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Certificate Program FAQs

Certificate Program FAQs


  • What is the RCM Certificate Program?

    The RCM Certificate Program provides a recognized national standard and sequenced program for people studying music privately, from beginner through advanced levels. The program's examinations allow students to track their progress and celebrate their accomplishments. In addition, the examinations provide measurable objectives for parents and teachers to better understand a student's musical growth. The program also supports independent teachers with innovative, high-quality resources.

  • How is the RCM Certificate Program different from other examination systems?

    The RCM Certificate Program is an internationally recognized system that is developed, designed, maintained, and assessed by leading North American pedagogues and studio teachers. As a national, rather than regional, examination system, The RCM Certificate Program maintains an overall, nationwide standard that complements existing state-based systems. The national standard provides a clear and meaningful structure and awareness of accomplishment that recognizes individual achievement and rewards excellence.

  • Why a national standard?

    A national standard provides a clear, consistent, and meaningful structure for recognizing achievement and rewarding excellence as well as raising awareness of levels and benefits of such achievement nationally. It increases the importance and value of music study across the country and empowers teachers and students to strive for excellence beyond regional borders.

    A national standard also ensures the equality of all students, no matter where they are assessed, through progressively leveled, consistent examinations and supporting resources. It recognizes individual achievement at a national level.

    A national standard maintains integrity of examination through the constant review of examiners, processes, and materials and maintains evaluative standards regardless of the size or location of a community or state. By raising the competitive edge and performance standards to a national level, it further connects and enhances music study at the global level.

  • How do you maintain a consistent approach to examinations nationwide?

    Examiners undergo a competitive admissions process and must meet a minimum qualifying standard before being accepted as apprentice examiners. Examiners complete an intensive series of lectures, demonstrations, and a practicum, coupled with a full year of observation in the field, before promotion to full examiner. All examiners engage in yearly professional development and are subject to annual performance review, which include monitoring their marking ranges to assure that the national standard is maintained.

  • What are the advantages of the RCM Certificate Program for students?

    The RCM Certificate Program is a comprehensive system with built-in flexibility. Students, families, and teachers can set appropriate goals that reflect an individual student’s needs while meeting the rigor and discipline of a national standard. Musical creativity, artistry, personal expression, and a love of music are fostered in the program. The comprehensive nature of the RCM Certificate Program also supports life and learning skills needed for innovation in a global world: creative process, problem solving, discipline, self-regulated learning, and focus.

  • How does the RCM Certificate Program support my local or state examination program?

    The RCM Certificate Program reflects the well-established culture of examination that is present at the state level as a recognized aspect of the learning process. The program complements existing local and state examination programs by providing a nationally recognized evaluation for students, further connecting all state systems. Many of the materials in the RCM Certificate Program are already used in select state programs, allowing for easy participation.

  • Is the RCM Certificate Program everywhere?

    Teachers and students can participate in the RCM Certificate Program anywhere in North America. Established examination centres can already be found in many states across the US and in every province and territory in Canada. A list of nearby centres is available when you register for an examination online. You can also contact us for information or if you are interested in establishing an examination centre in your area.

    Canada 1-800-461-6058

    US 1-866-716-2223

  • How do I open an examination centre?

    Please contact The Royal Conservatory directly for full details on opening an examination centre.

    Canada 1-800-461-6058

    US 1-866-716-2223


  • How do I find a teacher?

    Visit our online Teacher Directory to find a teacher who participates in the RCM Certificate Program. Select your instrument/discipline from the drop down list, and fill in your postal/zip code, and distance you are willing to travel.

  • What is a syllabus?

    A syllabus is a publication that outlines complete requirements for each level of study to help students fully prepare for examinations. Syllabi are available for all disciplines, including theory, and can be downloaded for free from our website.

  • What are the RCM Certificate Program syllabi?

    The syllabi are detailed program guides that outline the full requirements for every level of examination for all manner of instruments, voice, and theory. Each syllabus contains everything a student needs to know about the examination process, including a breakdown of possible marks out of 100, an extensive listing of repertoire and studies/études for performance, a full discussion of technical requirements, and recommended resources for preparation and further study. Comprehensive details for all levels of examination offered for a specific subject within the program, as well as all the rules and regulations governing the examination process are also included.

    Consulting the syllabus is strongly recommended before submitting students for examination.

  • Where can I learn about updates and changes to The Certificate Program syllabi?

    Visit our website for the latest information on all aspects of the RCM Certificate Program, including program updates.

  • What is a practical examination?

