This is a question that I am frequently asked by my music students. As a meticulous planner, I am always in favour of preparing as much as possible for an important event that would help secure your entry to your chosen state secondary school. Whilst the Music Aptitude Tests and Scholarships all say that it is a test of aptitude, not ability, the number of resources out there to help you prepare for this test would suggest otherwise. There will be certainly be many students preparing for the test so I do think it’s worth getting on the bandwagon and preparing in advance too. It’s only August so there’s still around 1 month until the Autumn 2018 tests for 2019 entrants. Do have a listen to the online MAT training materials and work through any tricky bits with your teacher or come along to one of our workshops for guided assistance. We also have a Facebook Support Group and I’m happy to help in any way I can so do join the group and I can answer your questions.
However, I do believe that preparation for a Music Scholarship needs to happen well in advance, at the very least in the early part of the Summer Holidays. Preparing a few days before the actual test causes panic and may be off-putting as a student may become anxious if they struggle with one part of the test.
A music aptitude test or specialist music entrance scholarship exam is designed to look for innate musicality in a student. This means measuring their aural awareness and ability to discern detail in pitch, rhythm and texture. To pass a Music Aptitude Test, you don’t actually need to play an instrument. However, to pass Round Two, you will need to have prepared a musical performance, whether it’s a short piece on an instrument or something that you will sing.
The test is in two parts for most schools. You have to pass the listening test that is known as a Music Aptitude Test. If you achieve a certain score, you will be invited back to audition. As a rule of thumb, we aim for a mark of 46 or above out of 60 but 50 is ideal in the training tests you can download that I have put together with audio engineers.
By doing practice tests and understanding the types of questions that could come up, you’re going to be a lot more confident on audition day. The schools are very secretive about what types of tests they use. Most schools use something that follows the Bentley Music Aptitude Test but each school may use a variant of this. Without us teachers being able to sit the test, we’re using the information gleaned from our students that have already sat the test and the guidelines given by the schools to prepare training materials that will help give an indication of what we think you will be tested on the day.
The second part of the audition process allows you to show off your musical talents. This part is very important to prepare for as you are given the chance to sing or play an instrument and this will require careful consideration. You want your audition to stand out from the crowd – remember there could be 50 other potential scholars auditions on the same day. How will you make your audition memorable? Here are some tips:
- Don’t play music from a graded exam book. If you turn up clutching a Grade 2 piano book, you can be fairly sure that you won’t be the only one holding that same book and playing the same pieces. Pick something off-syllabus.
- Pick a piece with a quirky title. This gives you an instant discussion point when you are talking to the selection panel.
- Go for at least one piece with an upbeat tempo and/or mood. It’s a good idea to start off your audition with something that is captivating and memorable.
- Find an unusual composer that will be another discussion point. Perhaps a living composer, or a composer with the same nationality as you, or someone from the same school you are applying to – do your research with your teacher and see what you can find. There’s so much music out there, don’t restrict yourself to the books you use in your lesson. Do some searching online and see what you can find.
- Maybe avoid popular show pieces. At the moment, The Greatest Showman is the most played musical by my piano students. Whilst the tunes are very catchy, I wonder if it’s going to be a choice offered by many students at the upcoming auditions.
- SING! If you can sing, do consider singing one piece and then playing the other piece on your instruments. Singers are highly valued by schools as they can participate in so many group activities and choirs, so do consider singing if you feel confident to do so. One of my MAT workshop attendees is rapping one song and singing another. What a great combination!
- Do a mock interview with your teacher. Make sure you have discussed musical topics with your teacher and you have some answers ready to common questions that you will be asked that will explore your relationship with music. Do make sure you can name some live music venues, recitals, composers and anywhere that you may have performed. Schools want to know how you will contribute to the musical life of the school. Perhaps you’ve seen that they have a steel pan band and you’d love to get involved? Or you’ve always fancied playing the marimba and now you’ll have the opportunity to do so as your primary school didn’t have one for you to use. Or you’ve always loved the energy of djembe drums and want to join a drumming group. Show enthusiasm and a desire to get involved in as many opportunities as possible and you’ll shine on audition day!
Click on the links below to read our articles to help you succeed with the Music Aptitude Test & Scholarship:
Should I Prepare for the Music Aptitude Test?
How To Succeed at the Music Aptitude Test
Download Training Test Materials
Some of the schools using the Music Aptitude Test (check with each school as criteria often change):
Bishop Stortford High School
Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School
Bristol Cathedral Choir School
Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School
Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester
Claremont High School
Claremont High School Academy
Cooper’s Company and Coburn School
Dame Alice Owen’s
Elmhurst School for Dance and Performing Arts, Birmingham
Fortismere in Muswell Hill
Hammond School in Chester
Hertfordshire & Essex High School
King David and St. Edwards College
Langley Grammar School
Mill Hill County High School
Moulsham High School
Old Swinford Hospital
Prendergast Hilly Fields
Queen’s School Bushey
South West Herts School consortium
St Anne’s Catholic School, Southampton
St Clement Danes
St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh
St Mary’s & St John’s CE School
St Marylebone Church of England School
St Paul’s Way Trust School (3-part test, different to the standard MAT test that we offer)
St. Clement Danes
Shenfield High School
The Bishop’s Stortford High School
The Hertfordshire & Essex High School
Twyford C of E
Uxbridge High School
Watford Grammar School
Watford Grammar School for Boys
Wells Cathedral School
William Ellis School
Woodlands School Essex
Nb. The following Herts schools offer different scholarships (but not the MAT test)
Bushey Meads – Technology Aptitude Test
Goffs School – Languages Aptitude Test
John Warner- Technology Aptitude Test
If you have any questions about the MAT, have a look at our Facebook support group. I also run free online discussion groups for Facebook users where you can ask me your questions to demystify the Music Scholarship and Aptitude Test process!
Join us for a free event on 29 September to inspire young musicians to succeed in learning an instrument. Open to parents, teachers and children of all ages.
In addition to teaching and MAT preparation, I also perform regularly in London. Entry to my next recital is free. Do come along! Suitable for children of all ages. Join us for a recital of Jamaican folk songs. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jamaican-folk-songs-black-history-month-tickets-48082413794