Global music examinations

How do we asses music proficiency across the world? What are the similarities and differences? This research, funded by Trinity College London, aimed to answer questions around the landscape of music examinations. 

music exams large


Research background 

Trinity College London are one of the largest music examination boards in the world. With truly international reach, musicians across continents take graded music examinations as key markers in their musical development, following a model which is underpinned by over 100 years of experience in the field. There has been relatively little research into different assessment practices for music across the globe, especially in the graded examination modality. As such, Trinity College London commissioned Dr Whittaker and Professor Fautley to explore this issue. 

Research aims

The research aimed to provide a detailed overview of the music examinations landscape internationally, and identify points of comparability across provision. This research feeds directly into Trinity College London’s understanding of the sector as a whole, and the ways in which music assessment is conceptualised in different musical contexts. 

Research methods

This desk-based research consulted the examination syllabi of more than 30 examination boards from all corners of the globe to consider musical assessments in different regions. This research was based on materials which were available in English and through research networks established over many years. 


The research found that there was remarkable consistency across the world in terms of what constituted a ‘graded music exam’, and that many approaches followed the UK model closely. This raised important questions around the prevalence of UK examination boards in other contexts, and the extent to which these approaches may not best support local musical cultures. It also showed that the graded examination model is comparable with other international approaches to music assessment, both in schools and in out-of-school contexts.


Funder: Trinity College London

Funding: £5,000