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Guitar 8 Guitar

Guitar Grade 8 exams consist of three pieces, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests.

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

Guitar Grade 8 (from 2019)

Guitar requirements and information

Our Guitar requirements and information summarise the most important points that teachers and candidates need to know when taking ABRSM graded Guitar exams.

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

Further exam details and administrative information are given in our Information & Regulations, which you should read before booking an exam.


There are eight grades of exam for Guitar and candidates may be entered for any grade irrespective of age and without previously having taken any other grade in Guitar. 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 instrument. For full details, including a list of accepted alternatives, see Prerequisite for Grades 6-8.


This syllabus is only appropriate for the standard classical instrument fitted with nylon strings (guitars with a cutaway body are permitted). Candidates may choose to use a capo at the 2nd or 3rd fret for the pieces in Grades 7 and 8 that have an optional F# tuning; no other use of the capo is permitted unless specified by the composer.

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 copy will suffice). Examiners may stop the performance of a piece when they have heard enough to form a judgment. They will not issue or discuss a candidate’s result. Instead, the mark form (and certificate for successful candidates) will be issued by ABRSM after the exam.

Order of the exam: The individual sections of the exam may be taken in any order, at the candidate’s choice, although it is preferable for accompanied pieces to be performed consecutively and at the beginning of the exam. For more information on accompanied pieces, see ‘Guitar requirements and information: Pieces’ in the ‘Pieces’ section below.

Tuning: The guitar should be tuned before entering the exam room, but in cases at Grades 1–5 where the candidate is playing with a piano accompaniment the teacher or accompanist may tune the candidate’s instrument to the piano (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.

Footstools: Candidates should provide their own footstool (or other form of guitar support) if required.

Music stands: All ABRSM public venues provide a music stand, but candidates are welcome to bring their own if they prefer. The examiner will be happy to help adjust the height or position of the stand.

Further information


Candidates choose three pieces, one from each list (A, B and C) – 30 marks each. Candidates may perform one of their three pieces accompanied by piano where indicated with a * in the Lists.

List A

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 J. S. Bach
trans. Koonce or Willard
4th movt from Suite in A minor, BWV 997
J. S. Bach: The Solo Lute Works for Guitar, trans. Koonce
Neil Kjos Music (KJ15022)

More details
J. S. Bach: Lute Suites for Guitar, trans. Willard
Ariel Publications (AM27616)

More details
2 J. S. Bach
arr. Wright
from Suite No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1008
J. S. Bach: Cello Suites 1–4, arr. Wright
Cadenza Music

More details
3 Cimarosa
arr. Bream
Sonata No. 2 in A
Cimarosa: Three Sonatas, arr. Bream

More details
4 Dowland
arr. Scheit
The Frog Galliard
(F♯ tuning optional)
Dowland: Solowerke I, arr. Scheit
Universal (UE16699)

More details
5 Narváez
trans. Pujol
Baxa de contrapunto
(F♯ tuning optional)
Hispanae Citharae Ars Viva, trans. Pujol
Schott (GA 176)

More details
6 M. Ponce Gavotte
4th movt from Suite in A minor
M. Ponce: Suite in A minor
Editions Musicales Transatlantiques (ETR001673)

More details
7 D. Scarlatti
arr. Batchelar and Wright
Sonata in E minor
Kp. 292, L. 24
No. 8 from Scarlatti for Guitar, arr. Batchelar and Wright

More details
8* Vivaldi
trans. Fernández
Allegro giusto
1st movt from Concerto in D, RV 93, F. XII No. 15
(guitar to play in tuttis; ossias optional; observing repeats)
Vivaldi: Concerto in D, RV 93, trans. Fernández
Ricordi (LD 00092000)

More details
9 S. L. Weiss
arr. Scheit
S. L. Weiss: Tombeau und Fantasie, arr. Scheit
Universal (UE34485)

More details
10 S. L. Weiss
arr. Batchelar and Wright
No. 10 from Weiss for Guitar, arr. Batchelar and Wright

More details

List B

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 Carcassi Étude in E
No. 24 from 25 études, Op. 60
No. 24 from Carcassi: 25 études mélodiques progressives, Op. 60
Chanterelle (ECH0470)

More details
No. 24 from Carcassi: 25 Etudes for Guitar, Op. 60
Tecla Editions (345)

