ABRSM Aural Test Grade 4

By Jade Bultitude
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In this post we will look at the requirements for the ABRSM aural test Grade 4 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 4 is the fourth 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, 2 and 3 tests, that you will have to answer in the exam. The Grade 4 abrsm aural tests are slightly different to that of Grades 1-3 but will test very similar objectives and these are as follows:

Test 1

In this first test you will be required to sing or play from memory a melody that is played twice by the examiner. The melody played will be in the range of an octave and will be in either a major or a minor key. The key that the melody is in will only go up to three sharps or three flats, so make sure that you learn your key signatures!

Test 2

This next test is sight singing! The examiner will give you a short piece of five notes in total. The examiner will give you the Tonic chord and the first note of the melody and then you will have to sing the five notes off the music in free time. If you are not sure what a tonic chord is then check out our complete guide to chords.

Test 3

This question is similar to test 4 in grades 1-3. The examiner will play a short piece of music and you will have to answer questions on certain features of the piece. The first question will be to do with dynamics, articulation, tempo or tonality and the second question will be to do with the character of the piece.

Test 4

Finally the last test asks you to clap the rhythm of some notes in the extract you just heard in test 3. You will then need to identify whether that piece was in 2, 3 or 4 time. Remember, that does not mean the time signature!

Practice examples of the tests

Test 1

This test is most similar to test 2 from Grades 1-3, but you will need to use knowledge built up from the other tests in order to get a top mark in this test!

The phrase played will be 4 bars in length, significantly longer than echoes you will be used to from Grades 1-3 aural tests. If you found remembering the echoes in grades 1-3 hard then I would suggest spending a bit more time practicing the specimen aural tests from these grades.

The best way to approach this test, is to first clap the rhythm without the pitch. Once you have mastered recognizing the rhythm you are then ready to start thinking about adding pitch. By breaking this exercise down in this way you ensure that you have the best chance possible of mastering this.

The examiner is focused on whether you are singing the correct notes AND the correct rhythm, so it is important to ensure that you practice both aspects.

abrsm aural test grade 4, four-bar melody to be repeated

Test 2

This test is different to anything you will have seen in Grades 1-3. In order to prepare for this test I always encourage students to begin practicing singing scales. Begin by matching the voice to a pitch on the piano and see if you can sing a major scale up from this note. So for example, play a middle C on the piano and see if you can sing the C major scale.

If you can do this then you can comfortably sing in steps. You can then progress from this to singing triads in this key which will help you get used to singing an interval of a third, both major and minor.

This test will never use intervals larger than a third so by practicing this you will have a strong idea in your head of what each interval sound like. Here is a practice exercise to help you embed the idea of singing in thirds.

abrsm aural test grade 4 practising singing 3rd intervals

Below is an example of what you might see in the exam, remember the examiner will give you the first note. This test can be given to you in either treble clef or bass clef depending on your voice type so make sure you know how high or low you sing!

abrsm aural test grade 4, example of singing notes

Test 3

This test is similar to what you have seen in Grades 1-3 as you will have to answer questions on different musical features of a piece of music. These features will be familiar and will include dynamics, articulation, tempo or tonality. Separately you will have to talk about the character of the piece. However, the questions that you will see in the Grade 4 exam build on what you saw in previous exams. Rather than having questions with one specific answer required, students will now be asked questions that involve describing musical features. Questions such as ‘describe the dynamics in this piece’ will be asked in this test.

Students will also be asked to describe the character of the piece. Character words can include things such as happy, sad, calm, excited etc. The character of the music is subjective to each listener, however the piece played in the exam will have an obvious character that most students will recognise easily. The best way to prepare for this section of the exam is to begin developing a wide vocabulary to describe music and simply to listen to as much classical music as possible!

extract of 'the sick doll' Tchaikovsky
Extract from ‘The Sick Doll’ Tchaikovsky

Test 4

Test 4 is linked to test 3 in that the piece of music used here is directly from the piece of music used in test 3! In this section you have to clap a rhythm from notes in the piece heard previously, the rhythm will either be four bars in two or three time, or two bars in four time.

The examiner will play a section of the piece unharmonized twice and then you will be required to clap it back and state the time. To prepare for this it is important to begin with short simple rhythms and gradually build up to the longer more complicated rhythms.

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 4 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 for this important part of your practical music exam.

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!

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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.