    A practical examination is a comprehensive, professional evaluation of a student’s understanding and abilities on their chosen instrument at a specific level. Practical examinations evaluate the performance of repertoire, études or vocalises, aural skills, sight reading or singing, and orchestral excerpts for string, brass, and wind instruments. The RCM Certificate Program also offers comprehensive, professionally developed, and internationally recognized examinations in theory, harmony, counterpoint, analysis, and music history. Upon successful completion of the examination, students have access to the examiner’s comments in detailed marking forms. Once all the components of an examination are successfully completed, students are awarded certificates. The process is designed to recognize individual development and achievement and offer positive and constructive feedback that enhances a student’s current studies and provides an opportunity for growth, both for the student and his/her teacher.

  • How do I prepare for a practical examination?

    Students and teachers work together to choose and prepare a selection of repertoire to perform for the examiner as well as preparing technical and musicianship requirements according to the syllabus/program guidelines. Students should always consult with their teacher about setting goals and determining the appropriate time to register for an examination.

  • What happens in a practical examination?

    In a practical examination students will be greeted by their examiner, and will be able to perform the examination requirements in an order they have selected in consultation with their teacher. During a practical examination students will have one-on-one assessment with a professional, program-certified examiner. All examination aspects that have been prepared, including repertoire, studies/études, ear tests, and sight reading, will be heard by the examiner. Students, families, and teachers can be assured that the examination represents the student’s complete musical achievements in a fair manner at the time of the examination.

    Practical examinations evaluate the following areas of the student’s musical development:

    • Performance of three to five pieces of repertoire depending on level
    • Performance of one or two studies/études that focus on an aspect of performance skill appropriate for the level
    • Performance of technical skills such as scales, chords, and arpeggios, which progress in difficulty from level to level in a manner consistent with the technical demands of the repertoire. An examination includes a representative sampling from the published list of requirements.
    • An evaluation of musicianship skills, appropriate for the level, through aural identification of intervals, chord qualities, cadences, and ear-to-hand playbacks of rhythms and melodies. A demonstration of rhythmic reading and sight playing ability further supports music literacy.
  • How do I register for an examination?

    You can register for an examination online. You will need to sign up for an RCM Account first. For the best registration experience, please use Chrome as your browser.

  • Who are the examiners?

    The examiners are members of The Royal Conservatory College of Examiners (The College). They are a professional body of distinguished teachers and performers from across North America, each of whom is a specialist in one or more areas represented in the program of study. To become a part of The College each examiner undergoes a competitive admissions process and must meet a minimum qualifying standard before being accepted as apprentice examiners.

    Apprentices complete an intensive series of lectures, demonstrations, and a practicum, coupled with a full year of observation in the field before promotion to full examiner.

    All examiners engage in yearly professional development and are subject to annual performance reviews.

  • How many examiners will there be?

    The examination takes place in a one-on-one session between the student and the examiner. Occasionally a second examiner may be present for training and/or quality assurance purposes.

    Associate Diploma (ARCT) and Licentiate Diploma (LRCM) examinations, which represent the highest level of study in the RCM Certificate Program, are assessed by a panel of two examiners.

  • Are parents and teachers allowed to watch the examination?

    For professional and quality assurance purposes, only the student and the examiner will be in the examination room. Parents and teachers may wait in a designated waiting area. A professional centre representative is always present to oversee the examination centre and waiting areas.

    For students taking voice or instrumental examinations other than piano, accompanists are permitted in the examination room only during the collaborative portion of the repertoire performance.

  • How are practical examinations marked?

    The examiner’s report will provide both number grades and written comments on each aspect of the examination. The RCM Certificate Program’s examiners undergo rigorous training to ensure a consistent standard of grading across the country. Written comments are intended to recognize achievement and recommend areas for growth and development.

    The RCM Certificate Program grades according to the following scale:

    First Class Honors with Distinction: 90–100%
    First Class Honors: 80–89%
    Honors: 70–79%
    Pass: 60–69%

    First Class Honors with Distinction: 90–100

    This standing is reached by truly exceptional students. Students must demonstrate complete technical command and perform with a confident, masterful style. These students clearly show an authentic personal performance spark at the highest level.

    First Class Honors: 80–89

    At this standing, students present an engaging and intelligent performance, displaying technical polish and finesse. Students are well prepared and project personal musical expression.

    Honors: 70–79

    Students exhibit thorough and careful preparation and demonstrate some interpretive skills. Repertoire is presented with overall understanding and accuracy. There is awareness and general security in technical and musicianship elements. There may be areas in need of further development in skills or select repertoire.

    Pass: 60–69

    Students exhibit only a very basic level of preparation. The examiner’s report will reflect the areas that require further growth and development

  • What is a theory examination?

    Theory examinations are progressively leveled evaluations of a student’s comprehensive understanding of Theory, Harmony, Counterpoint, Analysis, and Music History. Examinations are written in a classroom setting. The length of each examination varies from one to three hours depending on the level. Detailed requirements are outlined in the Theory Syllabus, which can be downloaded free from our website.