More details
2 N. Coste Étude in E minor: Scherzando
No. 8 from 25 études de genre, Op. 38
Pp. 20–22 from N. Coste: 25 Studies, Op. 38
Schott (GA 34)

More details
3 Diabelli Menuett and Trio
3rd movt from Sonata No. 2 in A
Diabelli: Three Sonatas
Schott (GA 57)

More details
4 M. Giuliani Giocoso
No. 4 from Giulianate, Op. 148
No. 4 from M. Giuliani: Giulianate, Op. 148
Suvini Zerboni (ESZ 00776100)

More details
5* M. Giuliani
arr. Jeffery or Oubradous
Siciliana: Andantino
2nd movt from Concerto in A, Op. 30
M. Giuliani: Siciliana (Andantino) from the Guitar Concerto Op. 30 in A, arr. Jeffery
Tecla Editions (1439)

More details
M. Giuliani: Concerto in A, Op. 30, arr. Oubradous
Editions Musicales Transatlantiques (ETR001289)

More details
6 Barrios Mangoré Preludio 'Saudade'
from La Catedral
Barrios Mangoré: La Catedral
Alfred (SI00154)

More details
7 Mertz Tarantelle
from Bardenklänge, Op. 13
Mertz: Guitar Works, Vol. 3
Chanterelle (ECH0419)

More details
8 N. Paganini
arr. Scheit
2nd movt from Grand Sonata
N. Paganini: Grand Sonata for Solo Guitar, arr. Scheit
Universal (UE16708)

More details
9 Sagreras El colibrí
(Curci edn: play original ending)
Sagreras: El colibrí
Ricordi (SY 2334)

More details
Sagreras: Le prime lezioni di chitarra
Edizioni Curci (ECU11852)

More details
10 Tárrega Gran vals in A
Tárrega: Works for Guitar, Vol. 3
Bèrben (BRB1533)

More details

List C

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 Sérgio Assad Valseana
No. 2 from Aquarelle
No. 2 from Sérgio Assad: Aquarelle
Lemoine (25315)

More details
2 Carlevaro Ronda
No. 4 from Preludios Americanos
Carlevaro: Preludios Americanos No. 4: Ronda
Barry Editorial (4023)

More details
3 Carlo Domeniconi Schnee in Istanbul
(observing repeats)
Carlo Domeniconi: Schnee in Istanbul
Edition Margaux (em 1024)

More details
4 Dyens Tango en skaï
Dyens: Tango en skaï
Lemoine (24793)

More details
5 Gangi Study No. 18
(observing repeats)
Gangi: Metodo per chitarra, Parte 3
Ricordi (ER 00271500)

More details
6 M. Ponce
trans. Segovia
M. Ponce: Valse for Guitar, trans. Segovia
Schott (GA 153)

More details
7 Smith Brindle Moderato
1st movt from Sonata No. 4, 'La breve'
Smith Brindle: Sonata No. 4, 'La breve'
Schott (ED 11424)

More details
8 Joaquín Turina Soleares
from Hommage à Tárrega
Pp. 4–6 from Joaquín Turina: Hommage à Tárrega
Schott (GA 136)

More details
9* Villa-Lobos Andantino e andante
2nd movt from Concerto for Guitar
Villa-Lobos: Concerto for Guitar
Eschig (ME 00674000)

More details
10 Villa-Lobos Prélude No. 5 in D
from Cinq Préludes
Villa-Lobos: Collected Works for Solo Guitar
Eschig (ME 00933300)

More details

Guitar requirements and information: Pieces

Programme planning: Candidates must choose one piece from each of the three lists (A, B and C) in each grade (see also 'Accompaniment' below). 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.

Every effort has been made to ensure the syllabus lists feature a broad range of repertoire, with items to suit and appeal to candidates of differing ages, backgrounds and interests. Not every piece will be suitable for every candidate due to technical reasons (e.g. hand size) or wider context (historical, cultural, subject matter of the larger work from which it is drawn, lyrics if an arrangement of a song etc.).

It is advised that pieces selected are considered carefully for their appropriateness to each individual, which may require consultation between teachers and parents/guardians. Given the ever-changing nature of the digital world, teachers and parents/guardians should also exercise caution when allowing younger candidates to research items online (see

Accompaniment: In Grades 1–3, candidates may perform up to two pieces accompanied by another guitar (or, if necessary, a piano); in Grades 4 and 5, only one such piece may be performed. In Grade 8, candidates may perform one piece accompanied by piano.

