Below is information regarding the three main examination boards

As a rule of thumb:
ABRSM specialise in classical performers
Trinity College London cater for all
Rockschool is for Rock/Pop musicians

  1. Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM)
    “ABRSM is the UK’s largest music education body, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams, offering assessments to over 600,000 candidates in over 90 countries every year.
    ABRSM’s mission is to inspire achievement in music. In partnership with the Royal Schools of Music, we support high-quality music-making and learning around the world. We offer pathways and resources for learners and teachers that help build musical skills, provide goals and encourage progress.”

    ABRSM examinations are biased towards the more classical instruments (e.g. trumpet, piano, violin, classical guitar etc.). I use this board primarily for examinations in trumpet

    The examinations consist of:

    • Three pieces of music
      Piece A can often be in the Baroque style
      Piece B is often in the Romantic or Classical style
      Piece C is usually a piece of 20th Century music
    • Scales & Arpeggios
    • Sight-Reading
    • Aural Tests
      e.g. clapping a beat, singing a melody back, spot the difference (pitch), picking out features of a piece of music (dynamics, articulation) etc.

    After a wait of a few weeks you will (hopefully) receive a certificate in the post, along with a document which breaks-down your marks

    You could receive PASS (100/150), MERIT (120/150) or DISTINCTION (130/150)

  2. Trinity College London & Trinity College: Rock and Pop
    “Trinity College London exists to promote and foster the best possible communicative and performance skills through assessment, content and training which is innovative, personal and authentic

    Performance is at the heart of Trinity’s Rock & Pop exams — whether self-taught or taking lessons, learning for fun or heading for a career in the music industry, these exams help musicians develop valuable playing skills and achieve their musical ambitions.”

    Trinity examinations have been designed to cater for all musicians. The more classical instruments gravitate towards the Trinity College London examinations and the rock/pop instruments towards the Rock & Pop examinations. I use this board primarily for examinations in keyboard/piano, guitar and drums, but have on occasion used it for trumpet

    The classical examinations consist of:

    • Three pieces of music
      Pieces 1 & 2 are accompanied
      Piece 3 is unaccompanied
    • Scales & Arpeggios
    • Sight-Reading
    • Aural Tests

    The rock/pop examinations consist of:

    • Three pieces of music played over a backing track
    • Session Skills
      e.g. playback or improvising

    After a wait of a few weeks you will (hopefully) receive a certificate in the post, along with a document which breaks-down your marks

    You could receive PASS (60/100), MERIT (75/100) or DISTINCTION (87/100)

  3. Rockschool
    “With grade exams now available in 9 different disciplines, we ensure each syllabus is developed with the care, skill and expertise to ensure that every addition is creative, innovative and industry relevant; with the objective to provide access to music education for the many, not the few.”

    Rockschool examinations are biased towards rock/pop instruments (e.g. acoustic and electric guitar, drums, bass etc.). I use this board primarily for examinations in acoustic and electric guitar

    The examinations consist of:

    • Three performance pieces
    • Technical Exercises
      e.g. scales, broken chords etc.
    • Improvisation and Interpretation
    • Ear Tests
    • General Musicianship Questions

    After a wait of a few weeks you will (hopefully) receive a certificate in the post, along with a document which breaks-down your marks

    You could receive PASS (60/100), MERIT (74/100) or DISTINCTION (90/100)