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How to Prepare for Online Exams

The Royal Conservatory of Music, based in Toronto, Canada, has opened up a remote exams option designed to deal with both the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also to introduce the examination systems to the international music community.

This gives students and teachers from around the world the flexibility to undertake examinations at a time of their choosing, and in their own homes.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing for online examinations:

Registration Process

  • Students currently registered for the March session in the United States, as well as the April and May sessions in Canada, have the option to reschedule their live in-person exam to a remote exam time. To do this they need to click the following link and ensure that they sign up for a new time (this is offered under the remote exams link).

  • In the sessions moving forward, students will have a choice as to whether they complete their examination online, or in one of the designated live exam times. Note: It is up to the student and the student’s family to ensure that either a new time has been assigned, or a transfer to a later live audition has been chosen.


  • A strong Wi-Fi signal and high-quality microphone are absolutely paramount. As well, the most current model (ideally within the last 4 years) with up-to-date software is also of utmost importance to ensure that you are getting a clear signal. Read this blog entry for information on which devices are best for your studio.

Studio Setup

  • The RCM exams use Zoom for all examinations. As such, the student should have downloaded the Zoom software which can be accessed using this link:

  • Zoom should be tried in trial lessons and/or mock examinations with the students' teacher to ensure that setup, volume balance, and camera angle are optimal.  

  • Camera angle should be from the right profile of the student and should show the entirety of the student from head to toe. Camera and/or recording device should be placed several feet away from the piano to ensure no extra reverberation from microphones that are too close.   

  • Piano should be tuned and well serviced (ie. no sticky keys, broken strings.). Piano should be uncluttered.  

  • Lighting: it's important that your studio has an appropriate lighting setup to ensure that you can comfortably see your keyboard.

Additional Notes

  • To ensure the most optimal use of Wi-Fi in the house, it is important that the signal be unburdened. Therefore, ensure with family members that the Wi-Fi will not be in use during the time of your examination.   

  • Pets and baby siblings running around in the background are an absolute no-no. It is very important that the living room/music room where you will be taking your exam is an uninterrupted venue while the exam is in session. 

  • Further to this, ensure that extraneous extractions such as telephones, televisions, and other distractions are eliminated for the duration of your exam.  

  • Note: Recording of your examinations is not permitted

Posture & Appearance 

  • Show your examiner that you mean business! Semi-formal attire is suggested. More formal attire is a strong plus for the ARCT and LRCM exams. Regardless of whether you are engaging in live or remote examinations, dress appropriately for the occasion; no ripped jeans, old sneakers or sweatpants!  

  • Despite the relaxed confines of your home studio, you should treat this as if it is a formal and serious appraisal of your current musical standard… which of course it is!

  • For piano, in the graded exams Grade 1-10, use of the Études book is permitted. As such, ensure that you have this book close at hand during your examination.  

Most Importantly

  • Practice with the recording! Most people are self-conscious about how they look on camera, and how they sound in recordings. Get comfortable with both well beforehand. 

  • In the weeks leading to your remote exam, devote a chunk of your practice time to consistently record yourself and develop that art of active listening and self critique. 

  • Playing to the hall and playing to the microphone are two totally different things! It requires dynamic and projection adjustment. Explore with your own ears (and those of your teacher) ways in which you can best adapt your examination repertoire to suit the microphone.

  • Practice in your performance outfit to see how your body reacts in your home lighting/heating environments.  

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