In the 21st Century we are saturated by music. We have access to a myriad of musical genres and combinations of group of musicians from around the world. Up to around a hundred years ago singing would have been heard regularly, perhaps at church or in family gatherings, but not a lot of other instruments would have been experienced. Today you can listen to music by radio (online, digital, FM, MW, LW, SW), MP3s, CDs, streaming, cassettes and records, as well as watching music being played on DVDs, videos, MP4s, YouTube and BBC 2 etc! Sheet music is widely available too, so that you can easily play what somebody else has composed. Someone had to work out how to accurately portray the sounds that we hear into symbols that we can play. A new language had to be conceived. This process started hundreds of years ago and still continues. By studying for the Grade 5 Theory exam you will learn a great deal about Western music notation and hopefully this will inspire you to both play more challenging music and to compose some of your own ideas to share with others.

Many people studying to play an instrument will eventually get around to having to take the Grade 5 Theory exam. Around 22,000 people in the UK and Ireland sit the Associated Board exam every year. On average only 16% of candidates get a distinction (90%+), yet unbelievably around 14% fail (below 66%) the exam! The Merit category (80-89%) was introduced in 2002. (Full annual statistics for 2014 are available here.)

You can read the Syllabus for the exam here - remember you will need to demonstrate an understanding of all the topics from the preceding Grades and not just Grade 5. You are allowed up to two hours to complete all the Questions on the paper. It is a really good idea to complete several specimen papers in the run up to the day and these are available from your local music shop. 

Whether you are teaching yourself or are getting help from a local teacher, I hope the following pdf documents will help you to understand what the syllabus demands and more importantly, that you use the information to become a better musician. Please feel free to print them out to help you study and revise. Only the links in blue currently work, with the brown ones currently in preparation. By early 2017 the entire Syllabus should be detailed here.

A Mind Map that covers the whole Syllabus.

Performance Directions (taken from the AB's Music Theory in Practice books):

Grades 1        2        3        4 Italian, French, Instruments        5 Italian, German


Naming notes on the four different clefs         Intervals     Transposition


How to build them     Chromatics

Key Signatures:

How to work them out       What they look like on staves




Notes and Rests      Time Signatures

Instruments of the Orchestra:

Families, ranges, sound production