COVID-19 - latest exam updates

A message from our Chief Executive – our future plans

Guidelines for candidates with autism

These guidelines contain information for candidates with Autism.  They detail the access arrangements and reasonable adjustments that ABRSM offer for our Practical, Diploma and Music Theory exams.

For convenience we use the term ‘Autism’ throughout these guidelines to refer to people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder/Condition including Asperger’s.

Before reading these guidelines, we recommend you also read our Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments Policy, which can be found at www.abrsm.org/specificneeds.

We also publish the following guidelines which may also be relevant:

  • Guidelines for candidates with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD)
  • Guidelines for candidates requesting a chaperone
  • Guidelines for candidates using an amanuensis

ABRSM is grateful to the SEND Teaching School who provided valuable suggestions for the revision of these guidelines.

You should review the information in these guidelines before making an exam entry.

If you have questions or specific requirements that are not covered by these guidelines, please contact ABRSM’s Access Coordinator.

Typical reasonable adjustments for candidates with autism include:

  • An extra five minutes to allow candidates to familiarise themselves with the exam room and examiner

Extra time to prepare the Sight-reading test where this is made clear in the supporting documentation

  • Adaptations to the aural tests where this is made clear in the supporting documentation
  • Extra time in Music Theory exams
  • A separate room to complete the Music Theory exam

All ABRSM examiners are provided with basic information about autism and how this may impact on candidates taking a music exam. In addition, you are welcome to supply any further information you think would be helpful for the examiner to know in advance.

It is important to understand that while we are able to make provisions for the administration of the exam, e.g. extra time or alternative tests, we are not able to make any concessions in the marking – all candidates will be treated equally.

Please ensure you select the most relevant access provision on the entry form.

It is important that you select the relevant access provision for each exam even if you have requested access arrangements or reasonable adjustments previously.

If none of the access provisions cover your specific needs or you have questions about the reasonable adjustments to which you are entitled, please contact ABRSM’s Access Coordinator as early as possible before the entry deadline.

Please note that ABRSM is unable to provide reasonable adjustments where we are notified after the exam entry has been made.

In order to grant reasonable adjustments, ABRSM requires appropriate supporting evidence. Please refer to our Access Policy for further information.

You may feel especially nervous or anxious in an unfamiliar exam centre. You are welcome to arrange a visit to the exam centre in advance. Please see the list of ABRSM local exam centres.

Examiners and invigilators will be aware that you may feel nervous or anxious in the exam setting. In Practical Exams, the extra time allowed will help examiners to take the time to ensure that you do not feel rushed.

Examiners have been asked to:

  • Be understanding of the difficulties posed by unfamiliar settings, people and routines
  • Speak slowly, clearly and concisely, allowing time for you to process the information and instructions
  • Repeat any instructions if asked or to allow five seconds before prompting
  • To use the same wording for any questions they repeat to avoid confusion
  • Understand that you may become muddled with your own words when asked to respond to questions
  • Be aware that memory lapses may occur in any section of the exam

Time

Examiners and invigilators will be aware that you may either need reassurance that there is plenty of time for the exam, or alternatively may need firm guidance regarding time remaining. You may bring a timer of your choice to a Music Theory exam.

Written comments

Marks will always reflect the standard of your performance. However, examiners will aim to avoid comments that may draw undue attention to your specific needs and any access arrangements.

Extra time

You will have an extra five minutes for the exam to use as necessary.

Companions

You may be more comfortable with a familiar person to accompany you into the exam. We refer to this person as a chaperone. The chaperone should not be your parent or music teacher unless there is no other option. You must have advance written permission from ABRSM. Please review our guidelines for candidates requesting a chaperone.

Extra time for Sight-reading

You will not receive extra time for Sight-reading automatically. If you require this reasonable adjustment you should select the relevant option on the entry form. We may ask to see additional supporting evidence to support this request.

Large print tests

ABRSM’s default for large print tests is a 14mm stave on cream paper.

Specimen large print tests are available from Allegro Music and their contact details can be found at the end of these guidelines.

Modified print tests

Rather than a straightforward enlargement, ABRSM can make further modifications based on your preferences, for example, larger note-heads and beaming, or a larger font for performance directions. 

If you require modified stave notation, you should send a covering letter at the time of entry along with a sample of the notation required. Please include details of all typographical specifications. You can email musical examples written in Sibelius or MuseScore to [email protected]

We produce Sight-reading tests on A4 landscape.

Further information on modified stave notation (MSN) is published by the UK Association for Accessible formats (UKAAF) and their contact details can be found at the end of these guidelines.

Sight-reading tests on coloured paper

If you require tests on coloured paper you should indicate this by contacting the access coordinator before the published entry deadline. You will need to post three sheets of the required paper to ABRSM at the time of entry.

Use of large print or modified scores in exams

You are welcomed to use your own large print or modified print copies in the exam provided you bring the original with you. This provision is made under the Code of Fair Practice published by the MPA, which allows you to make an accessible copy for your own use. No prior permission is required.

Sight-reading tests on separate sheets

If you require tests reproduced on a separate sheet of paper, you should indicate this by contacting the access coordinator before the published entry deadline.

Tinted overlays

You are welcome to use a tinted overlay for any part of the exam and no prior permission is required.

Aural repetition in place of Sight-reading

This test may be a more appropriate alternative for some candidates with severe learning difficulties or who learn music by ear rather than notation. If you select this provision on the entry form, we may contact you to confirm that this is the most appropriate option.