  • Are theory and practical examinations given at the same time?

    No, theory and practical examinations are scheduled at different times in order to allow students the opportunity to take both a theory and a practical examination in the same session. This is particularly useful for students interested in achieving the theory and practical levels required for the comprehensive certificate at the same time of year.

  • Can I take an examination more than once?

    Yes. Students may reregister for and retake an examination as many times as they desire if they wish to improve their mark or prepare more thoroughly before progressing to the next level.

  • What does the examination fee cover?

    Examination fees cover administrative costs associated with the examination. That includes scheduling the examination, booking a location, arranging to have a centre representative at the examination centre, covering all costs to have the examiner at the local centre for a practical (performance) examination, processing the examination report, providing students and teachers with online access to examination results, and mailing certificates.

  • Is the RCM Certificate Program limited to young students only, or can adults also participate?

    The RCM Certificate Program is a sequenced course of musical study appropriate for all levels and ages. Many adults participate in the RCM Certificate Program, as they consider the examinations to be a clear and rewarding way to motivate and guide their study. They also appreciate receiving constructive and valuable professional feedback on their growth and development.

  • Is this program only for students interested in conservatory music studies?

    The RCM Certificate Program is a comprehensive program that allows students of all ages and ability to participate. While the higher-level diplomas of this program reflect entrance requirements for many university and conservatory programs, anyone can begin their study of music with the RCM Certificate Program. The recognized national standard and sequenced levels of examination allow all students to track their progress and celebrate their accomplishments.

  • What are the Associate (ARCT) and Licentiate (LRCM) diplomas?

    The ARCT and LRCM diplomas represent the pinnacle of achievement within the RCM Certificate Program.

    Students may apply for the Associate diploma examination upon completion of the Level 10 practical examination and all corequisite theory examinations. The Performer’s diploma examination is a full recital of up to 60 minutes. The Teacher’s diploma requires the completion of a three-level piano pedagogy certificate program. Both diplomas are recognized as professional credentials. Students wishing to complete an Associate diploma, who have completed an undergraduate degree in music, may apply to have certain prerequisite examinations waived.

    The Licentiate diploma in piano performance is the culmination of the RCM Certificate Program in piano. The examination is presented as a full recital of 60 to 75 minutes, must include at least three contrasting musical styles, and offers the option of performing a complete concerto for piano.


  • How do I have my students participate in RCM Certificate Program examinations?

    Teachers interested in registering their students for examinations need to first visit the website to view syllabi and details of the program. Teachers should review a copy of the current edition of the syllabus for their instrument(s) as well as a theory syllabus to ensure that they understand how to prepare their students effectively. Teachers are also advised to sign up for a free teacher account and access the Teacher Portal, which provides free, downloadable resources and more information about the RCM Certificate Program.

  • How do I know what level is appropriate for my student?

    Students can enter the RCM Certificate Program at any level and can move from level to level at their own pace. Students and teachers should consult the syllabus for their instrument/discipline to determine the appropriate level.

  • What steps should I take to ensure I select an appropriate level for my student?

    Many teachers and students start with the repertoire. Teachers can begin by evaluating a student’s current and/or planned repertoire. The wide range of repertoire in the RCM Certificate Program makes it easy to match each student to a level, or perhaps two adjacent levels.

    Review the scale, chord, and arpeggio patterns required at that level, noticing keys, tempos, and formats. You may find that your student is ahead in some areas, but requires further development in others. Consider those elements that are already firmly in your student’s grasp and decide which ones need additional review.

    Finally, look at the musicianship requirements with ear tests and sight playing expectations. The program is open to all approaches to teaching, and there may be new terminology that needs to be introduced to ensure your students are comfortable with the process and the language.

  • Are the RCM Certificate Program levels related to age or school grade?

    The RCM Certificate Program levels are based on stages of musical development rather than age or school grades. Students of all ages may register for examinations at any level. Beginners from all generations as well as young virtuosos participate in RCM Certificate Program examinations every year.

  • What if my student’s repertoire level is higher than their technical and musicianship levels?

    If your student’s abilities in the areas of technique, ear tests, or sight reading are behind his or her current repertoire level, we generally advise that you opt for a lower level. At each level there is a range of challenge in the repertoire lists, and a student has the option of substituting a piece from the next higher level for one examination selection. Planning your students’ progress in this way allows them to focus on the higher levels of music making and the finesse of their performance, and experience the pleasure of accomplishment with new repertoire at a similar level. Your student can enjoy a high level of performance success while also securing necessary musicianship skills that will provide him or her with a stronger foundation.

  • Do students have to take examinations in order from the beginning?

