Resources for violin and viola
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Trinity Exams

Preparing for the ABRSM exams

(ABRSM exam - 150 marks available)

Preparing for the Trinity exams

(Trinity exam - 100 marks available)

Effective practice will get the best results and save a lot of time. Playing through the pieces a few times is not practising and will only reinforce any mistakes.

To practise effectively, identify the areas that need attention and practise in small sections. Play slowly and focus on improving one thing at a time. Once the section can be played correctly, repeat it several times to make it more secure. Listen carefully to the sound and keep checking that you are doing what is written in the music (eg sharps, flats, rhythms, tuning, dynamics).

What do the ABRSM marks mean?

  • Distinction 130 - 150
  • Merit 120 - 129
  • Pass 100 - 119

What do the Trinity marks mean?

  • Distinction 87 - 100
  • Merit 75 - 86
  • Pass 60 - 74

The ABRSM strings exam syllabus is available to download from the ABRSM website

The Trinity strings exam syllabus is available to download from the Trinity College website


(30 marks available per piece)


(22 marks available per piece)

Listening to recordings of the pieces regularly will reduce the amount of practice needed. It particularly helps with learning the rhythm, style, dynamics and tuning.

Playing along with the recordings is also helpful. If the recording is too fast, the ABRSM exam board provides free software called Speedshifter (free on PC and Mac) that slows down the speed of an mp3 recording or CD. The software works for all mp3 recordings and CDs, and so is ideal for those preparing pieces for concerts and other exams including Trinity. Click here for more information about Speedshifter.

If the exam pieces book did not come with a CD or the CD has been mislaid, the tracks are available as downloads to purchase from the ABRSM website. Click here for more information about ABRSM downloads.

Audio recordings of the pieces are available on some streaming services and as mp3 downloads. As an example, the tracks are available to purchase from Amazon Digital Music as mp3s. Click here to see a list of the albums for each grade. Click on the album and select the individual tracks required. I would recommend the 'Performance' tracks, however, you may find the 'Piano Acc.' (accompaniment) tracks useful as well.


(21 marks available)

Technical Work

(14 marks available)

Candidates preparing for the Trinity exams have a choice between preparing scales or studies. All candidates must prepare a bowing exercise then choose between learning the required scales or three studies. Candidates who choose to prepare studies are required to play two of the three they have learnt during the exam, the candidate chooses the first then the examiner chooses one of the remaining two studies. I would almost always recommend the scales option as they play such an important role in the overall development of any player.

Scales are a very effective way to improve your playing, allowing you to develop your technique, sound quality and tuning, without the complication of the pieces. Use the scale sheet (see downloads page) or the scale book (see recommendations page) and the free ScalesAce website to help learn the scales thoroughly. The key to learning scales is to give yourself plenty of time, starting well in advance of the exam. Nearer the exam, it would be helpful to choose scales at random, as the examiner will during the exam. Click here for more information about ScalesAce.

Supporting Tests

(20 marks available)

At grades Initial to Grade 5, candidates can choose two supporting tests from the list of four below. Each test has 10 marks available giving 20 marks in total.

  • Sight reading
  • Aural
  • Improvisation
  • Musical Knowledge

At grades 6 - 8, candidates are required to do both the sight reading and aural tests, they do not have the option to choose improvisation or musical knowledge.


(21 marks available)


(10 marks available)

Sight-reading needs to be practised regularly, making sure they are as fluent as possible, with no pauses, no stopping. Clapping the rhythm helps to make the playing more fluent. In the exam you will have around 30 seconds to look through the piece before playing it. To prepare for this, the practice routine should be as follows:

  • Look through the piece for 30 seconds. Check the key signature (sharps/flats) and choose the tempo (speed)
  • Play through (keep going, no pauses) like in the exam
  • Think about where you could make improvements (eg tuning, rhythm, counting, dynamics)
  • Clap the rhythm
  • Play through the piece one more time

Aural Tests

(18 marks available)

Aural Tests

(10 marks available)

These are rhythm, singing and observational tests that test your musicianship skills. I highly recommend the ABRSM Aural Trainer App (iOS only not Android) to support what we do in the lessons. Click here for more information about ABRSM Aural Trainer.

A book and CD are available to help prepare for the Trinity aural tests, please see the recommendations page.