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Getting Started with Ukulele Exams

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Getting started with working on your exams in ukulele is not difficult.

Firstly you need to decide which way you want to go. Do you want to concentrate on singing using the ukulele to accompany you? or do you want to be able to play tunes on your ukulele ("chord melody"), with or without singing? The two are not mutually exclusive but the two sets of available exams do tend to take you one way or the other.

(Syllabuses for both exams can be downloaded from the Resources area of this web site here.)

Both routes involve a range of skills, many of them common to both routes. All the exams require some level of ability playing scales and arpeggios, playing something that you've never seen before (sight reading) and answering questions on musicianship.

Exams are available for all levels of players, from beginners to expert players so no matter how good (or bad) you are, you can get started right away. The exams fall broadly into three categories, Beginners, Grades and Medal/Diploma and become increasingly challenging. Note that you do not have to start at the beginning. You can start with whichever level of exam you feel comfortable with.

Do I need a Teacher?

Many people might need a teacher to guide them and to explain things that have not been understood. Having a teacher and regular weekly lessons also helps to enforce the discipline necessary to get through your exams. However, if you are one of those people who are able to read the syllabus and work things out for yourself, and you have the self-discipline to do the work, there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't manage the work for your exams on your own.

Where do the exams take place?

The College holds regular examination sessions in various locations around the country. When you apply to take an exam, the college will contact you giving you a location (and date and time) for the exam which should be fairly easy to get to from where you live.

What does it cost?

There are varying costs for the exams. The more advanced exams are normally more rigorous, taking more time, and are consequently more expensive. For 2020, the Introductory level exams vary from £34 to £40, the Grade exams from £45 to £96, and the Medal and Diploma exams can cost from £80 to over £400. Full details are available on the College's web site.

How Do I Get Started?

  1. Think about whether you are more interested in playing ukulele "chord melody" or self-accompanied singing.
  2. Download and read the syllabus
  3. From looking at the syllabus, decide what sort of level you are currently at in your playing and what level of exam would seem appropriate to your current ability.
  4. Obtain the books and/or other publications that contain the set pieces for the exam you are aiming for. Sources for all the publications are given in the exam syllabus and many of the publications, including Colin Tribe's exams materials, are available from the College's own reseller, The London Music Press ( ).
  5. Try out the pieces and if you think that, with practice, you can manage them, get started.
  6. When you feel you can manage the set pieces as well as playing the scales, etc., given in the syllabus for that exam, apply to the College to take the exam. The entry forms are available online on their web site

Exam Categories


There are four levels of exams for beginners: "First Steps", "Preliminary", "Preparatory" and "Advanced Preparatory". These exams each build on the learning from the previous exams and guide you through to being ready to start on the grade exams.

The Grade Exams

The main exams are "the grades". Many of you will be familiar with the concept of "grade" exams from times when you or your children, or a friend's children, were taking exams such as Grade 3 in piano or violin, etc. There are 8 levels of grade exams, from Grade 1 to Grade 8. Many music teachers will reckon that, in general, one year of tuition (one lesson a week with daily practice between lessons) will get you through one grade level. This, of course, will vary from one person to another. As an indication of what the grades signify, my local orchestra, which plays to a pretty high standard, requires members playing whatever instrument, violin, clarinet, trumpet, etc., to have a minimum of Grade 6 in their chosen instrument.

Medal/Diploma Exams

Medal and diploma exams are at the highest levels and the top diploma exams might be considered to be more or less equivalent to a university degree. There are variations in these exams for performers and for teachers.

Subject Categories

Examinations in Ukulele Playing

The examinations in Ukulele Playing are "designed to offer an exam to Ukulele players who want to develop melodic skills in addition to those of accompanying". The exams include the common threads of musicianship, scales and arpeggios and then on playing "chord melody" - a mixture of melody line and chords played together. The set pieces will be provided in the form of ukulele "tabs" which you learn to play prior to the exam.

Examinations in Self Accompanied Singing

These exams are designed for anyone who wants to sing and accompany themselves on any instrument and not specifically for ukulele players. No doubt many people taking these exams will be guitar players or banjo players, etc. However, the ukulele is a perfectly good candidate for these exams and the exams might well suit many ukulele players who are more interested in performing songs. Self accompanied singing exams also involve tests of musicianship, scales and arpeggios and then include playing (and singing) several songs, some of which are set pieces and some of which you can choose for yourself. You work out your own accompaniment to your singing according to guidelines set out in the syllabus.

Syllabuses for both exams can be downloaded from the Resources area of this web site here.

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