Practicing for your first Guitar Exam: How Far In Advance Should You Start?

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Practicing for your first Guitar Exam: How Far In Advance Should You Start?
Guitar Exam

Are you getting ready to take your first guitar exam? If so, it is important that you start practicing well in advance. Many people make the mistake of waiting until the last minute to start practicing, and as a result they end up getting poor results or even failing the exam. In this blog post, we will discuss how much practice you need before your exam, and how far in advance you should start preparing!

What the guitar exam is not?

It is important to understand what the guitar exam is not, in order to effectively prepare for it. The guitar exam is not simply a test of your ability to play the instrument. Rather, it is designed to assess your knowledge and understanding of music theory, as well as your technical skills on the guitar. As such, you will need to do more than just practice your songs in order to be prepared for the exam.

Your first guitar exam

the point of any exam is to assess your skills and knowledge in a given subject. if this is your first exam it is important to know are you siting for the exam because you or your parents want to? Or your teacher recommend that you are ready to start preparing for the exam. the board examination systems such as ABRSM, TCL … are “examination systems”, their purpose is to test the student. They are not teaching systems or methods. Attempting to prepare for grade 1 exam requires that you are familiar with the following as minimum:

Notes on first position on the guitar

obviously you need to know how to read music, but not only. Just learning the notes without any system will not work. It will be as if you learn the alphabet of a language and then expecting to speak it. The teacher introduces the notes gradually adding more and more. This happens with the use of variety of exercises and small pieces. It takes a good amount of time to be able to use those notes efficiently. If you are having a guitar lessons once a week 30 minutes. The time to master well the notes on position one is somewhere between six months to 2 years. But again this depends and varies from student to student.

Rest and free stroke with your thumb and fingers.

there are two main ways of sound producing on the classical guitar – Rest Stroke (apoyando) and Free Stroke (tirando). You should be able to use them when it is required as well as switching between them when music requires.

Sight reading for Guitar Exam

this is the ability to play (sight read) music that you see for first time. Each examination system provides the syllabus for sight reading and requirements for each grade. A good sight reading technique comes with systematic and methodical preparation. The good sight reading skills are result of many other musical activities.

Aural skills

this is the ability to hear and reproduce the sound that you have just heard. This covers wide range of tasks for grade one.

Practical musicianship

This includes a sense of rhythm, tempo, and an understanding of basic music theory. You should know how to count and feel comfortable with simple rhythms.

Scales and arpeggios for Guitar exam

You should be able to play scales and arpeggios in first position. This is not only for the exam but for your general musicianship

Music theory

This is the ability to understand and apply the basic concepts of music. You should know how to read and write music, as well as understand key signatures, time signatures, and basic intervals. Ofcoarse all for grade 1 requirements. There is a separate exam for Music theory. Even if you are not planning to sit for theory exam I advise you to learn music theory it is of immense importance for your development as a musician.


You need experience on stage of any kind. That is the place where the music lives. The guitar exam itself is a performance in front of the audience. The examiner judges your presentation skills. Meaning, not only how you play the music but also how you carry yourself, how confident you look and sound.

I hope that this gives some idea what is required to start preparing for your first guitar exam. The most important advice that I can give is to start early and have a good plan. If you want to achieve high grades do not leave your preparation to the last couple of weeks.

How much time do you need to start preparing for your first guitar exam?

It is important to understand that each student is different. The time that it takes to master the required skills varies from person to person. Some students are able to play all the requirements for their grade one exam in six months, while others may need two years or even more.

Provided that the student poses all the needed basic skills and knowledge, that we spoke above. Three four months will be more than enough.

let’s remember again, the board examination systems are testing systems. They are tools for assessment. They are not teaching systems. To start preparing for your first exam you should be able to cover the requirements with easy. If you have been playing for sometime and had some grades in other instruments it will be easier. If you are starting from the scratch, my advice is to start taking guitar lessons at least one year before the exam date. This gives some time to develop basic technique, aural skills, and musicianship.


I hope this article was helpful in understanding how to prepare for your first guitar exam. Remember to start early and have a plan. If you want to achieve high grades, don’t leave your preparation to the last couple of weeks. With dedication and hard work, you can be ready in no time! Best of luck on your upcoming exam.

P.S If you are still not sure where to start and would like some guidance, consider taking guitar lessons at the Valentin’s Guitar Academy. Our expert instructors can help you prepare for your exam while also providing you with a solid foundation in guitar technique, aural skills, and musicianship. Visit our website today to learn more!

P.S.S Don’t forget to check out our other blog posts for more tips on practicing, performance, and music theory! Thanks for reading! 🙂

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