In this post, let’s look at the format of the ABRSM Grade 4 Online Music Theory Exam in detail.
Seven sections of the ABRSM Grade 5 Online Music Theory exam
There are seven sections in the ABRSM grade 5 online music theory exam. They are:
Each section has a specific music theory concepts tested.
Marks and Passing Criteria for ABRSM Grade 5 Online Music Theory Exam
The seven sections of the ABRSM Grade 5 online music theory exam are worth 75 marks in total. To pass, students will need to score 50 out of 75.
Here are the criteria:
50 – 59: Pass
60- 64: Merit
65 and above: Distinction
Duration of the ABRSM Grade 5 Online Music Theory exam
The total duration of the exam is 120 minutes (2 hours).
Section 1: Rhythm
Section 1 is a 10 marks section on rhythm. It is then divided into section 1.1 to 1.5.
Section 1.1: Time Signature
Section 1.1 consists of 3 questions. Hence, this section is worth 3 marks. In each question, you’ll need to determine the time signature for a bar of music written.
Section 1.2: Compound time vs simple time
Section 1.2 consists of 1 question. You are given 1 bar of melody in either simple or compound time, and you are required to rewrite it into the other time. This means if the piece of music is in simple time, then you’ll need to write it in compound time, and vice versa.
Section 1.3: Note values and time signature
Section 1.3 consists of 2 questions. This section is worth 2 marks. The questions here test students on their knowledge of note values and time signature.
Section 1.4: Grouping of notes
Section 1.4 consists of 1 question, and is worth 1 mark. Here, students are given 3 choices, and they are to select one where the notes are grouped correctly.
Section 1.5: Rests
Section 1.5 consists of 3 questions, and is worth 3 marks. Here, students are asked to determine whether the rests are correct. There are two things to check for in this section: whether the time value of the rest is correct, and whether the rest is grouped correctly.
Section 2: Pitch
Section 2 is a 10 marks section.
In the pitch section, students are expected to be able to read notes on the music stave in treble and bass clef, and compare pitches (which pitch is higher or lower).
There are 4 parts in section 2, 2.1 to 2.4.
Section 2.1: Determine the name of the note
Section 2.1. consists of 1 questions and is worth 1 mark. In this section, students are given a note in with a clef (e.g. tenor clef) and are asked to determine the correct name of the note.
Section 2.2 Enharmonic Equivalents
Section 2.2 consists of 1 question and is worth 4 mark. In this section, students are given a notes, and asked to select another note from 3 others that will form an equivalent note to it.
Section 2.3: Transposition
Section 2.3 consists of an extract of an extract, and students are expected to transpose it. This section is worth 5 marks.
Section 2.4: Pitch of 3 extracts
Section 2.4 consists of 3 true/false questions and is worth 3 marks. In this section, students are given 3 extracts. There will be 3 statements about these three extracts. Students need to determine whether each statement is true or false.
Section 3: Keys and Scales
Section 3 is on keys and scales and is worth 15 marks. Section 3 is divided into 7 sections.
Section 3.1 and 3.2: Key signature
In section 3.1 and 3.2, students are asked to select the correct key signature for a given key. Section 3.1 and section 3.2 are worth 1 mark each.
Section 3.3: What key is the melody
This section is worth 3 marks, and consists of 3 questions.
In this section, students are given a short melody, and asked to determine the key of the melody.
Section 3.4 Fill in the missing note
In section 3.4, students are given a scale with 2 missing notes. They need to indicate what are the missing notes. This section is worth 2 marks.
Section 3.5 What clef is it to form a minor key
Section 3.5 consists of 3 questions and is worth 3 marks. In each question, students need to determine what clef should it be, so that it forms a minor key.
Section 3.6 Chromatic Scales
This sections consists of 2 questions, and is worth 2 marks.
In each question, students are given an ascending or descending chromatic scale, and asked whether it is correctly or incorrectly written.
Section 3.7 Technical Names of Notes
Section 3.7 has 3 questions and is worth 3 marks.
This is a true/ false question. Students are given a note, and a statement on the technical names of notes (i.e. tonic, supertonic, etc.), and they are to determine whether each statement is true/ false.
Section 4: Intervals
In grade 4, students are tested on the intervals between notes (in terms of numbers), and the type of intervals (e.g. major, minor, perfect).
Section 4.1: Determine the interval
Section 4.1 consists of 3 questions and is worth 3 marks.
For each question, you’ll be given a pair of notes, and you’ll be asked the interval (type and number) between the notes.
Section 4.2: Determine the interval type
Section 4.2 consists of 3 questions and is worth 3 marks.
For each question, you’ll be given a pair of notes, and you’ll be asked the type of interval between the notes (i.e. major, minor, perfect, diminished, augmented).
Section 4.3: Form the interval
Section 4.3 consists of 4 questions and is worth 4 marks.
For each question, you’ll need to add another note to form the required interval.
Section 5: Tonic Triads
This section is worth 10 marks, and is subdivided into 3 sections, section 5.1 to 5.3.
Section 5.1: Chord I, II, IV or V
Section 5.1 consists of 5 questions and is worth 5 marks. In each questions, need to name whether the group of notes make up chord I, II, IV or V.
Section 5.2: Cadence
Section 5.2 consists of 2 questions, and is worth 2 marks. In each question, students asked whether a pair of chords form the perfect, plagal or imperfect cadence.
Section 5.3: Chord I, II, IV or V and a, b or c
Section 5.3 consists of 3 questions, and is worth 3 marks. Students whether the chords are chord I, IV or V of a given key, and whether they are in root position (a), first inversion (b), or second inversion (c).
Section 6: Terms, Signs and Instruments
This section is worth 10 marks, and is subdivided into 3 sections, section 6.1 to 6.3.
Section 6.1: Music Terms
A music term is given, and students are to select the correct meaning for the term. Section 6.1 consists of 3 questions and is worth 3 marks.
Section 6.2 Ornaments
This section is worth 2 marks. Students are given a written- out ornaments, and they are to determine which ornament will play that.
Section 6.3 Instruments
This section consists of 5 true/ false question, and is worth 5 marks. In each question, a statement on instruments is given. Students are to determine whether the statement is true or false.
Section 7: Music in Context
This section is worth 10 marks.
Section 7.1 consists of a question on pitch. Students are to compare a bar in the given melody with 3 extracts, and to determine whether they are at the same pitch, or how many octave(s) apart. Four statements are given, and they are to select the correct statement. This section is worth 1 mark. This is very similar to the question in section 2.4, pitch section.
Section 7.2 consists of 5 true/ false questions, and is worth 5 marks.
Section 7.3 is a question on instruments. Usually, students will be asked another instrument that can play the same pitch of the extract.
Section 7.4 consists of a question on technical names of notes. Students are usually asked how many times a certain note (e.g. mediant note) appears in certain parts (or entire) of the extract.
Section 7.5 consists of 2 fill-in-the-blank questions.
The music theory exam is an online exam. Apart from knowing the concept, being familiar with how to answer the exam questions is also essential.
ABRSM provides a sample digital exam paper for each of their online theory exam. And I highly recommend my students to try them at least once before the actual exam.
The link to the grade 5 online practice exam can be found here.