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Differences between ABRSM and Trinity College London music theory

Differences between ABRSM and Trinity College London music theory exams are outlined in the All-In-One music theory books

Endorsed as ‘BEST MUSIC THEORY’ by Victoria College Examination Board (December 2019)

Differences (as well as similarities) between ABRSM and Trinity College London Music theory syllabuses can be seen on the graded checklists which are displayed at the beginning of the All-In-One music theory books. 

ABRSM Graded Checklist  (first of two pages)

Trinity College London Graded Checklist (first of two pages)

There are some similarities as well as differences between ABRSM and Trinity College London theory exams.  ‘All-In-One  music theory’ books (THIRD ed), unlike most others, are suitable for BOTH Associated Board (ABRSM) and Trinity College London students. One reason for this is that students can easily navigate their way through the grades for either examination board by referring to the Graded checklists at the front of the book (and tick off the topics when they have been completed).

ABRSM students require only one book (All-In-One to Grade 5/All-In-One: Grades 1-3 or All-In-One: Grades 4-5) however Trinity College London students using All-In-One to Grade 5 also require the ‘Trinity Supplement’ booklet (£3.99) to use alongside. You are advised to see the graded checklists within the book itself to understand in detail the similarities and differences.1

ABRSM is the most popular examination board yet Trinity College London exams are equally recognised qualifications. Trinity is perhaps most suitable for instrumentalists learning pop music or jazz due to its inclusion of jazz chord symbols (as well as Roman notation). It focuses upon composition (at an earlier stage) via adding a bass line to a melody or vice-versa. Trinity students, unlike ABRSM students, are expected to know about ostinato (common in jazz music) , syncopation, sequences (real and tonal) the ‘natural minor’ and pentatonic scale, inverted intervals, arpeggios, broken chords and a little about the guitar and saxophone.

The All-In-One series of music theory books contains a Trinity Supplement booklet with topics closely related to those already studied in the main book (e.g. ‘broken chords’ can easily be understood by anyone with knowledge of the tonic chord and inversions). Therefore anyone, not just Trinity students, will find the ‘Trinity Supplement’ highly beneficial and the next logical step.

Compound time signatures are introduced at grade 3 for both ABRSM and Trinity students. However,  ABRSM students are expected to know a wider variety of key signatures at an earlier stage than Trinity students.

Unsure which exam syllabus to follow? Why not start with All-In-One to Grade 5 book/All-In-One: Grades 1-3 or All-In-One: Grades 4-5 and decide when you are ready, in your own time. If you wish to learn the few extra subjects required by Trinity College London syllabus, progress to the Trinity Supplement booklet (or simply turn to the ‘Appendix’ at the back of the All-In-One: Grades 1-3 and 4-5 books). Which exam syllabus do you prefer and why; Associated Board or Trinity College London?

Update December 2019: Did you know that All-In-One Music Theory now also features a ‘Victoria College of Music Graded Checklist (VCM)’? Rachel Billings has rewritten the lower grade Music theory syllabus for Victoria College Examination board, following their request, to fit in well with her All-In-One books. There are many advantages about taking VCM exams. Read more about the partnership between Aaron publications and Victoria College Examination Board clicking here

1. Students using All-In-one: Grades 1-3 and Grades 4-5 book do NOT require the additional Trinity Supplement booklet because these books already contain this material in the Appendix).

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Music theory exam dates, UK


Music theory exam dates in the UK, 2018.

(Our All-In-One music theory books, unlike most others, are suitable for students studying for either ABRSM or Trinity music theory exams. Click here to read more)


ABRSM and Trinity College London music theory exam dates

ABRSM is an acronym for ‘Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music’. ABRSM music theory exams take place in 93 different countries around the world. In the UK they take place times a year in the Spring, Summer and Autumn (known as periods A, B and C).

A) Spring 2018 Music theory exam date: Wednesday 28th February (5 pm). Closing date for online entries: Friday 19th January. Closing date for postal entries: Friday 12th January.

B) Summer 2018 Music theory exam date: Saturday 16th June (10.00am). Closing date for online entries: Friday 11th May. Closing date for postal entries: Friday 4th May.

C) Autumn 2018 Music theory exam date: Tuesday 6th November (5 pm). Closing date for online entries: Friday 28th September. Closing date for postal entries: Friday 21st September.


Image result for trinity college london logo

Trinity College London provide exams and award qualifications in over 60 countries around the world. The music theory exam dates are as follows:

Saturday 5th May 2018 (closing date Monday 26th March)
Tuesday 8th May 2018 (closing date Monday 26th March)
Saturday 3rd November 2016 (closing date Monday 24th September)
Monday 5th November 2016 (closing date Monday 24th September)

How to enter an exam. You can enter yourself for a theory exam if you are age eighteen years or older. Alternatively candidates may be entered for an exam by a school, a teacher of music, a parent or guardian. Anyone who enters receives a unique applicant number. For details about ABRSM exam centres in your area speak to your local ABRSM representative  or Trinity College London representative . Apply for entrance online using the ABRSM or Trinity Guildhall websites (or you can request a postal application form).

Accreditation. Both Associated Board and Trinity qualifications provide qualifications recognized by government educational authorities worldwide. A pass at Grade 5 (music theory) enables students to proceed to Grade 6-8 exams which can contribute towards higher education through the allocation of UCAS (University and Colleges Admission Service). UCAS points which can be used as part of a university or college application in the UK.

Please bookmark our site or join us on twitter to receive updates about forthcoming music theory exams. Feel free to ask the author any last minute questions you may have.

We are also very keen to hear from students who have used All-In-One to Grade 5 to pass their theory exams (a distinction we trust!).