Preparing for an Exam Part 2

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  • By Neville Shade
  • Posted in AMEB, Exam, VCE
Preparing for an Exam Part 2

This article is the second in a series of articles on examination preparation. In this post we look at the finale stages of preparation and the actual exam.

Final preparations

As the examination day approaches it is important that you maintain both a consistent practice routine (No Panic Practice) and practice most what needs to be practiced.

One major piece of advice is to practice the pieces in the order that you would expect to play them in the examination. It is important to be able to move from one style of music to another with apparent ease. This becomes more important with the higher the level of examination.

If you have any choice in the running or format of the exam then pre-planning can help the exam to flow as expected. Again this is important in the longer examinations as it may allow for some rest periods from playing.

Remember to work on your general knowledge for each of your pieces as well as listening to recordings of them or other works written in the same periods you are playing.



Rehearsal techniques

Often you may have limited time for rehearsal with an accompanist, so making the most of it is very important. Playing through from the beginning to the end is essential at least once in the rehearsal. Work on any change of time/pulse that may also give you some problem as well as any areas of the pieces that don’t “gel” together. Confidence between both parties ensures a good performance.


As the exam day approaches

Keep it simple and methodical during these times. Don’t panic! Maintain your enthusiasm. Look at the bigger picture and ensure you have covered all the required areas.



Exam day rituals

Aim to keep your routine (sleeping, eating & practice) the same as normal if possible. Often your routine will need to vary according to when you exam is timed to occur and other activities scheduled on the day. Aim to simplify your day as much as possible but don’t make it the only focus for the day, it can add extra pressure if you’re not careful.



The Exam

Keep calm, positive and organised! Aim to arrive with plenty of warm-up time and only practice the beginnings of each piece with your accompanist (if possible) and ensure that you have your music, page turn copies in proposed order of performance. Whilst you are waiting to perform, aim to keep your breathing steady and regular.

Most of all enjoy playing and remember the examiners/assessors are human too! Be polite and don’t be rushed or panicked. Take a moment before each piece and concentrate only on what needs to be concentrated on. Don't start until you’re ready! If a mistake occurs, don’t worry about it. It’s too late, it’s happened! Just focus on what’s coming, not what has preceded! Often students will make further errors due to a lack of focus and concentration once they have made a previous error. This in fact makes it a BIGGER mistake. It’s human to make an error, disappointing but human. Try to relax even more.

Most of all, acknowledge to yourself that you have worked hard for this examination and it will more apparent to the examiner if you can relax and enjoy your music making. Luck never plays a part in the outcome, hard consistent work does!


View 'Preparing for an Exam Part 1'


Neville Shade B.Ed.
Professional Woodwind Doubler/ Teacher
Senior AMEB Examiner/VCAA Assessor
Deputy Director of Music - Methodist Ladies College (Melbourne)
Involved with recent syllabus reviews and new syllabus development. Neville also takes a keen interest in the development and improvement of the teaching of Woodwind instruments.<script>