, had taken no exams, and did not perform because it was not requested) At the time he was an outstanding member of his primary school choir and a choir at a Saturday music school ironically led by the Director of Music at CV. He went on to be a very enthusiastic member of the school choir and concert band at a different secondary school; personally I think he is extremely musical, a brilliant singer, has fantastic aural skills and the aptitude test was not really a true test of musicality but of experience in an instrument or cathedral type choir, and of taking aural tests or understanding graphic notation (which he hadn't a clue about) He came from an amateur background, neither of us had any experience of professional music and probably had no idea of what was involved in such a test or what we needed to do to train him for it. I felt it was all a bit of a con really. Those in the know, really did KNOW.

CVMS lost out when they turned him down!!! He is in Year 11 and planning to do Music A level now.

Tensmumym Fri 06-Nov-15 16:41:12

Thanks so much for all your responses.

SE13Mummy Sat 07-Nov-15 22:47:55

We're in London, in an area with massively oversubscribed schools and have just put in the secondary application for DD1.

DD1 passed G4 on her main instrument during Y5 (group lessons, at school for 2.5 years at that point), plays in various Music Service jazz bands and orchestras, the church band once a month and has taken part in a few free/reasonably priced holiday courses. Her main love is jazz so she's side-stepped across to the ABRSM jazz syllabus instead of the 'straight' G5 although the local Music Service consider her to be G5+ standard.

Prendergast, Kingsdale and Haberdasher Askes Hatcham offer places/scholarships for children with musical aptitude. The format is slightly different for each of them but the general gist of it is that the aural test is nothing like the ABRSM aurals and that the highest scorers are invited to audition. At the open evening we attended last year, I spoke to the head of music about the auditions and asked how on earth they decided who to award the places to. She explained that at the auditions it was often apparent if children were being driven from audition to audition and weren't that interested in what they were playing - those children weren't given music places because she wanted them to go to children who were in a position to make the most of them. She has given places to children who'd only previously sung at family gatherings over children who performed technically marvellous renditions of G8 violin pieces because it felt as though the first child would benefit from the place at the school as she was passionate about music whereas the amazing violinist demonstrated no real interest in the school or in the violin.

DD1's audition invitation said she could play a single piece or two contrasting ones (unaccompanied) and should be prepared to talk about the piece/s she played and about her music-making in general. At no point during the audition was she asked about grades or exams - she was asked about the sort of things she'd like to be involved with at secondary school, to give the name of a particular note that was pointed to on her music, asked about the sort of music she liked listening to and if she had any questions. DD1 chose to play a jazz piece she loves (and worked out by listening to a CD of her idol performing it) along with a more lively jazz piece she played for her G4. Her music teacher wasn't convinced the first one was a good audition piece but, when I mentioned the conversation I'd had at that open evening, conceded that it would be better for DD1 to play something she loves and can talk about for England rather than something she would perform in the manner of Kevin the Teenager. It seems to have worked; she has secured a guaranteed music place at our first choice, very local school.

Pepperpot99 Tue 10-Nov-15 06:38:41

OP - two great websites to help with this are :

www.e-musicmaestro.com/auraltests
www.hofnote.co.uk

HTH smile

DigitalParenting Mon 10-Oct-16 12:49:34

This is a question for Parents who have previously applied to Haberdasher's Aske's (New Cross). If your child gets through the 2 music tests. What number on the waiting list would you say was realistic for securing a place?

Children will drop out and take up offers at other schools. so with this attrition to the waiting list, would it be realistic if you were say 60 on the list (when there are 15 places awarded) to think your child has a chance of being awarded a place?

Obviously the figure will vary from year to year. Just want to hear from parents who have been in this situation in the past.

We find out where we are on the list this week! Many thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

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