Accompanied pieces are marked with a * in the piece listings above. None of the pieces marked with a * in Grades 1–5 or in Grade 8 may be performed solo. All other pieces must be performed solo.

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 accompaniment, provided the result is musically satisfactory. Recorded accompaniments are not allowed.

Exam music and 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). See information about obtaining exam music.

Interpreting the score: Printed editorial suggestions such as fingering, metronome marks, realisation 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.

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.

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 exist, 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 at Grades 6–8 believe there is no solution to a particularly awkward page-turn, they may bring a page-turner to the exam (prior permission is not required; the turner may be a candidate’s teacher). Examiners are unable to help with page-turning.

Photocopies: Performing from unauthorised 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


D♭ major

B♭, E♭ minors
(harmonic and melodic)

2 octaves

fingers only; tirando or apoyando, as chosen by the examiner

G, F# majors

E minor
(harmonic and melodic)

3 octaves

fingers only; tirando or apoyando, as chosen by the examiner

Chromatic scale

starting on F

3 octaves

fingers only; tirando or apoyando, as chosen by the examiner

Interval scales

D major, in tenths

1 octave

together or broken, as chosen by the examiner; tirando

A major, in thirds

G minor melodic, in sixths

F# minor harmonic, in octaves

Chromatic starting on E, in octaves

2 octaves

together or broken, as chosen by the examiner; tirando

Broken chords

A major

G# minor

2 octaves

tirando; with over-ringing


D♭ major

B♭, E♭ minors

2 octaves

tirando; without over-ringing

G, F# minors

E minor

3 octaves

tirando; without over-ringing

Dominant sevenths

in the keys of C and B♭
(resolving on tonic)

3 octaves

tirando; without over-ringing

Diminished sevenths

starting on G and on F

3 octaves

tirando; without over-ringing

Scale speeds

The scale speeds in the section below are given as a general guide.

Scales (two octaves)

Four quavers


Scales (three octaves)

Three quavers

Dotted crotchet

Chromatic scale

Three quavers

Dotted crotchet

Interval scales (together/broken)


Broken chords

Three quavers

Dotted crotchet


Three quavers

Dotted crotchet

Dominant sevenths/Diminished sevenths

Four quavers



Guitar 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 and will ask for majors followed by minors within each type. In the Grade 5–8 fingers-only scales, they will also ask to hear a balance of the specified strokes. When asking for requirements, examiners will specify:

  • The key (including minor form – harmonic or melodic – in the Grade 6–8 scales) or the starting note
  • The stroke for fingers-only scales (tirando or apoyando), Grades 5–8
  • The form for interval scales (together or broken)

All scales and arpeggios should:

  • Be played from memory
  • Be played in even notes (except where indicated at Grades 1–5)
  • Be played from the lowest possible tonic/starting note unless the syllabus indicates otherwise
  • Ascend and descend according to the specified range (and pattern)
  • Be played legato

In Grades 1–4, candidates may choose to play ‘fingers-only’ scales either tirando (free stroke) or apoyando (rest stroke); from Grade 5, these scales must be prepared with both right-hand techniques. The tirando stroke is expected for all other requirements.

Any combination of alternating right-hand fingers may be used for ‘fingers-only’ scales. Any left-hand fingering may be used, but candidates are expected to observe the requirements regarding over-ringing and non-over-ringing for broken chords and arpeggios from Grade 3.

Arpeggios and dominant sevenths are required in root position only. Scales in thirds and tenths should begin with the tonic as the lower note, while scales in sixths should begin with the tonic as the upper note.

Download scale and arpeggio patterns (PDF).

Purchase Guitar Scales and Arpeggios, Grades 6–8.


21 marks

Guitar 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 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 table below shows the introduction of elements at each grade. Please note that these parameters are presented cumulatively, i.e. once introduced they apply for all subsequent grades (albeit within a logical progression of difficulty).


