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Scales and arpeggios

What are the benefits of scales and arpeggios?

You can develop many aspects of technique through scale practice, including:

  • familiarity with the physicality of your instrument or voice
  • articulation
  • tone
  • intonation

Scales and arpeggios also help you to develop an understanding of keys, giving confidence when sight-reading, learning new pieces and performing.

For wind players scales and arpeggios will also help breathing; for string players, bowing control; and for all instrumentalists, in developing general coordination!

Watch Grade 5 Piano scales and arpeggios

What happens in the exam?

  • All scales and arpeggios are played from memory in the exam
  • Examiners will usually ask for at least one type of scale/arpeggio required at each grade and aim to hear a balance of the articulation requirements
  • Details of scales and arpeggios requirements for each grade can be found in the syllabus for your instrument

Marking criteria for scales and arpeggios

Marking principles

In each element of the exam, ABRSM operates the principle of marking from the required pass mark positively or negatively, rather than awarding marks by deduction from the maximum or addition from zero.

All instruments except Voice (Grades 1-8)


Scales and arpeggios


  • Highly accurate notes/pitch
  • Fluent and rhythmic
  • Musically shaped
  • Confident response


  • Largely accurate notes/pitch
  • Mostly regular flow
  • Mainly even tone
  • Secure response


  • Generally correct notes/pitch, despite errors
  • Continuity generally maintained
  • Generally reliable tone
  • Cautious response

Below Pass

  • Frequent errors in notes and/or pitch
  • Lacking continuity and/or some items incomplete
  • Unreliable tone
  • Uncertain response and/or some items not attempted


  • Very approximate notes and/or pitch
  • Sporadic and/or frequently incomplete
  • Serious lack of tonal control
  • Very uncertain response and/or several items not attempted


  • No work offered

Supporting app

Scales Trainer

Scales Trainer is an app that helps increase fluency with ABRSM scales and arpeggios requirements.


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