Assessment Criteria

An MTB exam has three sections all of which are assessed separately.

Recital Section (Press + to expand)


The skills assessed in the performance of compositions or arrangements are the ability to play the correct notes and rhythms and the tempo and intonation. Also, the understanding of the appropriate stylistic expectations of the music, expressive elements such as dynamics and phrasing plus any relevant technical ability required to successfully convey the music to an audience such as tone quality, breath control, bow control, shifts across strings, clarity and quality of articulation, other particular techniques relevant to the piece being performed, staccato, legato, accents, technical control of passage work etc.

Criteria Assessed:

  • Technique: Correct demonstration of: breath control, tone quality, articulation, string crossing, bow control, pedaling etc. plus any particular technical aspects relevant to the successful performance of the piece being assessed.
  • Expression: Appropriate use of:  phrasing, dynamics, musicality, stylistic understanding and interpretation.
  • Accuracy: Control of: rhythm, pitch, tempo & intonation.

Technical Section

This assesses the development of particular techniques relevant to the specialisation (e.g. violin, trumpet etc) such as tone, articulation, fingering, bowing patterns, playing patterns in a variety of keys and modes, slurring etc through exercises specifically designed to test these elements as well as scales and arpeggios and chords as appropriate to the chosen specialisation.

Criteria Assessed:

Scales from Memory/Alternative to Scales from Memory
  • Accuracy of pitch and intonation.
  • Fluency this includes avoiding hesitations and appropriate tempo/rhythm.
Technical Exercises
  • Overall impression of all relevant factors such as accuracy of pitch, rhythm, intonation, dynamic control, tempo, articulation and any other relevant technical elements required for the successful performance of the exercises being presented.

Musicianship Section

Reading Skills

These skills assess the understanding of and ability to read rhythms in a variety of time signatures, through prepared clapping of rhythmic patterns against a regular pulse at a variety of tempi. In line with the requirements of each grade the reading skills will incorporate: crotchets, quavers, semiquavers, minims and semibreves plus dotted rhythms, swung rhythms, triplet, quintuplet and changing time signatures.

Criteria Assessed:

  • Rhythmic accuracy and whether it is in time with the given pulse.
Listening Skills

These skills require the performance of either a duet or prepared sung aural tests including singing back notes, melodies, notes from chords and intervals plus scales arpeggios and modes as well as clapping back rhythmic patterns and singing melodic patterns from the printed music.

Criteria Assessed:

  • Aural tests: Accuracy of responses in terms of pitch, rhythm and intonation.
  • Duet: Rhythm, balance, intonation, ensemble, awareness of and response to the other part, accuracy.


The exact content of each syllabus is available on the syllabuses page and is tailored to the specialisation of the candidate. Although the three sections above are common to all specialisations, the exact content of each section may vary between the syllabuses as appropriate for each specialisation.

There are no unprepared elements (such as unprepared sight reading or aural tests) in MTB qualifications. Candidates are expected to practice all elements to be presented in the assessment (including the published reading and listening skills) as part of their preparation for taking the examination.



MTB graded exams are carried out by the teacher in their usual environment and there are no unprepared elements in the exam.  Many SEN candidates therefore can be supported by preparing in their own time using their own proven learning methods. For any reasonable adjustment requests around SEN, please let us know by emailing and providing the following information:

  • Name of candidate, instrument & grade.
  • Reason for requesting a reasonable adjustment (e.g. dyslexia).
  • How this affects their ability to take the qualification as it stands.
  • Reasonable adjustment they would like to request that would potentially solve/assist with this.
  • Please provide any further information and supporting documentation such as an official medical or similar letter confirming a diagnosis.

We will then reply to confirm whether we have been able to approve the reasonable adjustment request or if we need any further information.

Levels of Attainment

The examination is marked out of 100 with a pass mark of 60.

Levels of attainment are categorised as follows:

87-100 Distinction
75-86 Merit
60-74 Pass
45-59 Blue
0-45 White

Expectations at Each Level – Musicality/Expression

Entry Level – Pre-Grades (press + to expand)

There is very basic expectation of expression at this level. Avoidance of awkwardness musically is sufficient to pass. Awkwardness may include forcing the tone too much making it ugly or too little tone meaning it sounds uncertain or lacking in conviction or unwanted unevenness of volume or tone such as sudden loud notes or soft notes maybe because these notes are causing production difficulties or the candidate is uncertain of them. The use of dynamic contrast will enhance a performance but will not be expected to pass at this level.

Level 1 – Grades 1-3

There is basic expectation of expression at this level. Performances should avoid awkwardness musically such as inappropriate emphasis of notes or breathing/bowing which distorts the phrasing or line. The use of some basic dynamic contrast is expected at this level such as piano/forte. More detailed dynamic contrast such as crescendo and diminuendo etc. will enhance a performance but will not be expected to pass at this level. Similarly, to pass, performances should display an awareness of articulation and phrasing at this level including such elements as correct slurring and breathing/use of bow in appropriate places. Although performances should show an increasing awareness of articulation moving from grades 1-3 such as the use of staccato, tenuto and accents, more detailed use of these will enhance a performance but will not be expected to pass at this level.

Level 2 – Grades 4-5

There is an expectation of a developing degree of expression at this level. Performances should include use of straightforward dynamic contrast including piano or pianissimo/forte or fortissimo/crescendo/diminuendo, rallentando/accelerando etc to pass. More detailed dynamic contrast such as staccato accents/semi staccato and a detailed understanding of phrasing etc. will enhance a performance but will not be expected to pass at this level. Similarly, to pass, performances should display mostly correct articulation and phrasing at this level including such elements as correct slurring and breathing in appropriate places.

Level 3 – Grades 6-8

There is an expectation of a wide range of expression at this level. To pass, performances should include use of a full range of dynamic contrast from pianissimo to fortissimo, utilising crescendo/diminuendo, rallentando/accelerando as appropriate, to enhance the performance and create contrast and interest etc. There is an expectation of stylistic understanding of the pieces being performed and performers can enhance their mark beyond a pass by displaying a good awareness of the character of the piece and the stylistic demands of music such as baroque/jazz etc. Mostly correct/appropriate articulation, phrasing, slurring, bowing and breathing is expected to pass at this level.

Grade 5 music theory is not required to move on to grade 6-8.


For further guidance on the standards we expect at each grade, please click here.



Once an exam is submitted it will be marked by an instrument specialist examiner.* For example, a violin exam will be marked by violin specialist, a piano exam by a piano specialist etc. Within 2-3 weeks of submission the marksheet will be sent by email to the centre that conducted the exam.  The marksheet follows the sections listed above with comments made on the recital and technical elements of the exam and marks broken down by the assessment criteria.

*Exams containing 2 or more pieces with Jazz improvisation will be marked by a Jazz specialist who will specialise in that section of instruments (i.e. Wind, Brass etc.)


3-6 weeks after receiving your marksheet you will receive your certificate.  The certificate will be sent to you following approval from the MTB exam board for that month’s results.  The exam board is conducted by senior members of the MTB team including the Chief examiner, Lead Moderator & Head of Quality assurance who review results and exam marking for that month and ensure standardisation and maintenance of our high standards amongst the examining team.  During this process it is possible, although unusual, that results may be adjusted up or down, your result is therefore provisional until you receive your certificate.

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