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The Pros and Cons of Piano Exams for Your Child

Music exams organized by the Royal Conservatory of Music are very popular in Canada amongst piano students of all levels. Students prepare a variety of pieces, scales and other musicianship skills and are tested by a Royal Conservatory of Music adjudicator. Partaking in exams is by no means a requirement during your child’s piano studies. Some parents are very adamant on taking exams consistently, while others have no interest at all. The decision on whether or not to enrol in exams depends on you, your child and your gaols for their music study. Continue reading to weigh some of the pros and cons of piano exams.

The Pros

Exams give your child a goal to work towards

“A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” We all know that deadlines are essential in getting things done in our day to day lives: paying our bills, getting our work done etc. The deadline of an exam can be a huge motivator for your child. The exam date is a goal for your child to work towards and will help give them a healthy sense of urgency in their motivation to practice.

Your child receives physical recognition of their achievements, and thus a sense of accomplishment.

After successful completion of an exam, your child will receive a certificate as recognition. This physical recognition of a child’s progress can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. In higher levels of study, these accomplishments can be sighted on post-secondary applications.

Your child is honing their performance and presentation skills

In addition to recitals, exams are a great way to hone your child’s performance skills. Performing is a skill that takes practice, and the more often your child performs under pressure, the better they will be at it. An exam is a great way to practice managing those nervous butterflies in their stomachs – a skill which is transferrable to other areas in their lives.

The Cons

Exams can add extra stress to families

Preparing for exams, particularly at the higher levels can be very stressful for students and their families. The additional practice required for exams can be overwhelming for a child that is already quite busy with school, homework and other activities. For this reason, it is best to consider taking an exam during a time when your child is less busy. Does your child play sports in the summer? Take an exam in the winter. Is your child going on a vacation in the winter? Take an exam in the summer.

There is always risk of a negative experience

Finally, no matter how much preparation a teacher and student do for an exam, there is always risk of a negative experience. It is always possible nerves will get the best of students and they may struggle during their performance. However, these negative experiences are a part of life, and can be used to teach a lesson in resilience.

The Cost

Royal Conservatory of Music Exams are not free! The cost of the exam is not inexpensive, especially at the higher levels where exams can cost hundreds of dollars. For some families this may be an expense they are unable to manage. Additionally, exams often take place during working hours, so parents may have to take time off work to take their child to the exam.


The success of a student in an examination requires great communication and preparation between the student, the parent and the teacher. If all three create a sustainable practice regime and give the student enough time to prepare adequately, there is no reason they shouldn’t be successful in their exam!

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