Are RCM exams still important?

January 9, 2018

Should you?  ….   Shouldn’t you?   This is has been a subject that I’ve have personally struggled with for several reasons. 1. RCM standards constantly are changing – either...

Image result for rcm examinations logo Should you?  ….   Shouldn’t you?


This is has been a subject that I’ve have personally struggled with for several reasons.

1. RCM standards constantly are changing – either they’re extremely high or right now they are quite low.  If their history tells me anything — this will change AGAIN! So what does it say long term for examinations? Does it mean what they say it means when a student receives their ARCT diploma?

2. National Averages are very low so even if my students do very well – does it really showcase their talent? Why are those National Averages so low? Are teachers that bad or does RCM have unrealistic standards or just plain old mean? I wish I knew.

3. When they bring advance educators to give workshops – although are excellent workshops – they often don’t really match up with exams. An example: in one workshop – they showed a video of an exam where the educator giving the workshop admitted that the examiner didn’t conduct the exam correctly – hmmmm

Image result for All That Jazz Clip Art4. There is often no rhyme or reason for examiners remarks – they often don’t match up historically or just don’t make sense. For example: when I did the 1st level of the teacher’s ARCT – the examiners were quite outdated on their musical education knowledge and really did not have a basic understanding of jazz. Although I overall did well, my marks don’t reflect my knowledge as they were shocked of information that I brought forward to explain different things. They kept stating – we’ve never heard of any these things (even if they just goggled stuff lol they would have read the same things I was stating). They were also confused when I quoted different American and European Educators, and they weren’t even aware of many different popular beginner books.  So does my teacher’s ARCT mean anything (ended up not doing the next two levels for this very reason and my university education is much in depth anyhow)? And lastly, majority of their questions (written and verbal exams) seemed to be based on in personal biases and assumptions instead of current and past educators’ pedagogy methods. So if it is like that to receive a dipolma  – what is it like for my students? Does it really mean anything?

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5. As well, my students (and I remember this as well all too well myself when I was a student) that the majority of the examiners seem to make the students nervous on purpose. This is such an obsolete and useless way of approaching education — calm supportive and loving environment will bring out the best in students. My most confident students who have strong skills in dealing with nervousness  got this feeling of dread in the exam and couldn’t explain it. It wasn’t even being nervous, my students will tell me but instead it is more that they got the feeling the examiner was somehow “out to get them.” Why? what’s is the reason behind this? It makes me nervous actually that my students all complain about this. I could never understand this as a student and remember walking into my 1st audition where the energy in the room was so different. They might benefit from whatching a little Tony Robbins ….

6. Another fact is that several professors at different universities (who are decision markers in auditions) informed me that they don’t look at RCM marks at all as they are more interested in the audition and theory entrance exam. RCM had no bearing on their decisions and one professor at a prominent university told me that he personally believed that RCM was a joke and couldn’t understand why teachers still do them.

7. In theory examinations, I often will see marks being taking off for stylitic things — a treble clef is a little crooked or if a rest a little messy. So even when a student does everything 100 corrently — they don’t receive 100. How is that right? Everything should be within reason.

Image result for suprised clip art8.Outside of piano, I find that the examiners are often aren’t trained. My last vocal student had a piano examiner! What? Yup! The examiner had no understanding of children’s voices and the pedagogy requirements of the age (a 10 year year old can do the same exam as a 15 year old but the marketing scale will be very different – has to be as voices are constantly changing during those years) so you can imagine how well my student did – which was completely unfair and when I called RCM – they wouldn’t converse on the subject. I have a real issue with this so I do not put vocal students in RCM practical examinations. Wish I could get on a committee and help them develop Vocal Examinations. As if they did them properly, they would a wonderful addition for vocal students.


But …..

Why do I still put students in exams (piano and theory/history examinations)?

1. High school credit — students are overworked as it is – so if I can help them take off some pressure from their studies, I will. They’re at my studio learning so they might as well get some credit for it. It will also help them apply for scholarships.

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the classic over worked student

2. It helps students have a goal (I’m all about goals in our studio) and helps parents give support to their children. It also gives a measuring stick so parents can see progress.

3. If my students do decided to study music in university then they will have an easier time as much of the material in the advance grades are the same as first and second year in university. Universities don’t like to admit it but it is true … so RCM is a good way to get ahead for university.

4. We don’t do all the exams – we don’t start to do examinations till Gr.6 piano and then skip Grade 7 and then we will Gr. 8/9/10/ARCT. I find that festivals are a much better way of showing parents their child(ren) progress in lower grades (well actually any level).

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Great Festival choice for students

In conclusion – do RCM examinations but with the understanding that marks cannot be the main focus, it has to be more about just getting experience of writing/performing exams under pressure, and that gives you a certificate – something for scholarship applications and helping building your resume.

I wish though that they would fix the issues as in “theory” (yes a pun) these examinations would amazing for any student’s development.




Know someone who would benefit from this? #pleaseshare
Natalia P

on conversation on FB about this post!

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