Can you skip RCM levels?

The short answer

Yes, RCM allows students to skip level exams, but think carefully about your reason for wanting to do this. The fact is, there are no short-cuts for developing proper technique at your instrument and a proper understanding of musical repertoire. So if your reason for skipping level exams is to get to the top levels as soon as possible, your playing will end up being superficial at best. 

The one exception to this is the Grade 10 exam, which is a necessary prerequisite for students wishing to do their ARCT (Associate of the Royal Conservatory).

That being said, let’s look at some good and bad reasons for skipping RCM Level exams.

Good Reasons to Skip RCM Levels

GOOD REASON #1:

You are working through your RCM books one by one (hopefully with a good teacher), learning a good amount of repertoire from each book, but decide that you’d rather save some money and not do every single exam in turn.

This is completely acceptable. In fact, some teachers even recommend to their students not to do every single exam, especially in the Elementary Levels (Prep to Grade 4). Once students get to Intermediate Levels (Grades 5-8), it might be a good idea to stop skipping, as the material gets noticeably more difficult. Also, keep in mind that starting from Grade 5, students need to complete and pass a co-requisite written examination in order to get their Certificate.

GOOD REASON #2:

You have been studying piano for a long time and just recently became aware that you can do RCM exams.

This is another perfectly acceptable reason to skip grades. Some teenagers or young adults who have studied piano since they were children could easily (and should) start from an intermediate or in some cases maybe even an advanced grade exam right away. Do some research or talk to your teacher (if you have one) to figure out which grade exam you could comfortably handle.

Bad Reasons to Skip RCM Levels

BAD REASON #1:

You are on some sort of a race to do your RCM exams as soon as possible so you can boast to your friends about your high RCM level.

If this is your objective – I strongly urge you to think again. As in life, there are no shortcuts in music. To get good at any instrument, you need time and patient, consistent practice. You also need to play though a good amount of repertoire in various musical genres if you are to be a well-rounded and technically-proficient musician.

BAD REASON #2:

You are a mature student who started piano relatively late and want to “catch up” to what you have missed when you were younger.

If this is your strategy, you will become quite a sloppy musician. Adult/mature students should not feel pressure to “catch up” in music, as this will only lead to bad results. Instead, find a good teacher and focus on improving yourself step-by-step, competing only against yourself. This approach will pay many more dividends, but you must be consistent and patient with your practicing.

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