September kicks off the season of piano exams.

I like to give students (especially those I feel under-prepared) a mock exam a few weeks prior to the real one. Conducting a mock exam is a good way for teachers to assess students’ potential results and for students to understand how well- prepared (or not!) for their upcoming exams.

In the mock exam, I act as the examiner, and I go through the whole exam routine as in a real one. I give scores for each area (scales, each exam piece, sight-reading and aural test) and the score in total. I put them side by side to the pass score and the full score, to show how well (or not) the students did in each area. I also write down very precise remarks on each area for what went wrong and what needs to be improved. I share this report to both the student and his/her parent. This way, they both understand what needs to be improved in the last few weeks to get a more desirable result.

I believe sometimes it is not the student or the parent who does not want to work harder to achieve better results. Rather, they do not know how to ask what to do and how to improve (except “practice more and harder”). Giving some precise pointers provides clear directions for them to get to the level they need/want to be at. As I always remind my teachers in training, it takes three to tango, or this case, to “piano”.

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