Are you a music teacher with students interested in Scottish music? Are you a student looking to take an exam conducted by an experienced performer in your discipline? Our Traditional Music Graded Exams promote traditional Scottish performance skills and the best of traditional and contemporary repertoire by the establishment of a specialist, performance-based series of assessments true to the artistic integrity of Scotland’s musical heritage.

Working in consultation with the Conservatoire’s Scottish Music staff and specialists from across Scotland, the programme acknowledges the value of Scotland’s traditional music to its contemporary culture and identity and seeks further to strengthen traditional music’s ties to education and lifelong learning.

Unlike other music exam programmes, the Scottish Traditional Music Graded Exams are specialist-based – meaning a fiddle candidate is assessed by a fiddle examiner, an accordion candidate by an accordion examiner, and so on.

As is often the case with traditional music students and players, improvisation and ‘having a good ear’ are often more present than an ability to read classical notation. As such, candidates do not have to read music to take the exams: our syllabuses offer the choice between reading music for assessment or playing back by ear.

As a tool for tutors and learners of all ages and abilities comparable in its grading to classical music exams, the programme provides:

  • an escalator for aspiring traditional musicians who wish to widen their scope of opportunities;
  • a basis for professional development among traditional Scottish music educators and non-specialist teachers looking to gain further experience of traditional Scottish music;
  • a firmer establishment of traditional music tuition in Scotland’s educational curricula; and
  • parity of esteem with the classical idiom.

However, the exams and assessments can also be fun:

There was a really relaxed atmosphere in the waiting room while the accordion exams were taking place. Everyone, both candidates and parents, were very supportive of each other, applauding once candidates had finished practising. A few of the candidates even had a wee jamming session between practising! ”¦ It was an enjoyable day for all involved.

Steward, Aberdeen centre

How it works

Graded exams up to Grade 5 feature the performance of a wide diversity of traditional and modern tunes, brief technical work, a ‘quick study’ and a series of practical and aural musicianship (PAM) tests designed specifically with the Scottish traditional musician in mind. There are no theory tests.

In ungraded performance assessments, there are no marks and no pass or fail: just expert independent feedback on your playing, written by the examiner on the certificate that the candidate receives at the end of each assessment. It is suitable for adult learners, teachers and candidates of any age with specific needs. It’s also perfect for young learners who’d simply like a relaxed and supportive introduction to the exam experience.

Two exam sessions take place annually on Royal Conservatoire premises: a Spring/Summer session and an Autumn/Winter session. The Spring/Summer session usually takes place in March; the session in Autumn/Winter usually in November. Once the deadline for entries to a session has passed, our Graded Exams Administrator collates the entries and notifies each applicant of their candidates’ appointment with the examiner for the upcoming session.

If, however, you are not within easy travelling distance of Glasgow or have a group of candidates ready for exams at other times of the year, you can request a special visit by an examiner near you. Certain conditions apply, but we are always happy to discuss your needs and accommodate them whenever possible.

The examiner is a specialist in the candidate’s instrument and is eager to make the exam a welcoming and enjoyable experience. The exam takes 15- 20 minutes, depending on the grade; and in line with other examination boards, the applicant will receive a detailed mark sheet, an official certificate to pass on to the candidate(s), and our sincere thanks for your participation within 4-6 weeks of the exam session taking place.

Our fiddle, harp and accordion syllabuses  

Working together with publisher Taigh na Teud and a range of Scotland’s foremost traditional musicians and tutors, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is pleased to announce our syllabuses for fiddle, harp and accordions are available direct from These include new selections of tunes in addition to timeless favourites, a wider range of practice specimens for Quick Studies and PAM tests and all-new downloadable bundles comprising all you need to get started with your pupil or teacher.

The repertoire for each syllabus is now valid until December 2022.