The UK has many schools that as part of their admissions process, use some form of musical aptitude testing. This might be for general admissions (in the case of specialist music schools) or for a select few music scholarships within the general body of admissions.
At the bottom of this article is a list of all schools that I’ve been able to find that currently use musical aptitude testing or have done recently. To find out more resources and tips on passing a musical aptitude exam checkout our school.
The rest of this article is going to go through how musical aptitude tests are used in secondary schools in the United Kingdom.
Secondary/high school musical aptitude tests
Aptitude tests are designed to work out a student’s ‘inherent’ musical ability. This means that theoretically, a child can do really well even if they’ve never played an instrument or studied music before.
However, through the last 10 years as a private music teacher – I’ve seen that the students who have prepared even a little, either through playing an instrument or through exercising simple practice techniques, tend to do a lot better than those who do no preparation at all.
Still, it is very possible that a student who doesn’t do preparation, still does well on an aptitude test. And it is also possible that experienced music students can fail the test. So in my opinion, musical aptitude tests are not without flaws in their design!
Passing or failing musical aptitude tests
Getting into the right secondary school is incredibly important for most families. It can really determine a child’s school career and of course impacts the rest of their life. The important thing to realise however is that feeling doesn’t necessarily mean the child is “unmusical”.
But leaving the child’s outcome in a test to chance is not advisable, and it is very possible to prepare well for musical aptitude tests.
How to pass a secondary school musical aptitude test
So what do you need to do to prepare your child for a musical aptitude test? Particularly, what do you do if the test is coming up only a few weeks from now and you want to prime their ears and ensure that they do the best that they possibly can on the day?
The primary thing is to get them thinking about how music works. Generally speaking, everyone in our society enjoys and partakes in music very regularly. That’s not the issue.
The issue is that, we are hardly ever asked to think about the “architecture” of music, i.e. what it made up of? What are the patterns? How does it work?
The classic question gets asked in a musical aptitude test is “is the second note higher or lower”. This question is the entry point for someone beginning to increase their musical awareness. It asks that the listener place pitches in a vertical spectrum, and ascertain whether one is higher or lower than the other.
Beyond this there are many other and more detailed exercises to enhance students musical awareness. You can find all of these in my free courses on musical aptitude. I’ve taken the tools, techniques and practice exercises that I’ve found and developed over 10 years of teaching and put them into simple free online courses.
Encourage your child’s musical abilities and awareness from the outset.
Whatever you do, with this material and others – it really comes down to encouraging your child and their thinking and comprehension with music. What do we do when our child suddenly starts speaking or understanding? We are really encouraging and positive at the smallest amount of comprehension, and don’t stop complementing and assisting their progress towards fluency. We ask more of them and don’t stop stimulating them with language and comprehension.
You must do exactly the same with music. However, if you yourself are not “musical” many of my free courses can teach you the essential tips on helping your child develop musical awareness. It takes very little to assist a child’s musical awareness, and the videos in the courses will show you how.
To find out more resources and tips on passing a musical aptitude exam checkout our school.
A complete list of secondary schools with musical aptitude testing
Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School
Bristol Cathedral Choir School
Bushey Meads School
Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School
Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester
Claremont High School
Claremont High School Academy
Cooper’s Company and Coburn School
Dame Alice Owen’s
Dulwich Piano Festival
Elmhurst School for Dance and Performing Arts, Birmingham
Fortismere in Muswell Hil
Hammond School in Chester
Hertfordshire & Essex High School
King David and St. Edwards College
Langley Grammar School
Mill Hill County High School
Old Swinford Hospital
Prendergast Hilly Fields
Purcell School of Music, Watford
Queen’s School Bushey
Royal Ballet School, London
South West Herts School consortium
St Anne’s Catholic School, Southampton
St Clement Danes
St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh
St Mary’s & St John’s CE School
St Marylebone Church of England School
St Paul’s Way Trust School
St. Clement Danes
The Bishop’s Stortford High School
The Hertfordshire & Essex High School
The Yehudi Menuhin School
Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, Tring Park, Herts
Uxbridge High School
Watford Grammar School
Watford Grammar School for Boys
Wells Cathedral School, near Bath
William Ellis School