ABRSM Aural Test Grade 3: A Guide

By Jade Bultitude
Last Update:

In this post we will look at the requirements for the ABRSM Aural Test Grade 3 and how you can best be preparing for this integral part of the practical exam. Aural tests feature in all ABRSM grades and in each exam the examiner will require you to answer the four examples of the tests.

Grade 3 is the third qualification you can do with the ABRSM and the aural tests will test you with some basic aural skills you should have. Aural tests provide teachers and students with a great way to develop their understanding of different musical styles. Utilizing aural tests in each music lesson can provide students with many practice opportunities to develop their ear training.

There are four different specimen aural tests, much like you had in the Grade 1 and 2 tests, that you will have to answer in the exam and these are as follows:

Test 1

A short piece of sheet music is played in either 2, 3 or 4 time. You will be required to clap the beat of this piece of music, whilst emphasizing the strong beats. Listen to the very beginning of the piece and beginning clapping as soon as you are able. You must then say whether the piece is in 2 or 3 time. Note that this is not the same as a time signature! This may sound very similar to Grade 1 and Grade 2 but more will be explained further down.

Test 2

This test will require you to sing three short pieces of music played by the examiner. The phrases will be two bars in length and in a major key. The music will be kept in the range of an octave for this test, a slightly larger range that Grade 1 and 2.

Test 3

This test will require you to listen to a piece of music which will be up to four bars in length and in a major key or a minor key. This piece of music will be played once more but with a mistake, you will need to spot the difference between the two. This difference will be to do with pitch OR rhythm. You must state which one and then say where in the music the change occurred.

Test 4

This is the final test of the exam and will require you to answer questions on a piece played by the examiner. These questions will be to do with recognizing different features of music these will be to do with the dynamics (loud/quiet, gradual/sudden), articulation (short and detached/smooth) or tempo (speed or speed changes).

Practice Examples of the tests

Test 1

This test should be approached very much how you did in Grade 1 and 2. For this, you must clap the beat (pulse) of a short piece played by the examiner, with a louder clap on the main beat of the bar.

The difference we now have in Grade 3 is that this test will now ask you to state whether the piece is in two, three or four time. Remember this is different to knowing the time signature as there are several different time signatures that could have two, three or four beats in a bar, including compound time signatures. If this sounds a bit confusing then make sure to check out our article on time signatures.

It is also important to note that the pulse/beat is different to the rhythm.

abrsm aural test grade 3 Test 1 example

Test 2

This tests again is very similar to that of the Grade 1 and 2. For this test, candidates will be expected to sing three short echoes. This is an essential aspect of ear training as it develops your listening and pitch skills.

The examiner will play a short melody on the piano, which is two bars in length. The melody will not have a large range, it will stay with the octave of the key being used. The main difference we now have in Grade 3 is that the short melodies will be in a major or a minor key. Intervals will not be larger than a third and mostly will move in step.

abrsm aural test grade 3 Test 2 example

Test 3

Again, much like in the Grade 1 and 2 Aural training, this test will require candidates to identify a change. The examiner will play a short melody on the piano that can be up to four bars. They will then play the same melody on the piano but with a change.

For the Grade 3 Aural test, pupils will be expected to say whether the change is at the beginning or the end, but also will be required to say whether this change was to to do with the pitch OR rhythm.

abrsm aural test grade 3 Test 3 example

Test 4

The last test encountered by pupils is to answer questions about features of a piece of music. Students will be required to listen to a piece of music and then give answers on the different features they hear.

The features will include things to do with dynamics, articulation and tempo but grade 3 candidates will also be required to state the tonality of the piece of music. Tonality simply means to recognise whether the piece is in a major or a minor key.

There are so many practice examples out there in the form of the ABRSM books but also within their app! And my absolute favourite resource for really preparing for an exam at home is ‘Tone Gym’. This gives you many practice examples of aural questions but in the form of a game which makes it all the more fun!


Why are Aural Tests important?

All music grades have an element of aural tests in them. These tests are an integral part of your training and are so beneficial to you as a developing musician. All the tests will develop your understanding of musical styles, improve your ear and pitch recognition, develop your sense of pulse and rhythm and so much more. Specimen aural tests provide teachers and students with a great structure for which to expand aural ability. They are by no means completely exhaustive, but by having this as a part of a music exam it definitely will be included in lessons!

Where can I find out more?

To know more about the grade 3 aural tests you can visit the ABRSM website. Here you can find specimen aural tests to use in your music lesson, syllabus model answers and new practice examples so you can be fully prepared.

If you would like to know more about what is involved in the Aural tests in the higher grades then make sure to click here to find out more about the specimen aural tests for each grade up to grade 8!

What’s Next…?

Photo of author
Jade is a flute player and music educator with a passion for educating the next generation of musicians. She is a Masters Graduate from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Jade has been helping people learn music theory for more than 10 years from pre school children all the way to degree level studies.