Length (bars)



Other features that may be included

Grade 1



C, G, F majors

A, E minors

  • note values: dotted minim, minim, crotchet, two quavers beamed together
  • crotchet rests
  • 1st position
  • accidentals (within minor keys only)
  • single-line texture
  • passages for thumb alone
  • f and p dynamic marks
  • cresc. and dim. hairpins



(as above)

(as above)

Grade 2

D minor

  • four quavers beamed together and dotted crotchet, quaver patterns
  • staccato
  • mp and mf dynamic marks

Grade 3

up to 8


D major

  • quaver rests
  • 2nd position
  • integration of thumb and fingers into simple broken-chord patterns
  • accents
  • slurs
  • pp dynamic mark

Grade 4

c. 8


A major

  • simple semiquaver patterns
  • tied notes
  • chromatic notes
  • simple two-part writing (mostly open strings in one or other voice)
  • pause sign
  • tenuto

Grade 5

c. 8–12

B minor

  • anacrusis
  • simple syncopation
  • use of fingerboard up to 5th position
  • simple two-note chords within a single voice
  • slowing of tempo at end
  • ff dynamic mark

Grade 6


B♭ major
F# minor

  • triplet patterns
  • use of fingerboard above 5th position
  • three-note chords within a single voice
  • easily prepared partial barrés

Grade 7

c. 12–16


E major
G minor

  • simple use of 12th-fret harmonics
  • four-note chords
  • slowing of tempo followed by a tempo

Grade 8

c. 16–20


C minor

  • full barrés
  • acceleration of tempo
  • simple ornaments

For practice purposes, a book of sample sight-reading tests is published for Guitar by ABRSM.

Purchase Guitar Specimen Sight-Reading Tests, Grades 1–8.

Aural tests

18 marks

  1. (i) To sing or play from memory the lowest part of a three-part phrase played twice by the examiner. The lowest part 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 phrase again and allow a second attempt (although this will affect the assessment).

    (ii) To identify the cadence at the end of a continuing phrase as perfect, imperfect, interrupted or plagal. The phrase will be in a major or minor key and will be played twice by the examiner. The chords forming the cadence will be limited to the tonic (root position, first or second inversions), supertonic (root position or first inversion), subdominant (root position), dominant (root position, first or second inversions), dominant seventh (root position) or submediant (root position). Before the first playing, the examiner will play the key-chord.

    (iii) To identify the three chords (including their positions) forming the above cadential progression. The chords will be limited to the tonic (root position, first or second inversions), supertonic (root position or first inversion), subdominant (root position), dominant (root position, first or second inversions), dominant seventh (root position) or submediant (root position). First the examiner will name and play the key-chord, then play the three chords in sequence, finally playing each chord individually, pausing for the candidate to identify it. The candidate may answer using technical names (tonic, first inversion, etc.), chord numbers (Ib, etc.) or letter names (C major in first inversion, etc.).

  2. To sing the lower part of a two-part phrase from score, with the upper part played by the examiner. The candidate may choose to sing from treble or bass clef. The lower part will be within the range of an octave, in a major or minor key with up to four sharps or flats. First the examiner will name and play the key-chord and the starting note and then give the pulse. A brief period of preparation will follow during which the candidate may sing out loud. The examiner will play the key-chord and the starting note again and then count in two bars. If necessary, the examiner will allow a second attempt (although this will affect the assessment).
  3. To identify whether the modulations at the end of two different passages are to the dominant, subdominant or relative minor/major. The first passage will begin in a major key and the second will begin in a minor key; each passage will be played once by the examiner. Before playing each passage, the examiner will name and play the starting key-chord. The candidate may answer using technical names (dominant*, subdominant, relative minor/major) or the letter name of the new key. (* Minor-key passages may modulate to the dominant major or minor but the candidate is only required to specify ‘dominant’ in such cases.) 
  4. To describe the characteristic features of a piece played by the examiner. After hearing the piece, the candidate should describe any notable features (such as texture, structure, character, style and period, etc.). The examiner will prompt the candidate with questions only if this becomes necessary.


Guitar requirements and information: Aural tests

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 being assessed. 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).


Some tests allow for a second attempt or for an additional playing by the examiner, if necessary. The examiner will also be ready to prompt, where helpful, although this may affect the assessment.

Marks are not awarded for each individual test or deducted for mistakes; instead they reflect the candidate’s overall response in this section. See marking criteria.

Specimen tests

Examples of the tests are given in Specimen Aural Tests and Aural Training in Practice (from 2011).

Deaf or hearing-impaired candidates

Deaf or hearing-impaired candidates may choose alternative tests in place of the standard tests, if requested at the time of entry. See more information on alternative tests.

Publications and audio

Supporting apps

Aural Trainer

An award-winning aural practice app from ABRSM – now available for Grades 1–8.


Speedshifter allows you to alter the tempo of music without altering the pitch. Ideal for practising slowly!

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