The aural repetition test consists of a short passage played three times on the piano by the examiner, who will first play and name the key-chord and starting note, and indicate the tempo before asking you to repeat the passage on your instrument. You will be given a short amount of time to try out the test following the second and final playing. You can obtain specimen tests from Allegro Music and their contact details are given at the end of these guidelines.

Organ, Trumpet, Horn and Harpsichord exams

These exams involve either a transposition exercise or a figured bass realisation. Any extra time will be split between the Sight-reading and these additional tests.

Aural Tests

Consistency

All examiners will follow the rubric printed in the new Specimen Aural Tests books to avoid any variations in the way in which the aural tests are delivered. 

Making notes

For tests requiring you to remember what they have been asked before the playing of a musical extract (as in the C or D test, depending on the grade), you will be allowed to take a pencil and piece of paper into the exam room to make a note of which features you need to listen for – making you less reliant on your short-term memory. The examiner will collect this piece of paper at the end of the exam. 

Additional attempts

Examiners may allow an additional attempt at the aural tests if they consider there is reason to do so, with no penalty. Any further attempts may be allowed at the examiner’s discretion. The examiner will be ready to prompt where appropriate, though this will affect the assessment. 

Large or modified print tests

If you request a large or modified staff notation sight-reading test, you will receive a large print or modified copy of aural test B at Grades 4–8.

Tests involving singing

We are aware that some candidates with autism find singing particularly challenging or impossible. If this is the case, you should contact the Access Coordinator at the time of entry to discuss suitable alternatives.

Order of the exam

You may notify the examiner on the day of your preferred order, provided that it is logistically feasible – for example, it is better that elements requiring an accompanist are adjacent to cause minimum disruption.

Copies of the words

Candidates with an SPLD may bring a copy of the words of their songs for reference only. Please be aware that reference to the words which is deemed to inhibit communication will mean that you may not be able to achieve the highest marks for your songs. Supporting evidence for this reasonable adjustment is required.

Extra time

Candidates with autism are entitled to additional time for the completion of each exam as follows:

  • Grades 1–3    30 minutes extra
  • Grades 4–5    40 minutes extra
  • Grades 6–8    60 minutes extra

Large print papers

ABRSM’s default for large print papers is from A4 to A3. Papers are provided on white paper by default.

Specimen large print papers are available from Allegro Music and their contact details can be found at the end of these guidelines.

Modified print papers

Rather than a straightforward enlargement, ABRSM can make further modifications based on your preferences, for example, larger note-heads and beaming, or a larger font for performance directions. The layout of the paper may be altered, for example to ensure that musical extracts and the related questions are on facing pages.

If you require a modified print paper, you should send a covering letter at the time of entry along with a sample of the notation required. Please include details of all typographical specifications. You can email musical examples written in Sibelius or MuseScore to [email protected]

Please be aware that we can produce papers on either A4 or A3, but you will need to consider how the font and staff size will impact on the paper size needed. Further information on modified stave notation (MSN) is published by the UK Association for Accessible formats (UKAAF) and their contact details can be found at the end of these guidelines.

Coloured papers

You may request a Theory paper printed on blue, green, pink or yellow paper. If you require this, you should indicate this by contacting the access coordinator before the published entry deadline.

Amanuensis

If you are unable to access printed material or write down your answers, you may use an amanuensis to act as a reader, a scribe, or both. Please review the information in our guidelines for candidates using an amanuensis.

Separate room

If you usually take exams in a separate room you must select the relevant access provision on the entry form and email documentation to [email protected].

If we cannot meet your needs within the graded exam system, you may wish to take the Performance Assessment.

In this assessment, you can play your own choice of repertoire and will receive a written report containing constructive comments and advice from an examiner.

There is no pass or fail for this assessment, and no assessment criteria. You should include a written statement with the entry detailing your specific needs (this is essential if the candidate is under 18) so that the information can be passed on to the examiner.

ARSM involves no supporting tests or anything that requires candidates to respond to questions from the examiner, so alternative tests for candidates with autism are not needed. We will add five minutes to the exam to allow you time to prepare for your performance. This does not alter the criteria for the length of your programme.

If you have access requirements that the examiner should be aware of, please contact the access coordinator before making your entry with the relevant details.

Quick Study

You will not receive extra time for preparing the Quick Study automatically.

If you require this reasonable adjustment you should indicate this by contacting the access coordinator at the time of entry. We may ask to see additional supporting evidence to support this request.

Aural Repetition test in place of Quick Study

This test may be a more appropriate alternative for some candidates with severe learning difficulties. We advise you to practise this way of working before selecting this provision to ensure that this is a suitable option.

You will be given a short piece of music recorded onto CD to study. You will be given 15 minutes to study the piece. The test will be recorded on the instrument being assessed. After the preparation time, you will be required to perform the test from memory.

Singing candidates taking the Aural repetition Quick Study

You will be required to incorporate the lyrics in your performance of the test and will be given the usual choice of singing in either Italian or English. You should confirm your language preferences at the time of entry so that the appropriate test can be recorded. You will be provided with a full recording of the score, a recording of the lyrics only, a recording of the melody sung to ‘la’ with the accompaniment and a recording of the melody including the lyrics. You are responsible for providing your own CD player which should be familiar to you, reliable, portable, have a sufficiently long mains lead and be quick to set up. Further information can be provided on request from the Access Coordinator.

Viva Voce

Examiners will make every effort to ask questions clearly and concisely. They will also be happy to repeat questions or ask follow-up questions as necessary. If you have particular concerns or questions about the Viva Voce, please contact the Access Coordinator at the time of entry.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By using our website, you are agreeing to our cookie policy and consent to our use of cookies. Find out more.