Panel Discussion – Ask The Examiners (AMEB Examiners, teachers and representatives from other boards)

Posted by on July 24, 2010

This was the final presentation of the day – a Panel Discussion on questions teachers had for AMEB examiners and other board representatives.

On Sight Reading:

  • Students are allowed to put their hands on the keys/instrument, but no sound can be made.
  • “Prepare the hands, but don’t make a sound”.
  • It is better to “nut it out” in the students head.
  • Candidates for AMEB examinations get “A reasonable length of time” to look through the sight reading.

On Fingering:

  • If it doesn’t affect the sound, any fingering is okay.

On Scale Speeds:

  • Scales need to be the minimum requirement speed.  At least.

On teachers entering the examination room:

  • String teachers are welcome to come in and tune up the instruments up to the level stipulated in the Syllabus (Grade 5).
  • Piano teachers can ask if they can come in and adjust the stool/bring in a footstool for littler students who need that. (When I asked Melinda at the beginning of the year, she mentioned that most of the examiners actually checked that littlies were the right distance and height, just as string examiners will check the music stand height.  It has always been my personal experience that whilst I am tuning up my student, the examiner will happily check the height of the stand.  They like to save some time this way too).

The Panel suggest that teachers check the AMEB website on helpful advice for candidates to know prior to sitting examinations.  The teacher support section has some helpful hints from examiners.

On Balance of Repertoire:

  • “It comes down to what suits the student”.
  • Extra list pieces need to be of an appropriate level.  Check that they aren’t of a lower grade standard.
  • Should be well balanced to maintain interest.
  • Students can have more extra list pieces than what is stated in the syllabus, provided they are of an appropriate level.

On students and examiners:

  • A student shouldn’t have the same examiner twice in a row.  When the student is entered into the system for their examination scheduling, red flags come up if the examiner they had in the previous exam is the same as the one they in the current sitting, and the student will be scheduled with a different examiner.  This doesn’t mean that a teacher won’t get the same examiner if they have entered a different group of students.

My favourite quote from the Panel: “When the student walks in the door, they start with an A+.  It’s what they do from thereon that affects that mark”.

There was a bit of a debate on whether ALL examiners mark the same way, and fairly.  Some teachers brought up the fact that they had one lot of students being examined upstairs and one lot being examined downstairs and the students were of a similar level, yet the two examiners were marking so differently.  The Panel said that perhaps there was just the worst of the bunch being examined by one particular examiner. Teachers argued that it has happened on more than one occasion, and that examiners needed to receive ongoing training as to how to mark fairly and appropriately so there is continuity throughout the Board.  Apparently they do.  Rita Crews said if we weren’t happy with the AMEB examinations/examiners, go somewhere else.

Teachers were also encouraged to call the AMEB if we had any queries, and they were happy to help us out.  Keep in mind that they are still people, and if we have a problem, we can ask, not yell.  Apparently they do get some slightly psychotic teachers calling yelling at them.

2 Responses to Panel Discussion – Ask The Examiners (AMEB Examiners, teachers and representatives from other boards)

  1. Elissa Milne

    “Rita Crews said if we weren’t happy with the AMEB examinations/examiners, go somewhere else.”


    Of course, it’s not that simple, and the AMEB does need to create a more standardised approach to marking. We all know the examiners who are more likely to deliver the “A”s and “A+” (don’t we?!).

    The ABRSM certainly delivers the most standardised marking I’ve *ever* come across, but with a much reduced syllabus to choose from many teachers will stick with the lottery that is an AMEB exam for the sake of being able to teach a wider range of repertoire.

  2. admin

    There was stunned silence for a few seconds after Rita said that (as you can imagine).

    I was thinking about the last 3 examiners my violin students had. One three years ago had them in tears. My students are always well prepared and thoroughly drilled, but she still managed to upset them. This was also the same examiner who ‘got cross’ at another teachers’ students because the teacher wasn’t able to get there in time to tune her students up, and had that lot of students in tears as well. Is that the kind of standard the AMEB want teachers to expect of them?

    The examiner my students got 2 years ago was very pleasant, but the examiner requested the only room with the window at Clarence street, and consequently the accompanist couldn’t see the student vice versa. Caused some dramas. Melinda from AMEB told me to write in the Special Request section of future forms to ‘have a room where the accompanist and student can see each other’. Isn’t that supposed to be common sense??

    The most recent violin examiner was also very pleasant but threw me off (as accompanist) when she asked my students if they would like their extra lists accompanied. The Manual of Syllabuses states very clearly “Accompaniment of Extra List pieces is not required, even if the work is written with accompaniment”.

    I’ve found a little more continuity with the examiners marking my students sitting the Piano for Leisure examinations but a more standardised approach is definitely needed all round for all instruments.

    I do like the wider choice of repertoire we get with the AMEB, but sometimes at the conclusion of examinations I’m left shaking my head and wondering whether it was really worth it, especially when you’ve had a ‘harder’ examiner, upset students, and Rita Crews saying that if you’re not happy, go somewhere else!