Our Performance Grades are an alternative to our Practical Grades, providing a different route to achieve the  equivalent qualification level, providing the same number of UCAS points for grades 6-8. Our Performance Grades assess your ability to present a recital programme consisting of 4-5 pieces* with a target duration.

What is the difference between Practical and Performance Grades?

MTB Practical Grades test proficiency with your chosen instrument and assess a broad array of technical and musical skills. These follow our syllabuses comprising a Recital section, Technical section and in most cases a Musicianship section. These exams are effectively our online equivalent to the Face to Face graded exams offered by other Boards, including the performance of pieces plus all the technical and musicianship elements you would expect to find in these.

MTB Performance Grades assess your ability to present a recital programme. The exam consists of a performance of 4-5 pieces with a target duration. This exam is designed to replicate a live concert performance and therefore also assesses stagecraft, sense of performance and your programme. There are no technical or musicianship exercises required. MTB Exams’ Performance Grades are our equivalent to the new performance focused online exams offered by some other Boards.

The detailed marking criteria for Performance Grades provides useful additional information and can be downloaded here.

*Please note that for Contemporary instruments/syllabuses, as piece lengths tend to be longer, there is the option to perform 3 pieces if 4 pieces would exceed the target duration. Contemporary instruments/syllabuses include: Contemporary Drums, Contemporary Guitar, Contemporary Singing & Bass Guitar. The remaining instruments/syllabuses require a minimum of 4 pieces.

To learn more about the different elements of our performance grades please press on the plus symbol next to the headings below.

What are Performance Grades?

MTB’s performance grades provide an opportunity for learners to display their technical and expressive ability in a creative and exciting way that we are sure they will really enjoy.

Performance grades comprise a videoed recital of four or five pieces and have a Target Duration.

Many of us learn to play an instrument or to sing in the hope that one day we may share our musical and technical skills in a concert performance. These performance grades are designed to help you develop the experience and knowledge you will need to do this successfully in the real world. We hope students and their teachers will be inspired by the creative process of both planning and performing their recital programmes.

Why four or five Pieces and a Target Duration?

When asked to perform, you are unlikely to be asked to play a particular number of pieces but almost all the performance situations in which you will be involved will have either a stated or implicit duration. This provides a starting point from which to plan and create an exciting and convincing performance. This is why our performance grades have a flexible approach to the number of pieces performed but provide a target duration.

Learning to manage a target duration is a key skill you will need to develop over time as many public performance situations are constrained by duration requirements. For example, you may be asked to perform a programme or slot of an approximate length.

*Please note that for Contemporary instruments/syllabuses, as piece lengths tend to be longer, there is the option to perform 3 pieces if 4 pieces would exceed the target duration. Contemporary instruments/syllabuses include: Contemporary Drums, Contemporary Guitar, Contemporary Singing, Bass Guitar & Keyboard. The remaining instruments/syllabuses require a minimum of 4 pieces.

What is a Target Duration?

MTB’s Target Durations are designed to be exactly that ‘a target’. They are not intended to act as a constraint to your creative programme planning. It is there to provide a guide as to what would constitute an appropriate level of content at each grade.

Each grade has an associated Target Duration which represents the appropriate length of your whole performance, right from your first entrance to final exit. It includes any spoken contributions you might choose to include and any stage choreography. It does not however, include tuning up time before the performance begins. This should be completed before beginning the recording, as if you were tuning up offstage before entering for your performance. If you feel it is necessary to tune up again between pieces, you should do so, and this would be considered part of the overall performance duration. Your performance can be presented with or without an audience. An audience could comprise one, two or just a few people or it could be in a concert situation with a larger number of people present. If you choose to present your performance live or streamed to an audience (be that one person or a group) then the Target Duration includes any appreciation/applause up to your final exit.

Your performance may end up being up to 33% longer or shorter than the Target Duration and you would not be penalised as long as you included an appropriate level of content. Certain elements will affect the length of your performance. These include, for example,  the tempo of pieces, the number of pieces you play, the length of any gaps between pieces for applause, introductions, tuning etc. A performance which included a good level of content due to a larger number of pieces at a fast tempo and a high level of complexity may well still have an appropriate level of content for the grade even if substantially shorter than the target duration. The ‘Target Duration’ provides a length of time in which you should aim to display the full range of your technical and expressive abilities. Beware however, of presenting an unnecessarily long recital programme. The only thing worse than the person who plays too little music when asked to perform in a concert is the person who doesn’t know when to stop! In the real world, exceeding your agreed target duration by too much often compromises the performance event.

The Target Duration is an important tool for you to judge the substance of your programme alongside the musical demands of your pieces.

