RCM Exam Season: What You Need to Know | #TeachMeTuesdays
June is Spring Exam month at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and hundreds of musicians in Toronto are anxiously practicing and preparing. While any performance can be intimidating, a graded performance in front of an examiner is often frightening! Here are three things you can do to make sure you’re at your best when it’s time to perform:
- Give 110%…Before the Exam
No matter what our kids are doing, we often tell them to “Give 110%.” While it’s important to always try your best, preparing for a good performance requires a bit more long-term planning and hard work. Practicing is the foundation of a good performance (for help with practicing, look at our tips here). It takes hours of preparation to learn a piece of music, and it’s important that examinees know their material 10% more than they think is possible (110%!), so that when the nerves kick in on exam day, they know that a good performance is still going to happen. This certainty, reinforced through countless hours of repetition, is essential to make up for the nervous slip or two that are bound to happen during the exam.
- Prep the Paperwork
On exam day, every student is expected to arrive with a completed Examination Program form. This form contains information on the titles, composers, and page numbers of the music that will be played in the exam and must be handed to the examiner, in addition to a personalized marking sheet. This form is an essential component of the pre-exam paperwork and should be filled out in advance of the exam date. As well, the pieces being performed should be marked with paper clips or sticky notes, to keep the examiner from flipping pages and taking up valuable exam time. Photocopied music won’t be allowed, so don’t forget your books at home! For more information on pre-exam requirements, check out the RCM Exam Day Checklist.
- Positive Performance Psychology
The power of positive thinking has been well-documented and can be used as a technique, along with visualization, in performance psychology. Visualizing an exam in advance is a very helpful way to get used to the nerves and anxiety that may accompany an exam performance. For students who are too young to utilize this technique, mock exams are another useful tool. Gather some family and friends together in your living room and have your musician perform in front of the audience. Compared to a room full of people, a single examiner will seem much less intimidating! Another reassurance is that the examiner is on your side – don’t forget that the examiner is an experienced teacher and that, in addition to coaching his or her own students towards exams, the examiner took exams at one time, too.
A Royal Conservatory exam can be a daunting task, but by being both physically and mentally prepared, every student can ensure that they perform at their best!
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