Graded Modern Piano

At Northwood, we strongly believe that every child is different in terms of their abilities, talents and personalities. A music examination board might be suitable for one child but may not be suitable for another, which is why we simultaneously offer multiple music examination tracks – the student can then best choose which board is most suitable for him or her. It is like taking the ‘A’ levels, IB, NUS High School Diploma and so on. The way forward is multiple tracks of excellence for different students.

Besides the traditional ABRSM Classical Piano Exams, our Graded Modern Piano Programme offers the student the excitement and rigour of achieving full piano mastery and formal piano certification in the context of modern day genres and styles.

We offer the following music examination boards for Modern Piano, based on our assessment of the learner’s individual learning curve, personality and strength:

-Australian & New Zealand Cultural Arts (ANZCA)
-London College of Music Examinations (LCM)
-Trinity College London – Rock & Pop (TCL)
-Trinity Guildhall

Listen to the following audio for samples from the ANZCA syllabus:


In the evolution of piano playing, many things have changed in terms of approaches, pedagogy and outcomes. In Modern Piano exams, the student is challenged not just to ‘follow the notes’, but to creatively invent and improvise,  while retaining the same robustness and highest level of classical note-reading, scales, technical work, aural efficiency, sight-reading and so on.

Advantages and Benefits

The hallmarks of great musicianship is not just about technique and memorising set pieces from another composer, note for note. The hallmarks of great musicianship include a personal, creative response towards music – this is one, big neglected component in the arena of music education.  Mozart, Beethoven were great improvisers by the way, thus invariably, allowing them to compose as well.


The ANZCA Modern Pianoforte syllabus requires highly qualified music coaches who are equally skilled in both traditional notation and classical approaches as well as creative improvisation in modern music.

All Northwood Music coaches are BOTH classically trained and are able to skilfully improvise at the same time – allowing this combined method to be taught.


There are many music examination boards in the world, eg. ABRSM, Trinity Guildhall, London College, ANZCA, TCL, etc. Each board has its own characteristics and features.

This is the official reply from the Curriculum Planning and Development Division, Ministry of Education, Singapore:

“MOE is not an authority that accords recognition to qualifications. The Music Unit in MOE-CPDD does not endorse any particular music examination board certifications.

The listing of grade requirement from the examination boards to enrol for ‘O’ and ‘A’ level Music /Music Elective Programme course is a guide to understand the pre-requisite music skill/knowledge required for the various GCE music examinations. We recognise that there are equivalent certifications and/or music experience (e.g. Music CCA) that will assist students to meet the pre-requisites. The teachers in the schools are encouraged to make their assessment based on what they have seen and heard from the students (rather than to depend on paper qualification alone) to determine whether the students are ready to sit for the GCE Music courses.”

An eg: Comparison between ANZCA and ABRSM(eg. grade 1 level)
The table below shows how ANZCA is several times more challenging than ABRSM syllabus.

ABRSM grade 1ANZCA grade 1
melodic minors: optionalmelodic minors: compulsory
harmonic minors: yesharmonic minors: yes
broken chords: 1 octavearpeggios: one and half octaves
triad conversion: niltriad conversion is required
interval identification: nilinterval identification: 3rds, 5ths, 8ths
General Knowledge of composer, title, signs and terms in the piece: nilGeneral Knowledge of composer, title, signs, terms, time signature, key, notes and rests of pieces is expected
Sight reading: 8 bars. Single handSight reading: 8 bars. Double hands.
Pieces: 3 set pieces. Repertoire choice generally limited to set book.Pieces. 3 set pieces. Repertoire is unlimited.

How do students fare?

Our ANZCA-trained piano students are admitted into the MOE’s Music Elective Programme (MEP) of various secondary schools [This shows quite clearly that MOE does not favour one exam board over another, but the level of musicianship of the student].

We also have ANZCA -trained students who have achieved Gold in the Ars Nova Piano Competitions/Festivals. Our modern piano students also have experience playing and performing in public arenas, and many have gone to score first class distinctions in ANZCA, LCM examinations too.

Quote from Dr Robert Keane, senior examiner, ANZCA, M.Music, PhD.: “Northwood prepares its students really well. They demonstrate the ability to go beyond the written score and creatively handle improvisation confidently. Well done!’


At Northwood, each child is assessed carefully in order to see which board is best suitable -based on his/her abilities and interests. This way, there is much greater sustainability of learning in the long run.


For more information on this curriculum, please go to the ‘Contemporary Piano’ section.


For more information on this curriculum, please go to the ‘Jazz Piano’ section.

I have benefited tremendously from Northwood’s improvisational and creative concepts taught in my music education, beyond just the ‘exam’ stuff that I have to do (scales, aural, sight reading, etc.). Also, the modern repertoire allows me to experience playing different genres of music, improving my sense of rhythm and harmony as well.

There are also ample opportunities for piano performance, either through recitals or public performances, these have helped me gained more confidence as a pianist.

In my school’s Music Elective Programme for which I am enrolled in, the creative concepts I have learnt have helped me see things in a different perspective and this has enlarged my outlook on music as a whole. Thank you Northwood, I will surely continue to work hard! – Isaac Ang,  ANZCA Grade 8, Honours.