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Cello Grade 4 Cello

The Cello Grade 4 exam consists of three pieces, chosen by the candidate from the appropriate lists in the current syllabus, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading and aural tests.

Total marks in all individual Practical exams are 150. 100 marks are required to achieve a Pass, 120 marks to pass with Merit and 130 marks to pass with Distinction.

Cello Grade 4 (from 2016)

Cello requirements and information

Subject code: 05

The Cello requirements and information provide a summary of the most important points that teachers and candidates need to know when taking ABRSM Cello exams.

They are detailed within the exam sections below (Pieces, Scales and arpeggios, Sight-reading and Aural tests), immediately after the grade-specific requirements, and are available to download here.

Further details, as well as administrative information relating to the exams, are given in ABRSM’s Information & Regulations which should be read before an exam booking is made.


There are eight grades for Cello and candidates may be entered in any grade irrespective of age and without previously having taken any other grade in Cello. Candidates for a Grade 6, 7 or 8 exam must already have passed ABRSM Grade 5 (or above) in Music Theory, Practical Musicianship or a solo Jazz subject; for full details, including a list of accepted alternatives, see Regulation 1d.


Candidates are required to perform on acoustic instruments (electric instruments are not permitted). Any size of instrument may be used. Examiners apply the marking criteria (which include the assessment of pitch, tone and musical shaping) to assess musical outcomes without reference to the specific attributes of the instrument.

In the exam

Examiners: Generally, there will be one examiner in the exam room; however, for training and quality assurance purposes, a second examiner may sometimes be present. Examiners may ask to look at the music before or after the performance of a piece (a separate copy is not required: the candidate’s or accompanist’s copy will suffice). Examiners may also decide to stop the performance of a piece when they have heard enough to form a judgment. They will not issue, or comment on, a candidate’s result; instead, the mark form (and certificate for successful candidates) will be issued by ABRSM after the exam.

Tuning: In Grades 1–5, the teacher or accompanist may tune the candidate’s instrument (or advise on tuning) before the exam begins. In Grades 6–8, candidates must tune their instrument themselves. Examiners are unable to help with tuning.

Seating: A chair/stool will be provided for cello candidates.

Order of the exam: The individual sections of the exam may be undertaken in any order, at the candidate’s choice, although it is always preferable for accompanied pieces to be performed consecutively.

Further information


Three pieces: one chosen by the candidate from each of the three Lists, A, B and C - 30 marks each

List A

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 Beethoven
arr. Bruce and Wells
download download Come fill, fill, my good fellow
More Time Pieces for Cello, Vol. 2, arr. Bruce and Wells

More details
2 attrib. Stradella
arr. Bruce and Wells
download download Pietà, Signore
More Time Pieces for Cello, Vol. 2, arr. Bruce and Wells

More details
3 Boyce
arr. Black and Harris
download download Minuet
from Concerto Grosso in B minor
Time Pieces for Cello, Vol. 3, arr. Black and Harris

More details
4 Cirri download download Allegro or Adagio
1st movt or 2nd movt from Sonata in C
Cirri: Cello Sonata in C
Schott (CB 192)

More details
No. 1 from Cirri: Three Sonatas for Cello
Heinrichshofen (N1283)

More details
5 attrib. Henry VIII
arr. Huws Jones
download download Pastime with good company
(cello melody; incl. second verse)
The Fiddler Playalong Cello Collection, arr. Huws Jones
Boosey & Hawkes

More details
6 Telemann
arr. East
download download Air Trompette
from Der getreue Musikmeister
Play Baroque!, arr. East
Stainer & Bell (H479)

More details

List B

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 Järnefelt download download Berceuse
Järnefelt: Berceuse
Chester (CH00305)

More details
2 O'Carolan
arr. Huws Jones
download download Carolan's Air
(cello melody)
The Fiddler Playalong Cello Collection, arr. Huws Jones
Boosey & Hawkes

More details
3 Tchaikovsky
arr. Black and Harris
download download Humoreske
Time Pieces for Cello, Vol. 3, arr. Black and Harris

More details
4 Weissenborn download download Humoreske
from Arioso and Humoreske, Op. 9
Weissenborn: Arioso and Humoreske, Op. 9

More details
First Repertoire for Cello, Book 3, arr. Legg and Alan Gout

More details
5 Wolf
arr. Sassmannshaus
download download Wiegenlied (Lullaby)
Concert Pieces for Cello, arr. Sassmannshaus
Bärenreiter (BA 9695)

More details
6 Henry Wood
arr. Bruce and Wells
download download Tom Bowling
from Fantasia on British Sea Songs
More Time Pieces for Cello, Vol. 2, arr. Bruce and Wells

More details

List C

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 Gershwin
arr. Gout
download download Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
Play Gershwin for Cello, arr. Gout

More details
2 Grainger
arr. Bruce and Wells
download download Shepherd’s Hey
More Time Pieces for Cello, Vol. 2, arr. Bruce and Wells

More details
3 John Graves download download It is Market Day in the Square
from Cathedral City
John Graves: Cathedral City
Schott (ED 11047)

More details
4 Purcell, arr. Cornick download download Fairest Isle
Blue Baroque for Cello, arr. Cornick
Universal (UE 21381)

More details
5 Squire download download Joyeuse (At Morn)
No. 2 from Petits morceaux, Op. 16
Squire: Petits morceaux, Op. 16
Stainer & Bell (H409)

More details
The Squire Cello Solo Collection
Carl Fischer

More details
6 Pam Wedgwood download download Sometime Maybe
No. 8 from Jazzin' About for Cello
Pam Wedgwood: Jazzin' About for Cello

More details

Cello requirements and information: Pieces

Programme planning: Candidates must choose one piece from each of the three lists (A, B and C) in each grade. In the exam, they should inform the examiner which pieces they are performing, and they are welcome to use the Exam programme & running order form (PDF) for this purpose.

Accompaniment: A live piano accompaniment is required for all pieces, except those which are published as studies or unaccompanied works. Candidates must provide their own accompanist, who may remain in the exam room only while accompanying. The candidate’s teacher may act as accompanist (examiners will not). If necessary, the accompanist may simplify any part of the piano accompaniment, provided the result is musically satisfactory.

Exam music & editions: Wherever the syllabus includes an arrangement or transcription, the edition listed in the syllabus must be used in the exam; in all such cases the abbreviation ‘arr.’ or ‘trans.’ appears in the syllabus entry. For all other pieces, the editions quoted in the syllabus are given for guidance only and candidates may use any edition of their choice (in- or out-of-print or downloadable).

Interpreting the score: Printed editorial suggestions such as fingering, bowing, metronome marks, realization of ornaments etc. need not be strictly observed. Whether the piece contains musical indications or not, candidates are always encouraged to interpret the score in a stylistically appropriate manner. Ultimately, examiners’ marking will be determined by consideration of pitch, time, tone, shape and performance, and how control of these contributes to the overall musical outcome.

Vibrato: The use and control of vibrato, and its effect on tone and shape, will be taken into account by examiners, who will be assessing the overall musical outcome. Pieces whose full musical effect is heavily reliant on vibrato tend not to appear in the syllabus before around Grade 5.

Repeats: All da capo and dal segno indications should be observed but all other repeats (including first-time bars) should be omitted unless they are very brief (i.e. of a few bars) or unless the syllabus specifies otherwise.

Cadenzas & tuttis: Cadenzas should not be played unless the syllabus specifies otherwise. Lengthy orchestral tutti sections should be cut.

Performing from memory: Candidates are free to perform any of their pieces from memory; in such cases they must ensure that a copy of the music is available for the examiner to refer to if necessary. No additional marks are awarded for playing from memory.

Page-turns: Examiners will be understanding if a page-turn causes a lack of continuity during a piece, and this will not affect the marking. A variety of solutions for awkward page-turns exists, including the use of an additional copy of the music or a photocopy of a section of the piece (but see ‘Photocopies’ below). In cases where candidates believe there is no solution to a particularly awkward page-turn, they may apply to bring a page-turner to the exam. The request must be made to the Syllabus Department no later than the closing date for entry, and details of the piece, edition and nature of the difficulty should be given. If permission is granted, a confirmation letter will be issued which must be taken to the exam as verification. Examiners are unable to help with page-turning. In a Grade 8 exam, a candidate’s accompanist is permitted to bring a page-turner to assist with page-turns in the piano part (prior permission is not required).

Photocopies: Performing from unauthorized photocopies (or other kinds of copies) of copyright editions is not allowed. ABRSM may withhold the exam result where it has evidence of an illegal copy (or copies) being used. In the UK, copies may be used in certain limited circumstances – for full details, see the MPA’s Code of Fair Practice at In all other cases, application should be made to the copyright holder before any copy is made, and evidence of permission received should be brought to the exam.

Scales and arpeggios

21 marks




bowing requirements

rhythm pattern


Eb, F, A, Bb majors

C, D, G minors
(harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s choice)

2 octaves

separate bows and slurred
(2 beats to a bow)

even notes or long tonic, at candidate's choice


Eb, F, A, Bb majors

C, D, G minors

2 octaves

separate bows and slurred
(3 notes to a bow)

even notes

Dominant sevenths
(resolving on tonic)

In the keys of G and C §

1 octave

separate bows

even notes

Chromatic scales

Starting on D and G §

1 octave

separate bows and slurred
(4 notes to a bow)

even notes

§ Starting on bottom D and on open string G, respectively


Cello requirements and information: Scales and arpeggios

Examiners will usually ask for at least one of each type of scale/arpeggio etc. required at each grade, as well as aiming to hear a balance of separately-bowed and slurred requirements. When asking for requirements, examiners will specify only:

  • the key (including minor form – harmonic or melodic – in the Grade 6–8 scales) or the starting note
  • separate bows or slurred (except for where the requirements are to be prepared with separate bows only – e.g. Grade 1 arpeggios)

All scales and arpeggios should:

  • be played from memory
  • be played from the lowest possible tonic/starting note, unless the syllabus indicates otherwise
  • ascend and descend according to the specified range (and pattern)

Candidates are free to use any fingering that produces a successful musical outcome. For major and minor scales (and double-stop scales in parallel sixths/octaves) candidates may choose between two rhythm patterns: even notes or long tonic. Arpeggios, dominant and diminished sevenths are required in root position only. All dominant sevenths must finish by resolving on the tonic.

Books of scale requirements are published for Cello by ABRSM.

Bowing will generally dictate the tempi of slurred scales and arpeggios. Separately bowed requirements should be played briskly, using no more than half the bow length. The speeds below are given as a general guide.


21 marks

A piece of around eight bars in length, time and key signatures as Grade 3, with the addition of 6/8, Eb major and C minor. Shifts between 1st and 4th positions may be encountered. Occasional chromatic notes. Anacrusis, hooked bowing, accents and pause signs may be included.

Cello requirements and information: Sight-reading

Candidates will be asked to play a short unaccompanied piece of music which they have not previously seen. They will be given up to half a minute in which to look through and, if they wish, try out all or any part of the test before they are required to play it for assessment. The main technical parameters are outlined for the grade (see above); once introduced, these parameters apply for all subsequent grades (albeit with a logical progression of difficulty). For practice purposes, books of specimen sight-reading tests are published for Cello by ABRSM.

Aural tests

18 marks

  1. To sing or play from memory a melody played twice by the examiner. The melody will be within the range of an octave, in a major or minor key with up to three sharps or flats. First the examiner will play the key-chord and the starting note and then count in two bars. (If the candidate chooses to play, the examiner will also name the key-chord and the starting note, as appropriate for the instrument.) If necessary, the examiner will play the melody again and allow a second attempt (although this will affect the assessment).
  2. To sing five notes from score in free time. The candidate may choose to sing from treble or bass clef. The notes will be within the range of a third above and below the tonic in the key of C, F or G major. The test will begin and end on the tonic and will not contain intervals greater than a third. First the examiner will name and play the key-chord and the starting note. If necessary, the examiner will help the candidate by playing and identifying the correct note if any note is sung at the wrong pitch.
  3. (i) To answer questions about two features of a piece played by the examiner. Before playing, the examiner will tell the candidate which two features the questions will be about. The first will be one of the following: dynamics, articulation, tempo, tonality; the second will be character.

    (ii) To clap the rhythm of the notes in an extract from the same piece, and to identify whether it is in two time, three time or four time. The examiner will play the extract twice (unharmonized), after which the candidate should clap back the rhythm. The examiner will then ask whether the music is in two time, three time or four time. The candidate is not required to state the time signature.


Cello requirements and information: Aural tests

Aural test requirements are the same for all subjects.

Listening lies at the heart of all good music-making. Developing aural awareness is fundamental to musical training because having a ‘musical ear’ impacts on all aspects of musicianship. Singing, both silently in the head and out loud, is one of the best ways to develop the ‘musical ear’. It connects the internal imagining of sound, the ‘inner ear’, with the external creation of it, without the necessity of mechanically having to ‘find the note’ on an instrument (important though that connection is). By integrating aural activities in imaginative ways in the lesson, preparation for the aural tests within an exam will be a natural extension of what is already an essential part of the learning experience.

In the exam

Aural tests are an integral part of all Practical graded exams. The tests are administered by the examiner from the piano. For any test that requires a sung response, pitch rather than vocal quality is the object. The examiner will be happy to adapt to the vocal range of the candidate, whose responses may be sung to any vowel (or consonant followed by a vowel), hummed or whistled (and at a different octave, if appropriate).


A number of tests allow for a second attempt or for an additional playing by the examiner, if necessary. Also, where there is hesitation on the part of the candidate, the examiner will be ready to prompt, if necessary. In any such cases, this will affect the assessment. Marks are not awarded for each individual test nor deducted for mistakes but reflect the candidate’s overall response in this section.

Specimen tests

Examples of the tests are given in new editions (from 2011) of Specimen Aural Tests and Aural Training in Practice, available for purchase from music retailers and from the ABRSM music shop.

Deaf or hearing-impaired candidates

Deaf or hearing-impaired candidates may opt to respond to alternative tests in place of the standard tests, if requested at the time of entry. Further information, including the syllabus for the alternative tests, is available at

Publications & audio

Supporting applications

Violin Practice Partner

Violin Practice Partner is a simple way to make practising pieces for your ABRSM exam more musical, enjoyable and fun.

Scales Trainer

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


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