AMEB Classical Guitar Preparation

Sydney Eastern Suburbs Classical Guitar Lessons

If you're interested in preparation for any Classical Guitar examination, please contact me for detailed instructions regarding lessons and tutoring.


The Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) for guitar exams are divided up into levels, starting at the Preliminary, and then Grade 1 up to Grade 8. At this stage they move into nationally recognised diplomas, AMusA, LMusA. For the average student it should take approximately one year of development and hard work at each grade up to Grade 5 and then about two years development and hard work from Grade 6 to 8. This can vary greatly between different individuals.

An exam is divided into six sections; 

  • Technical Work
  • Set Pieces
  • Sight Reading
  • Aural Tests
  • General Knowledge and 
  • Extra Works

The Technical Work can include up to a dozen scales, half a dozen arpeggios and set exercises for both the left and right hands. This is heavily weighted in an exam, is extremely important for the development of good technique and facility on a guitar and is the one most neglected by students in their practice at home – especially for students who wish to do music “just for fun” or “do the work without sitting the exam”. The biggest difference in sitting for these exams and not sitting for these exams is the need to complete a technical work segment including scales, arpeggios, and set technical exercises.

The Set Pieces are divided into 3-4 lists depending on the grade, from which each student must choose at least one. The benefit of having Set Pieces divided into these different lists is that a broad range of genres is covered in the development throughout the year, as each list represents a different genre of music.

The Sight Reading is an important skill in music, and quite well prepared by being involved in the Music Co-Curricular program such as the Guitar Orchestra. Aural Tests are valuable as we learn an aural art form, and best prepared for by by using a quality aural training book available from the local music store. General Knowledge is taught at the basic level of guitar lessons, although from Grade 5 onwards a lack of theory knowledge (and lessons) becomes transparent.

When are the AMEB classical guitar exams?

The exams only happen once in Canberra (June), although it is possible to travel to Sydney at the end of the year(s). That said; full preparation for an exam does take a full year to complete. 

What are the pros and cons of an AMEB classical guitar exam?

Many people believe that a “Classical” guitar player plays just classical music. This title is meant more like “classic” or “traditional” method of learning. Some people tend to think of this as “Spanish” guitar. Both of these titles are slightly misleading, yes we do cover these two genres of music, but there is so much more to learn and covered in the syllabus that can cover Jazz, Blues, Folk music from many corners of the world, also the fundamentals of music and guitar playing that transcend genres.

AMEB exams have many pros as it leads towards a day where the student must front up with a well prepared, well balanced performance to an external examiner. This examiner is an expert in the field of guitar playing and should reflect comments that the teacher has already being saying, thus reinforcing it. The syllabus is set and there is no negotiation with the technical work. The levels can be seen as achievement for children and setting these goals can provide a positive sense of progression. Successful exam candidates are presented with a nationally recognised certificate.

On the other hand, exams are not for everyone, particularly the young students in the initial years – the requirements can be too much for little hands; forced into something that they are not physically ready for yet can be counter-productive. An exam is a big commitment of practice (With great results of progress if fully embraced), I have found that it is nearly impossible to “cram” for a practical music exam, and good results only come with steady practice throughout the year.

More information can be found at the AMEB website