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If you are a singer thinking about sitting a Rockschool exam soon you might be wondering what to expect on a Rockschool singing exam.
Rockschool exams are a great way to give your singing skills a clear direction and to learn all the tools you need to be a complete vocalist.
From grades 1 through grade 8, you are going to progressively learn a more complex repertoire, as well as more advanced musical concepts and practices.
At Auckland Singing School, we prepare kids and teens to have great results in their Rockschool vocal exams (grades 1 to 8).
If you are thinking about doing an exam, or if you are already enrolled in one, this is a good chance to talk about what to expect on a Rockschool singing exam.
To be honest, the word “exam” can sometimes be unnecessarily intimidating. I prefer to see it as a demonstration of all the things you learned in preparation for that test.
Rockschool singing exams are purely practical. Therefore all you have to do is to prepare well for it, and if you do, the exam will be like having just another lesson. It can even be fun if you are well prepared!
In Auckland, we have 2 or 3 exam dates a year. Usually June/July and late November/Early December. This year we also had a May date.
You don’t need to book your exam until you know that you will be ready. I recommend booking your exam when you already have a good idea of the technical exercises and you have at least one song almost ready.
There is no limit on the time you can wait before booking your first test. This is important because we all start at a very different level. Some kids are ready to set their first exam within months, and some kids won’t be ready until a couple of years. That is completely fine and it is not a race.
Equally, some kids will choose to do two exams per year if they are keen and practice regularly. Some other kids will choose to do an exam per year or less. There is no right or wrong, everyone sets their own pace.
When you book your exam, you won’t have your date and time assigned yet. You have to wait until closer to the exam. If the exam is for your child, please note that the exam might take place during school hours.
To start with, try to get your book as soon as possible to make sure that you have all the materials you need to practice at home.
Your teacher will help you prepare for the test as best as possible, but remember that your weekly lesson is just a guide. You are required to practice at home to learn your material. When kids practise during the week, the exams usually go smoothly and they get great marks, plus they generally enjoy the process.
Don’t leave the practice until close to your exam, or you will slow down your progress. Vocal mastery is a process that happens slowly but steady, and it requires consistent regular practice. Remember that exams are for you and no one else. These qualifications help you progress faster and better, but to make the most of it make sure you give your music practice the time it deserves. The benefits of Rockschool exams are not having a pretty certificate on your wall, but what you learn from them.
The weeks before your exam, make sure you are familiar with all the material and you are just tidying up details. Generally, you will book your exam once you are quite familiar with the content already, so this step shouldn’t be a problem.
This takes me to another point: make sure you choose the right grade! I have had quite a few students that with no prior knowledge, have wanted to skip grades and start in grade 4 to finish all the grades more quickly. This is not how it works. You might get a pass but you will miss an important part of the process and that will slow you down in the not so far future.
During the 4 or 5 days before your exam, make sure you keep good vocal health. Make sure you get your 8 hours of sleep, enough water, and that you are keeping a healthy diet. Dairy, spicy foods, fatty foods, coffee, can affect your voice performance negatively. If you make sure you drink enough water, get plenty of veggies and fruits, and leave a generous gap between your last meal and your singing practice, you will notice that singing becomes easier and you don’t have to strain that much.
The last days shouldn’t be for you to freak out about all the things you didn’t do. If your teacher gave you the thumbs up to sign up for your test, you are probably ready. Make sure you practice daily to keep the content fresh but don’t stress about it. Enjoy it! Now that you nailed the song musicality and technique, now is the time to focus on the delivery of the song. Practice how are you going to connect with your audience (in this case, the examiner). Connect with the message of your song. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that you are transmitting through the lyrics.
On the day of your exam, try to avoid strong emotions if possible. This is the time to make sure your day goes as relaxing as possible! Make sure that you have everything ready the night before. Your book, your Pendrive, your sheet music, your water bottle, and everything else you need.
Drink plenty of water at room temperature, and make sure you don’t have a big meal just before your test.
Warm up your voice before your test. No need to go crazy, even a 10 – 15 min gentle warm-up will help you get ready.
Ok, now finally… what to expect on a Rockschool exam!
You will be asked to arrive earlier to prepare yourself. Use this time to do all you need to be relax and ready. For some people, this will be breathing exercises, stretches, or voice warm-ups.
When your exam time comes, you will enter a room in which the examiner will be waiting for you. You will be asked if you want to perform your songs first, or your technical exercises first. This, of course, has to be something you decide beforehand. Some people prefer to do first what they find easier, to relax. And some people prefer to do the hardest part first, so they can stop worrying about it sooner. Whatever option you choose is entirely up to you 🙂
The examiner won’t give you much feedback during the test. In fact, in my experience, they won’t give you feedback at all. So please don’t think that anything is going wrong if the examiner keeps on telling you “thanks, next exercise please” every time you finish a song or an exercise. This is just the way these sessions work, of course with some variations amongst examiners. Just focus on doing the best you can and try to not worry too much.
And that’s pretty much it! It is not as scary as people imagine. If you are well prepared, all you have to do is to perform what you know. And you get to use your book during most of the exam, except, of course, in the unprepared tests. So you don’t have to worry about memorising lyrics or any of those things.
The most challenging thing about sitting a singing exam (provided that you know your material!) is that singing does become harder when you are nervous. Your brain works differently and your breathing works differently. So really being in control of your emotions is the best way to make sure you have a great experience during your test.
So if your child is a singing student and is thinking about preparing for a Rockschool singing exam, I would say 100% go for it. Kids benefit from the sense of achievement they get when they receive a satisfactory result. It helps them keep motivated to keep on learning and growing.
If you are serious about becoming a skilled vocalist, check out our singing training programs at Auckland Singing School!
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