Guitar Lessons: How Do Music Grades Work?

I learnt how to play the guitar very well when I was bout 9 or 10, I was called an “amazing natural” by my teacher… but then moved house, never got more lessons and the guitar stayed boxed away. Now I found my guitar and in the past week I have got my guitar out and reminded myself how to play, looking online I could easily pass the grade 4 exam maybe even grade 5! What I am wondering is:
How much is it to take exams?
Where do I go to get exams without having lessons? (I’m in oxford, England.)
Can I just sit my grade 4 without sitting 1 – 3?
What books with tips/help for the grade exams can I use?
Thank you for your help. :)


  1. Twiff-Bean says:

    Okay, I’m going to try and answer everything – here we go!
    Firstly, exam costs vary according to grade. If you wanted grade 4 it’s roughly £20 – £30. To make sure I would check the Trinity Guildhall website (see below)
    Next, seeing as you’re a guitarist, I would try contacting the Trinity Guildhall website – that’s the exam board i used for it. It should tell you you’re nearest music centre you can go to. I’m in Milton Keynes and they have a Milton Keynes music service that holds exams there. See if there’s an Oxford music centre.
    Next, yes, you can definitely sit your grade 4 exam without your grade 1-3. I have sat my grade 6 piano without taking any previous piano exams (I did need a practical musicianship exam first though) so yeah, go for it!
    (Here’s the Trinity Guildhall website – ( – type that into your browser)
    Hope that helps ^ ^

  2. bluebell says:

    Passing a music grade is really a statement that you have achieved a certain level of proficiency. There are different exam boards, and typically you will have to prepare 3 pieces of music from the choice on their syllabus for the grade, plus the scales listed and any other other requirements, which will be detailed on the syllabus. You can do a grade without having done any of the earlier grades, but some exam boards specify that if you are doing diploma, you should have passed their grade 8 first. Some exam boards also require a separate theory exam for higher grades and/or diplomas. You don’t have to be a teacher to enter someone’s name (though that would be the usual way). You could be a parent entering a child, or you could enter your own name. Once you have submitted your name and the appropriate exam fee, the board will contact you to say where and when the exam will be held. Some syllabuses and current fees can be seen on the relevant website.

    You may find the following article of interest. It includes links to ABRSM, Trinity Guildhall, Rockschool and RGT.
    Other UK exam boards I know about are
    London College of Music
    Victoria College of Music
    Independent Contemporary Music Awards

    and this website I came across today for Three Counties Music which operates in association with the University of Gloucestershire and is a very recent organisation

  3. LucasMan says:

    Those “grades” are an exclusively British thing. Nobody in the rest of the world really cares about them (actually, most of the rest of the world isn’t even AWARE of them).

    Anyways, you can get all the information you need from the ABRSM website: