Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program?

The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program provides a recognized national standard and sequenced program for people studying music privately, from beginner through advanced levels. The program’s assessments allow students to track their progress and celebrate their accomplishments. In addition, the assessments 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 Music Development Program different from other assessment systems?

The Music Development 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, assessment system, the Music Development 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.

What are the advantages of the Music Development Program for students?

The Music Development 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 Music Development Program also supports life and learning skills needed for innovation in a global world: creative process, problem solving, discipline, self-regulated learning, and focus.

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 assessments and supporting resources. It recognizes individual achievement at a national level.

A national standard maintains integrity of assessment through the constant review of adjudicators, 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 does the Music Development Program support my local or state assessment program?

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

Is the Music Development Program everywhere?

Teachers and students can participate in the Music Development Program anywhere in the United States. Established assessment centers can already be found in many states. Check for nearby centers, or contact us at 1.866.716.2223 for information on starting a center in your area.

What is a Music Development Program assessment?

The Music Development Program performance assessment is a comprehensive, professional evaluation of a student’s understanding and abilities on their chosen instrument at a specific level. The Music Development Program also offers comprehensive, professionally developed, and internationally recognized assessments in theoretical subjects, including rudiments, harmony, and music history.

What are performance assessments?

The Music Development Program performance assessment is a comprehensive evaluation of a student’s current abilities on his/her chosen instrument, including voice. Students and teachers work together to choose and prepare a selection of repertoire to perform for the adjudicator as well as preparing technical and musicianship requirements according to the syllabus/program guidelines. Upon successful completion of the assessment, students have access to the adjudicator’s comments in detailed marking forms. Once all the components of an assessment 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.

What happens in a performance assessment?

The Music Development Program’s performance assessment is designed to be a warm and welcoming experience, one on one with a professional, program-certified adjudicator. Students will be greeted in a friendly and engaging manner by their adjudicator, and will be able to perform their materials in an order they have selected in consultation with their teacher. Because the Music Development Program is a comprehensive program, all aspects that have been prepared, including repertoire, études, ear tests, and sight reading, will be heard by the adjudicator. As a result, students, families, and teachers can be assured that the assessment represents the student’s complete musical achievements in a fair manner at the time of the assessment.

What can a student expect in a performance assessment?

Performance assessments 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 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 assessment 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.
Who are the adjudicators?

The Music Development Program is adjudicated by 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. Adjudicators undergo a competitive admissions process and must meet a minimum qualifying standard before being accepted as apprentice adjudicators.

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 adjudicator.

All adjudicators engage in yearly professional development and are subject to annual performance reviews. Please contact the Music Development Program at 1.866.716.2223 if you are interested in becoming an adjudicator.

How many adjudicators will there be?

To ensure that the assessment is both a professional and comfortable experience, the assessment takes place in a one-on-one session between the student and the adjudicator. Occasionally a second adjudicator may be present for training and/or quality assurance purposes.

Are parents and teachers allowed to watch the assessment?

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

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

How are practical assessments marked?

The adjudicator’s report will provide both number grades and written comments on each aspect of the assessment. The Music Development Program’s adjudicators 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 Music Development 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 adjudicator’s report will reflect the areas that require further growth and development.

What are academic assessments?

The Music Development Program academic assessments are progressively leveled evaluations of a student’s comprehensive understanding of Rudiments (basic theory), Harmony, Counterpoint, Analysis, and Music History. Assessments are written in a classroom setting. The length of each assessment varies from one to three hours depending on the level. Check the Theory Syllabus online for more details

Are the academic and performance assessments given at the same time?

No, academic and performance assessments are scheduled at different times in order to allow students the opportunity to take both an academic and a performance assessment in the same session. This is particularly useful for students interested in achieving the academic and performance levels required for the comprehensive certificate at the same time of year.

Can I take an assessment more than once?

Yes. Students may reregister for and retake an assessment 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 assessment fee cover?

The Music Development Program is a high-quality, national program. When you register for an assessment with the Music Development Program, the fee covers administrative costs associated with the assessment. The Music Development Program schedules the assessment, books a location, arranges to have a center representative at the assessment center, covers all costs to have the adjudicator at the local center for a practical (performance) assessment, processes the assessment report, provides students and teachers with online access to assessment results, and distributes Certificates of Achievement.

What do I need to do to have my students participate in the Music Development Program assessments?

Teachers interested in registering their students for the Music Development Program assessments 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/program guide for their instrument(s) as well as a theory syllabus to ensure that they prepare their students effectively. Teachers are also advised to get to know their local center representative(s), who will be able to provide excellent information and advice about the Music Development Program’s activities and upcoming events. Name and contact information for center representatives can be found here. Registration for assessments is available online at

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

Students can enter the Music Development Program at any level and can move from level to level at their own pace. Students and teachers should consult the syllabus/program guide to determine the appropriate level.