Here are some typical examples for you to consider:

  • If you play a programme which is particularly musically demanding then this may justify it being a bit shorter.
  • If you want to programme a particularly lengthy work for a specific grade then your performance might need to be on the long side.
  • Similarly, you may need extra time if you choose to present your programme with verbal interjections or, even, demonstrations.

What are the Target Durations for each grade?


Our Pre-grade performance exams consist of 4-5 pieces but do not have a target duration. As usual the pieces should be of the appropriate grade standard.  See our practical pre-grade syllabus recital lists for guidance.

Grades 1-5

For grades 1-5 Target Durations are a flexible guide to help you create a programme of appropriate length, substance and content for each grade. Performances that deviate (we advise no more than 33% longer or shorter) from the Target Duration could be penalised if this negatively impacts the level of content.

  • Gd 1 – 5 minutes
  • Gd 2 – 6 minutes
  • Gd 3 – 8 minutes
  • Gd 4 – 10 minutes
  • Gd 5 – 12 minutes

Grades 6-8

At these levels, MTB realistically expects you – the performer, to be responsible for the Target Duration of your programme. It should be a skill which you have acquired over time and now have the confidence to use to benefit your planning. For this reason, from grades 6-8 we provide a minimum and maximum time for your recital as well as a target duration. Performances with a total length outside of these parameters will be penalised.

  • Gd 6 –Target Duration: 15 minute (Minimum duration 12 minutes – maximum 18 minutes)
  • Gd 7 – Target Duration: 18 minutes (Minimum duration 15 minutes – maximum 21 minutes)
  • Gd 8 – Target Duration: 22 minutes (Minimum duration 19 minutes – maximum 25 minutes)

How should I select suitable pieces?

Because MTB Exams offer complete flexibility over repertoire with our Free Choice options, you can choose to put together a programme comprising the music you really want to perform. As long as the pieces you choose are of the appropriate grade standard, they would be suitable to consider for your programme. These may or may not be from our suggested repertoire lists at each grade. (For Guidance on Free Choice Repertoire click here).

In order to access the highest marks for your performance it is vital you display a range of technical and expressive skills. The best way to achieve this is to select a varied programme such as choosing pieces at a variety of tempi, moods, styles, genres, periods etc.

It is important to play to your strengths, so, select repertoire that you enjoy and shows you off at your best. No performer would set out to play a recital of pieces that focuses on their weaknesses! So, when selecting pieces for your programme consider: the target duration; pieces you will most enjoy performing; pieces that will show off the full range of your skills; a selection of pieces varied enough to allow you to display a wide range of stylistic, musical and expressive understanding.

Most important of all, prepare thoroughly and have fun! If you enjoy your performance so will the listener.

Apart from the pieces, what else should I consider for a Performance Grade?

When preparing for your performance you should consider the visual elements as well. How you dress, the performance space and how it looks as well as your awareness of how you come across to the listener are all very important factors in how well your performance will be received. For this reason, it is important to video your performance from an audience’ perspective. So, video your performance from a sensible distance so that you – the performer and your instrument are clearly visible.

We have provided detailed recording advice here on how best to record an exam in video.

Should I Introduce my items?

It is important that anyone listening to your performance is made aware of exactly what you are going to play. You can produce a short, written programme for your performance listing the pieces and composers, or you could introduce your items verbally. Different performers will have their own preferences. This may be coloured by how comfortable they are when speaking to an audience, whether this creates a welcome break from their playing or if they find this causes them to lose focus. Either choice is acceptable, as long as you communicate clearly to the listener what it is you are performing.

Although you do not have to provide any additional information about your programme, it may be helpful and add to your performance to say a few words about the pieces you have chosen. This could be done verbally or as part of your written programme. This may give you an opportunity to communicate something about your programme or your playing/interpretation which would help the listener appreciate what you are doing. Written lists of pieces including any additional notes should not exceed one page or if presented verbally should not prevent you from displaying an appropriate level of played content.

If submitting a written programme please photograph and submit this as part of the additional attachments during the app/website submission process.

What is the examiner looking for in a Performance Grade?

Examiners will mark performance grades using the following 5 categories:

  • Accuracy – 25 marks
  • Expression – 25 marks
  • Technique – 25 marks
  • Stagecraft & Sense of Performance – 15 marks
  • Programme – 10 marks

The detailed marking criteria for Performance Grades can be downloaded here.

Performances are marked out of 100:

How do I enter a Performance Grade?

Performance grades can be entered and taken at any time. Simply go to the ‘Make an Entry page and select ‘Performance Grades’.

How do I record and submit a Performance Grade?

Download the MTB Exams ‘Record & Submit 2021’ app here which will enable you to record and submit your Performance Grade using just a mobile phone or tablet.

Or you have the option to record the video using any other device or system and submit it on our website submit an exam page.

We have provided detailed recording advice here on how best to record an exam in video.

Additional Guidance for Performance Grades with our Chief Examiner

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