Graded examination sight-reading:

Every graded instrumental exam has a sight-reading section. For the Associated Board exams this constitutes 14% of the final mark. For Trinity College London exams and Rock School Grades 1 to 5 the sight-reading accounts for 10% of the final mark.


This is a significant allocation of the final mark and rightly so – fluent sight-reading skills are incredibly important. However, this is an area of the examination that very often the instrumental teacher does not have time in individual lessons to practise regularly with a student. The student is perfectly capable of practising sight-reading in their own time, however only provided that they have the necessary resources available to them.


XylophoneSight Reading Central has been set up with the aim to present many relevant examples of sight-reading. These are rated at different levels, providing practise material at the level the student can expect to receive for a particular examination/audition. It is thus hoped that this website will bridge the gap, equipping students, teachers and professionals alike with the opportunity to improve these essential skills.


Regular practise of sight-reading by any student will improve this sometimes neglected area of the examination and of course if the student sight-reads the music successfully in their examination then their final mark will be higher.


Some schools of thought believe that in order to practice sight-reading for a graded exam, the student can simply play pieces set for lower graded examinations. For example, were you to be preparing for a grade 3 exam, you’d practice pieces set for the grade 1 exam.


An obvious flaw with this is that there is nothing to practice for those taking grade 1 or 2 exams, but in addition, there are more technical issues. Firstly, certain musical figures and specifications may not be present in the earlier grade set pieces (for example, the time signature 12/8 is found in Grade 3 Drum Kit sight-reading, but not in the Grade 1 set pieces). Secondly, set pieces are generally longer than sight-reading excerpts, giving yet another false impression to the candidate.


All of the graded sight-reading has been researched extremely carefully. In the Trinity College London syllabus, two parameter tables are printed (Drum Kit - page 8, Percussion - page 9), which specify the musical criteria to be expected for each grade. However, the Associated Board do not have a similar system. Therefore I have analysed the published sight-reading in their graded books.


The sight-reading for both boards has thus been written according to what should be expected in the exam, both in terms of technical musical specifications and length.

There are similarities between the two boards of music, thus some examples have been duplicated or even adapted slightly.

As with so many techniques and skills, the only way to improve ones sight-reading effectively is to ‘practise, practise, practise’. I hope to provide the student with a large source of unseen, original music in order to enable them to efficiently practice this essential skill.