Here on PianoTV, we’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about beginner topics suitable to a Preparatory and Grade 1 level. Those topics range from history to theory, to lesson planning, to tutorials and techniques.

As I’ve talked about previously in my video about why I think doing RCM playing exams are useful, I also think it’s great fun – actually, way more fun – to do written music exams.

So in today’s video, I’m going to share with you some resources to give yourself a grade 1 written exam that’ll test your knowledge. It’s a good way to spice things up and see what your strengths and weaknesses are – for example, maybe you’re excellent at note reading, but need to brush up on some terms.

Grade 1 Written Exam

Written piano exams might seem weird to you if you’ve never taken formal lessons, but they’re something that I did most years as a piano student, and something I like to give my own students as well.

And once you get to a certain grade level via RCM, written exams are just as necessary as the playing exams. For example, in grades 9 and 10, you not only need to do the playing exam, but two separate written exams – one on history, and one on harmony (think complicated music theory).

Where to find the tests

The grade 1 written exams I’m referring to to are sample tests from Trinity College in London. There are two sample tests in grade 1 (all free) – you can find them here. You can do them both if you’re feeling super motivated – just print them out and grab a pencil, and reminisce about being in school again.

American vs. European Terms

The only thing to note is that certain terminology is different between America and Europe. So here, where we say “quarter note, half note, and whole note”, they would say “crotchet, semi breve, and breve”. So if you would like to do the test, be aware that those terms will come up.

Reference videos

At the end of this post, I’ll be linking to videos that are relevant to the tests. So say you do a test and find you know nothing about major scales (hint hint). You can go back in time and review those concepts if you’re feeling a little rusty.

Basically what all of this means is we’ve more or less concluded our Grade 1 level discussions, and after this point will be moving forward to grade 2 material.

That means I’ll be doing videos on Grade 2 topics like what to expect at the exams, good grade 2-level books, and the technical requirements, in addition to all the fun theory concepts and history stuff I like to do.

So have fun with the test, give yourself a sticker and a treat, and take a moment to revel in the progress you’ve made thus far!

Grade 1 Written Exam Reference Videos

Reading Music

Introduction to note reading
Simple tricks for reading piano sheet music


Introduction to rhythm
Playing and counting 8th notes
How dotted notes work, part 1

Key signatures

The Key of C, and the C major scale
Ode to Joy and the key of G
Brahms Lullaby in F Major


Introduction to chords
Major and minor chords – how to figure out quickly by ear
How to invert chords

Other theory

How to build a major scale
Learning intervals


The above videos don’t answer every single question on the exam (like the terminology required), but I think it’s a good starting point and covers a lot of what you’d need to know for a grade 1 level.

Additionally there are lots of Grade 1 level tutorials on this website, which you can check out and try, which will cover some of these concepts in more detail.

Happy testing!