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This page contains information for candidates, their teachers and amanuenses who are taking or assisting in an ABRSM Music Theory exam.
ABRSM use the term ‘amanuensis’ to describe someone who will either read questions aloud (a reader), write down answers (a scribe), or both.
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 suggest that candidates, their teachers and amanuensis 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.
In order to request the use of an amanuensis, ABRSM requires appropriate supporting evidence confirming this specific need and that it is the candidate’s usual way of working. Please refer to our Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments Policy for further information.
Please ensure you select the relevant access provision on the entry form for an amanuensis.
It is important that you do this 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.
If you are unable to access the written paper or write down your answers, you may request the use of an amanuensis.
If you wish to use an amanuensis, you should select this option on the entry form.
It is your responsibility to provide an amanuensis. If you have been unable to source one then please contact the Access Coordinator no later than 3 weeks before the exam date.
Anyone can act as an amanuensis as long as they meet these criteria:
The amanuensis should be musically literate and educated to at least the equivalent level of the exam being taken.
Ideally, the amanuensis should have worked with you at least once before, either in music lessons or in another exam. If this is not possible, we advise that you and the amanuensis have sufficient time to practice ahead of the exam.
We ask that the amanuensis is not your music teacher or a relation, unless absolutely necessary.
As you and your amanuensis will need to work in a separate room, we ask that, if possible, applicants arrange a private visit for the exam – further information can be found here
If this is not possible, we will do our best to arrange for the exam to be held in another room at the main ABRSM centre. However, this cannot be guaranteed, and when it is not possible we may have to look further afield. In this case, we will refund any travel expenses incurred.
Present in the exam room will be the candidate, amanuensis and an invigilator.
If you are taking the exam as a private visit, applicants are responsible for arranging an invigilator.
If you are taking your exam in a separate room at the main ABRSM centre, ABRSM will provide invigilation.
The exam will take place on the same date and at the same time as all other Music Theory exams. It is therefore important that the venue is available at this time.
The following extra time allowance will be given to candidates using an amanuensis, provided we are informed on entry:
If you have difficulty reading from white paper, you may request the exam paper to be printed on coloured paper. You should send 20 sheets in the correct colour and of the required size to the Theory team at the address below at the time of entry.
Large print papers are available in A3 format and come as standard on white paper.
Results will be issued in line with ABRSM’s normal timelines
You may request your results in alternative formats, such as braille or large or modified print. To do this, please inform ABRSM at the time of entry.
Anyone acting as an amanuensis for an ABRSM Music Theory exam should:
The candidate will be aware that you are literate in music theory, and may be embarrassed about dictating answers to you. It is therefore important that you are calm, quiet, reassuring (if appropriate), and patient.
If a candidate needs you to cross out answers you may have spent some time recording, you must appear not to mind.
Do not feel uneasy if there is a lot of silence during the exam – the candidate needs space to think through questions and to consider their answers.
You should ensure you have read and understood the syllabus for the exam in question.
You should have worked with the candidate as their amanuensis at least once, either in music lessons or in another exam. If this is not possible, the candidate should arrange opportunities to practice with you.
You should establish the following points with the candidate:
You will be required to read and sign the Amanuensis Agreement and hand this to the invigilator before the exam begins.
The amanuensis will:
The amanuensis will not:
You should hand in the exam paper to the invigilator and ensure that the signed Amanuensis Agreement has been submitted.
Using an amanuensis requires both the candidate and amanuensis to give careful consideration to communication. The guidance below, together with the sound recording, is intended to help candidates and their amanuensis consider how they will work together in preparation for the exam.
While the examples used are taken from Grade 1 and 5 Theory papers, the methods demonstrated can be applied across all grades. This recording demonstrates the most difficult example of using an amanuensis, where the candidate requires both a reader and a scribe. Please note that answers given are not always correct – it is the process of using an amanuensis in a Music Theory exam that is being demonstrated.
Remember to add bar lines where necessary in your answers. The amanuensis will always make it clear that there is a bar line when reading out musical examples but, when dictating your answers, you must remember to do this. The amanuensis will not automatically add them in on your behalf.
Remember to observe any sharp or flat signs that are read out, and don’t forget to apply them wherever the relevant notes occur later. The amanuensis will read notes according to their position on the stave and will not remind you of any earlier key signature or accidentals.
You may wish to have an extract read out several times, either in part or as a whole.
You should be aware that at the higher grades, musical examples can be quite long. Where amanuenses are required to read out an example, you may need to work on your memorisation skills in order to remember what is being read to you and to make sense of the extract as a whole.