How do 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 selections in the Music Development Program make 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. Because the program is open to all approaches to teaching, there may be new terminology that needs to be introduced to ensure your students are comfortable with the process and the language.

Are the Music Development Program levels related to age or school grade?

The Music Development Program levels are based on stages of musical development rather than age or school grades. Students of all ages may register for assessments at any level. Beginners from all generations as well as young virtuosos achieve their Music Development Program levels 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 assessment 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 assessments in order from the beginning?

Students can register for an assessment at any level and are not required to “start at the beginning” or take the assessments in direct order. Generally, students will be encouraged to register for a particular level based on the in-lesson assessment 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 assessment level.

How can I prepare students for the musicianship portion of the Music Development Program’s assessment?

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 Music Development Program has a wide range of resources for the teaching and development of musicianship skills. These resources are leveled according to the Music Development Program’s assessment levels, and can be used by instrumentalists and singers alike. Click here to view our resources.

What are the Associate and Licentiate diplomas?

These two diplomas represent the pinnacle of achievement within the Music Development Program.

Students may apply for the Associate diploma assessment upon completion of the Level 10 performance assessment and all corequisite academic assessments. The Performer’s diploma assessment 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 assessments waived.

The Licentiate diploma in piano performance is the culmination of the Music Development Program in piano. The assessment 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.

Are there dues for teachers?

The Music Development Program does not charge teachers any membership fees. You may register for a free account with Music Development Program at  All administrative costs and responsibilities are covered by the program.

Are there volunteer requirements for teachers?

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

How do I open an assessment center?

Please call the Music Development Program directly at 1.866.716.2223 for full details on opening an assessment center.

How do I find a teacher?

Call the Music Development Program at 1.866.716.2223 to find a teacher near you.

Where do I register for an assessment?

You can register for an assessment online at

Can teachers register their own students?

Teachers are most welcome to register their students for the Music Development Program assessments in all sessions. Parents may also register their children. Individual students can also register.

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

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

When do assessments take place?

The Music Development Program holds assessments three times during the year. Consult for an up-to-date listing of assessment dates and registration deadlines.

Do the assessments only take place on weekends?

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

Where do I go to take my assessment?

To view available assessment centers in your area, click here.

If you do not find an assessment center nearby, please call the Music Development Program directly at 1.866.716.2223 for full details on opening a center.

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

If you cannot attend your assessment 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 assessment fee or a 50% refund of the assessment fee. If approved, a credit may be used when the student registers again for an assessment within one year.

How do I get my assessment results?

The Music Development Program performance and academic results are available online at Assessment 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 assessment results?

Performance assessment results, which include a copy of the assessment form, are generally available four to six weeks after the assessment has taken place. Academic assessment results are generally available six weeks after the assessment. 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 assessment.

What resources does the Music Development Program offer?

The Music Development Program is pleased to be able to provide a wealth of resources to aid teachers in student preparation. In addition to the free resources available from the Music Development Program, you will find many supporting publications in the annual catalog of The Frederick Harris Music Co., Limited, including a selection of workbooks for music theory (rudiments, harmony, music history), as well as progressively leveled collections of repertoire, études, technique, and orchestral excerpts for several instruments. Publications for preparing for the musicianship portion of assessments are also available. Visit the online bookstore here.

What are the Music Development Program syllabi?

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

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

Where can I obtain syllabi?

Many of the Music Development Program syllabi are available online. If you are interested in a print copy of an online syllabus, or a syllabus not included in our online offerings, please visit the online bookstore to order a syllabus or for a list of music retailers in your area.

Where can I learn about updates and changes to the Music Development Program syllabi?

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

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

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

How do you maintain a consistent approach to adjudication nationwide?

Adjudicators undergo a competitive admissions process and must meet a minimum qualifying standard before being accepted as apprentice adjudicators. Adjudicators complete an intensive series of lectures, demonstrations, and a practicum, coupled with a full year of observation in the field, before promotion to full adjudicator. All adjudicators 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 happens if a student does not pass a level?

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

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

How can assessments be exchanged for high school or college credit? What states or schools are now offering this?

The Music Development Program's assessments have been used for high school and college credits. Currently, these decisions are made by individual boards and schools. Contact your school's guidance counselor or academic adviser for specific details.

How does the Music Development Program benefit adults studying music?

The Music Development Program is a sequenced course of musical study appropriate for all levels and ages. Many adults participate in the Music Development Program, as they consider the assessments 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 Music Development Program is a comprehensive program that allows students of all ages and ability levels 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 Music Develoment Program. The recognized national standard and sequenced levels of assessment allow all students to track their progress and celebrate their accomplishments.

Is an assessment the same as an examination?

Yes, currently the terms are interchangeable.

Is an adjudicator the same as an examiner?

Yes, currently the terms are interchangeable.

Why have the theory requirements been changed?

The Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition has been updated to reflect current pedagogy and to better support practical studies and the development of well-rounded musicianship at all levels.