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  • Writer's pictureRuth Shyu

The Pros and Cons of Piano Exams

Updated: May 8

Many parents ask me this question: "Should my child take a piano exam every year?" My short answer is "no". My long answer is as follows:

Taking piano exams have pros and cons. The exams provide objective certification that your child's playing has reached a certain level. These certifications may also enhance a college application. However, they usually make the student study very few pieces of music for an extended period of time. This gives the student an impoverished diet of literature and very limited exposure to technique. In addition, the limited opportunity to learn new music weakens the student's sight-reading ability. Perhaps the biggest undesirable effect of playing the same few pieces of music for a long time is that it leads to boredom, and can significantly dampen the interest of the student. I've heard many stories about students who passed many exams, only to never touch the piano again after high school, or to quit playing abruptly. For this reason, I recommend taking piano exams not more frequently than every 2 or 3 years. Most exam systems allow students to test at their current level without lower level certification, except for music theory certification.

Some students actually enjoy taking piano exams. In those cases, I will let the student take the exams more frequently as long as the student's development isn't significantly compromised.

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