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Graded Exams Graded exams are amateur qualifications in music. They are (in most cases) offered from Grades 1-8 and have three standards of pass: a straight pass, a pass with merit and a pass with distinction. There is no requirement to have any previous grades before taking a new one. However, to encourage broad musical knowledge, the ABRSM require Grade 5 Theory, Practical Musicianship or Jazz to be passed before one can take Grades 6-8 Practical exams. There are 3 exam 'sessions' in a year, in and around March, June and November. Passes in grades 6 to 8 in either theory or practical exams may be used as part of the UCAS tariff in obtaining a university place. The four types of graded exams are as follows:
 Practical Exams These are by far the most commonly taken exams. Available for over 35 instruments, these exams consist of 4 different sections:
Set Pieces. The student is required to play three pieces (four, known by heart, for singers doing Grades 6-8) prepared beforehand. These pieces are selected from the current syllabus for the instrument and grade, usually one piece from each of given groups. For most instruments, two of these pieces are played accompanied, with the third played solo. Each piece is marked out of 30. The passing mark is 20. (For Grades 6-8 singing, the pieces are out of 24/24/21/21 for each piece, the pass mark being 16/16/14/14 respectively.)Scales. Various scales, arpeggios and broken chords, according to the grade of difficulty, are examined. Scales are marked out of 21. The passing mark is 14.Sight Reading. The student is presented with an unseen piece, has 30 seconds to prepare, and then must play to the best of his or her ability. Sight reading is marked out of 21. The passing mark is 14.Aural Awareness. Various exercises are played by the examiner and the student is required to demonstrate skills in listening to music, for example clapping the rhythm or singing the melody. Aural is marked out of 18. The passing mark is 12. The exams are marked out of 150: 100 or more is a pass; 120 or more is a pass with merit; 130 or more is a pass with distinction.
 Theory Exams These are written papers on the topic of musical theory. They are marked out of 100: 66 or more is a pass; 80 or more is a merit; 90 or more is a distinction. A Grade 5 theory pass is one option that allows candidates to continue further than grade 5 on any Associated Board musical instrument graded examinations.
 Practical Musicianship These exams are designed to test an understanding of rhythm, melody, key and notation together with the ability to sing and play from memory, and improvise and to recognise changes to and answer questions about a score. A Grade 5 Practical Musicianship pass is one option that allows candidates to continue further than grade 5 on any Associated Board musical instrument graded examinations.
 Jazz Exams These are the newest types of exams, with jazz piano first being offered in 1999. At present, they are only available for flute, piano, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet and trombone. They are also only available from Grades 1-5. They are marked in the same way as practical exams. However many of the pieces include large improvisational sections, where the instrumentalist is required to fill in the empty bars with their own melody to fit the standard chord progression listed above. A Grade 5 Jazz Exam pass is one option that allows candidates to continue further than grade 5 on any Associated Board musical instrument graded examinations.