From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Company typeCharity
IndustryMusic education
Founded1 October 1889 (1889-10-01)
FounderSir George Grove
Sir Alexander Mackenzie
Sir Arthur Sullivan
Sir Charles Stanford
Sir Walter Parratt
Sir Hubert Parry
Sir John Stainer
4 London Wall Place
United Kingdom
Area served
93 countries worldwide
Key people
Chris Cobb
(Chief Executive)
Colette Bowe
Mervyn Cousins
(Chief Examiner)
ProductsMusic exams
Sheet music publications
Digital music applications
Music education courses and events
Revenue23,397,000 pound sterling (2021) Edit this on Wikidata
£45.5 million (2023)[1]
Number of employees
182 (2023)

The ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) is an examination board and registered charity[2] based in the United Kingdom. ABRSM is one of five examination boards accredited by Ofqual to award graded exams and diploma qualifications in music within the UK's National Qualifications Framework (along with the London College of Music, RSL Awards (Rockschool Ltd), Trinity College London, and the Music Teachers' Board). 'The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music' was established in 1889[3] and rebranded as ABRSM in 2009.[4] The clarifying strapline "the exam board of the Royal Schools of Music" was introduced in 2012.[4]

More than 600,000 candidates take ABRSM exams each year in over 93 countries. ABRSM also provides a publishing house for music which produces syllabus booklets, sheet music and exam papers and runs professional development courses and seminars for teachers.

ABRSM is one of the UK's 200 largest charitable organisations ranked by annual expenditure.[5]


The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music was founded in 1889 when Alexander Mackenzie, then the Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, and George Grove, founding Director of the Royal College of Music, decided that the two institutions should combine to form an associated examining board to run joint local exams.[6] The first syllabi were published in 1890 for Piano, Organ, Violin, Cello and Harp, with Viola, Double Bass and woodwind instruments added the following year. Originally, the ABRSM had only two grades and were the equivalent of the current grades 6 and 7. Due to the demand for beginner grades, the present structure (grades 1–8) was introduced in 1933.[citation needed] In 1947, the Royal Manchester College of Music (merged to form the present Royal Northern College of Music) and Royal Scottish Academy of Music (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) joined ABRSM. Specifically, the Royal Schools referred to in ABRSM's title are the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the Royal Northern College of Music.

Since the post-World War II years, the ABRSM saw an increase in overseas exam applications. The curriculum also expanded, with the addition of Guitar, Harpsichord, Voice, (with the option of both classical singing and singing for musical theatre), percussion, Recorder and all brass instruments.

The 1990s saw percussion and jazz added to the syllabus. For Diplomas, LRSM was the one that was always available. The DipABRSM and FRSM were introduced much later in the year 2000[7] as well as similar exams for instructors and teachers.[8] The ARSM was introduced in the year 2016-2017 to serve as a bridge between the Grade 8 and DipABRSM exams.

In 2023 ABRSM announced major revisions to their diploma syllabuses. The DipABRSM diplomas will be withdrawn and replaced by new ARSM Diplomas in teaching and directing, alongside the ARSM performance option currently offered. Additionally, the ARSM, LRSM, and FRSM syllabuses will be revised.[9]

Music Medals[edit]

Music Medals[10] are QCA–accredited music assessments and teaching resources aimed at younger, group-taught learners. Music Medals are distinct from graded music exams in that no external examiners are involved and the initial assessment is made by the teacher.

Teacher training[edit]

Since 1995, the CT ABRSM (Certificate of Teaching) designed specifically for music teachers has been offered in addition to the diplomas, albeit as a separate qualification. In 2010, the new CT ABRSM Plus, which combined the DipABRSM and old CT ABRSM, was launched to give teachers access to the DipABRSM. From September 2013, the CT ABRSM Plus stopped being offered in the UK or Singapore for financial reasons.[11] There are also numerous short courses and seminars on music teaching, accompaniment and syllabus instruction available to teachers.

ABRSM publications[edit]

ABRSM published its first books in 1918[7] and its publishing department was first set up in 1921 and was designed to provide suitable music for examinations, performance editions of popular works and new instructional compositions. One of the original editors was Sir Donald Tovey, who wrote informative notes on the music which are still highly regarded today. ABRSM (Publishing) Ltd. was established as a separate company in 1985.

ABRSM digital resources[edit]

Since 2009 ABRSM has produced several practice applications to support teachers and students:

  • Melody Writer[12] - a tool designed to help improve melody writing and music theory knowledge and understanding
  • Aural Trainer[13] - an iPhone app that helps students practice their aural skills
  • Speedshifter[14] - a practice tool that allows students to vary the speed of audio without altering the pitch
  • Piano Practice Partner[15] - an app for iOS and Android devices that helps students practice exam pieces for piano at Grades 1 to 3. Piano Practice Partner plays one hand so that students can play the other as they learn.

Ethnic diversity in syllabus[edit]

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, on 15 July, 2020, the ABRSM syllabus came under public scrutiny for the lack of BAME representation in the 2019/20 syllabus.[16] Over 4,000 people signed a petition which found "255 pieces in the new piano syllabus" to not include any black composers. Chi-chi Nwanoku "described the 'woeful lack' of ethnic diversity in the ABRSM syllabus as appalling" with Scott Caizley also stating how "the ABRSM should make its syllabuses less white if it was "committed to seeing a more racially diverse intake of students entering conservatoires". The ABRSM's spokesman responded to the criticism and said "the death of George Floyd in the US had made it think deeply about its efforts to get more black composers in its syllabuses".[17][undue weight? ]


  1. ^ "Charity Commission". Apps.charitycommission.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 16 March 2021. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  2. ^ "ABRSM, registered charity no. 292182". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  3. ^ "ABRSM history". Archived from the original on 13 February 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music" (archived versions of website). Internet Archive. 19 October 2014. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.
  5. ^ Charities Direct: Top 500 Charities – Expenditure Archived 2 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "How Many Singing Grades are there in the UK? | Superprof". The Superprof Blog - UK. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  7. ^ a b "ABRSM through time" (PDF). Libretto (2). ABRSM: 16–17. 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 February 2016. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Feature: Professional Development for Teachers". musicteachers.co.uk. January 2001. Archived from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  9. ^ "ABRSM: News and articles".
  10. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "CT ABRSM Plus". abrsm.org. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012.
  12. ^ "Melody Writer". Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Aural Trainer". Gb.abrsm.org. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Speedshifter". Gb.abrsm.org. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Piano Practice Partner". Gb.abrsm.org. Archived from the original on 12 August 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  16. ^ "ABRSM must include more black and BAME composers in exam syllabus, music leaders urge". Classic FM. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  17. ^ "UK royal schools of music exam board urged to address colonial legacy". the Guardian. 15 July 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2022.

External links[edit]