A New Era of RCM Theory Examinations

Published April 10, 2020; updated April 29, 2020

Throughout the past several days, Royal Conservatory or Music Theory students and teachers alike have been waiting with bated breath for further details regarding the plans for the upcoming May 2020 RCM Theory session. Although the COVID-19 situation has wreaked havoc on every aspect of daily life, we all were eager to see what repercussions it would have on our theory exams. At long last, details have emerged.

What’s going to happen?

Intermediate Theory and History

As Level 5-8 Theory students and Levels 9-10 History students already knew, the exams for these disciplines will be offered online through the examination modules the RCM already has set up. Now we can add ARCT History to the list. I mentioned in an earlier post that the plans for the ARCT History candidates were up in the air even though there was already an online component available on the RCM website. All ARCT History students will now shift over to the online format.

Harmony and Analysis

Harmony and Analysis exams will be taken from home. Students will connect via Zoom to a virtual classroom overseen by an RCM proctor to ensure the integrity of the process. The exam will be sent in PDF format to all candidates 24 hours prior to the exam time. At the time of the exam writing, candidates will show the blank paper to the proctor then proceed to write it. Candidates will be connected to the virtual classroom for the duration of the exam. Upon completion, the exam would be scanned (or clear image files would be taken with a device or camera) then emailed to the RCM. Here are the basic guidelines as to what will transpire:

  • Candidates will receive their exam as a PDF by email 24 hours in advance
  • If the candidate is a minor, the exam is to be printed and given to the candidate by a designated adult
  • Candidates must log into the provided Zoom virtual room on the appropriate
  • You will show your blank exam paper to your proctor prior to starting the exam
  • Your webcam must be focused on you in your workspace for the duration of the exam
  • The exam will be 3 hours long
  • You may not consult notes of any sort during the exam
  • You may not leave your work area for any reason whatsoever during the exam
  • Once the time is up, the proctor will let you know at which point you must stop
  • You have 60 minutes after the exam is complete to digitally send your exam to the RCM
  • You must keep your original copy safe for a period of 6 months after the exam has taken place
  • Failure to abide by these guidelines may result in a disqualification, meaning you would get 0%

For full official guidelines, click here to view the official RCM release.

When will the exam take place?

Confirmation has now been sent to students regarding the exam day and time. For most, the day and time will remain the same. I have heard reports from some students that the day and time has changed from May 8th to 9th. Nevertheless, exams will be held on both days, but check to make sure in case your day and time has changed.

Do I have to take my exam this way?

Candidates who are unable to make themselves available for the allotted day and time may postpone their exams for a future time. In person theory exam sessions may become available again.

Due to the possible shift in day and time, you may no longer be available to take the exam this session. If this is the case, or if you would like to defer to a future session, fill out this form.

Won’t it be too easy to cheat?

It would be incredibly easy to cheat on the exam in this format, however, being a decent human being does not involve achieving good results no matter the means.

My students have continuously heard what I had to say regarding what would be acceptable regarding this examination format at the live tutorial sessions that have been leading up to exam time. My thoughts on this matter will continue to be articulated to all students during this session as well as during future sessions. But most importantly, it is imperative that you make absolutely sure that you do not get disqualified. Do not show a pre-written exam. Do not consult any textbooks, notes, or piano during the exam whatsoever. Do not leave your workplace during the exam, not even for a bathroom break. Keep your hard copy of the exam handy for a period of six months.

Will this continue to be an option even after the COVID-19 situation?

This is something that the RCM has been working on for over a year, so I believe that it is something that will continue to be offered. In fact, in my opinion, this represents the beginning of the end of in person theory exams.

April 30th is the date of a webinar you have all been invited to, during which time you will be given further information about the process. The RCM has worked incredibly hard to ensure that students and teachers can continue their pace of learning and teaching music theory, at least where examinations are concerned. For that we should definitely be appreciative.