    Students can register for an examination at any level and are not required to “start at the beginning” or take the examinations in direct order. Generally, students will be encouraged to register for a particular level based on the in-lesson examination and experience and recommendation of their teachers. However, students are not required to have a teacher to register. Consulting a current edition of the related syllabus is recommended to help determine the most appropriate examination level.

  • How can I prepare students for the musicianship portion of the practical examination?

    Regular practice and development of musicianship skills are essential to student success. There are many fine resources available commercially to help teachers and students reinforce these skills. The RCM Certificate Program has a wide range of resources for the teaching and development of musicianship skills. These resources are leveled according to the RCM Certificate Program’s examination levels, and can be used by instrumentalists and singers alike. Visit our online store and the Teacher Portal to view our teaching resources.

  • Are there dues for teachers?

    The RCM Certificate Program does not charge any membership fees and teachers may register at any time for a free Royal Conservatory Teacher Account.  All administrative costs and responsibilities relating to examinations are covered by the program.

  • Are there volunteer requirements for teachers?

    Teachers are not required to volunteer in any way for the RCM Certificate Program. We do encourage teachers to become involved in the wide variety of professional opportunities presented by the RCM Certificate Program every year, and to take advantage of the many resources published by and for the RCM Certificate Program to help support your teaching and students’ preparation.

  • Can teachers register their own students?

    Teachers are most welcome to register their students for the RCM Certificate Program examinations in all sessions. Parents may also register their children, and individual students can also register. To accommodate these varying scenarios our system allows account set-up for Teachers, Parents, and Students.

    For the best registration experience, please use Chrome as your browser.

  • Do I have to enter all the students in my studio?

    Teachers are not required to register all students in their studios for the RCM Certificate Program examinations, but are encouraged to consider the benefits of such examinations to support and measure their students’ progress in their musical studies.

  • Can teachers use different editions or materials other than those listed in the syllabus?

    The RCM Certificate Program does not require that teachers and students use specific methods or publications in order to participate in examinations. However, in order to maintain the quality and integrity of the program, students are required to choose from the broad listings of repertoire and studies/études included in the current edition of the syllabus when selecting pieces for their examination. The syllabi also include a list of suggested reading material for further study and preparation.


  • When do examinations take place?

    The RCM Certificate Program holds examinations several times throughout the year. Consult our website for an up-to-date listing of examination dates and registration deadlines.

  • Do the examinations only take place on weekends?

    Examinations may be scheduled either on a weekday or on a weekend.

  • Where do I go to take my examination?

    When you register for an examination you will be able to select a centre location based on availability. A listing of all examination centres can be found on our website but students should be aware that some locations are not open for all sessions.

    If you do not find an examination centre nearby, please contact us.

    Canada 1-800-461-6058

    US 1-866-716-2223

  • If I get sick or if there is an emergency that conflicts with my examination, can I take it at a different time?

    If you cannot attend your examination due to a direct conflict with a school examination or a medical reason, you can apply for a credit for the full amount of the examination fee or a 50% refund of the examination fee. If approved, a credit may be used when the student registers again for an examination within one year.

  • How do I get my examination results?

    The RCM Certificate Program performance and academic results are available through your online account. Examination results are available to view and print for six months after being posted. Students are strongly encouraged to download and print a copy of their results for their personal records.

  • How long does it take to receive examination results?

    Practical examination results, which include a copy of the examination form, are generally available four to six weeks after the examination has taken place. Theory examination results are generally available six weeks after the examination. Students are then able to view their graded paper online. Scans of the theory papers will be available eight to ten weeks after the date of the examination.

  • What happens if a student does not pass a level?

    In the rare case that a student is not prepared for the examination and does not complete a level successfully, he or she has the opportunity to retake the level. Constructive comments will be provided by the examiner to guide the student toward future success.

    For students who require additional work in a specific area to achieve a passing standard in Level 10 and/or the Associate Diploma in Piano Pedagogy, supplemental examinations are available in repertoire, technique, and musicianship.


  • What resources does the RCM Certificate Program offer?

    The RCM Certificate Program offers a wide variety of resources for both teachers and students. In addition to free resources available online, you will find many supporting publications in our online bookstore, including a selection of workbooks for music theory, as well as progressively leveled collections of repertoire, studies/études, technique, and orchestral excerpts for several instruments. Publications for preparing for the musicianship portion of examinations are also available. Visit our online bookstore at

  • Can examinations be exchanged for high school or college credit? What states, provinces, or schools are now offering this?

    The RCM Certificate Program's examinations have been used for high school and college credits.

    In the United States, currently these decisions are made by individual boards and schools. Please contact your school's guidance counselor or academic adviser for specific details.

    In Canada, examinations are accredited in each province. LEARN MORE