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Certified Judges for PPE & Testing Dates

Who is a PCSPPE Certified Judge?

Our judges are teachers who have been teaching many years.  I require all of my judge’s who have private studios to test their students, so they are held accountable on both ends of testing.

Why Certified?

With PCSPPE, you can be assured that your student’s scores will be very consistent, year-after-year.  There are so many testing systems that do not have strict guidelines for their judges.  The testing teacher doesn’t know if the assigned judge is going to be a strict or lenient; consistency is very important to me.     By having my judges recertified bi-annually, we all stay on the same page.  Training sessions occur every two (2) years.

Checks and Balances:

I think the most positive aspect about our judging system is the checks and balances I have incorporated.  Not only do judge’s evaluate students, but our teachers evaluate the judges!  YES, you read that correctly.  I ask every teacher to evaluate his/her judge after each session.  I want to make sure my judges are working at the highest level.  If a judge gets less than stellar reviews on three different occasions, I terminate their contract.

Testing Dates:

When a testing teacher is ready, there is a list of certified judges on our website (  This is the only standardized testing system, to my knowledge, that allows you to select your judge.   My advice is to select your judge PRIOR to selecting your date, especially during peak testing times-April through June.  If you lock in a date and then contact your judge, you might not get your first choice, as they may have other commitments.  I suggest you contact them as early as possible and have them give you several time-frames, then set your dates.



For more information, you can download the free Teacher packet


Or purchase the PCSPPE Syllabus

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Why vocabulary?

Why is it important to test students on vocabulary when PCSPPE is a piano proficiency exam?

When devising this test, I tried to include elements that I thought were vital to a student’s education.  Vocabulary was certainly a “no-brainer”.  How can a student play repertoire without understanding the directions the composer has indicated?  Each level of testing has 25 words that students are required to learn.  They are level appropriate and usually appear in the pieces they might be playing.  They include general and piano specific words.

During testing, students will be asked to define, orally, 4 words from their 25 word bank.  They do not have to define exactly and are also allowed to demonstrate if they have difficulties putting into words.  As long as the judge feels confident the student understands the term, they will receive credit.  This section is worth 0-4 points of the test.

In my studio, I have my students study and then we have “pop quizzes” throughout the year.  My students purchase the Complete listing upon entering the studio and then have all the words throughout their studies.

You can find individual levels of vocabulary (through Level 8) in The Piano Lesson Companion Books

You can also find them in Piano World

Piano Curriculum Series

Or you can find the complete list in PCS Piano Proficiency Examinations Vocabulary Words Complete Listing

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Sight-Reading & Transposition

Sight-reading is such an important element in piano!  All students should have the ability to sight-read effectively, so I have included this into PCSPPE.  Each level has a short example (1 page or less) that the student must read and play.  As of 2014, I contract the renown Ann Rivers Witherspoon, to write these examples.  She incorporates required elements (see Syllabus), making each example very accessible for students.  The examples are generally 2-3 levels below the testing level.  This portion of the test is worth 0-3 points.

When the student is finished sight-reading, the judge will ask him/her to then transpose the example into another key.  Ann and I take great care when deciding which key is used.  Although the student should be able to transpose into many keys, we try to make these accessible without being too painful.  All examples through Level 10 are in major keys.  Levels 11-HSD may be in either major or minor.  This portion is worth 0-3 points.

My students are always sight-reading, so preparing for that portion of the test isn’t really a challenge.  Transposing on sight is another story.  As we all know, this is something that is quite difficult. Spending quality time, coaching your students, will assist them in being successful.  I always ask my students the obvious, what key is it in, what is the time signature, etc, but then we dig deeper and talk about intervalic reading and how the two keys relate.  If you begin this process early in a student’s study, they adapt quite easily.  If you try to “cram”, they will probably be nervous and frustrated.  My advice is to take time every week or two and play different examples.

If you would like to see past examples, I have put together booklets that are for sale.  You can find them under Piano Proficiency Examinations on the Home Page.


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Scales, Chords, Cadences & Arpeggios

Preparing students for the “scale” portion of PCSPPE

Students are asked to play level appropriate scales, chords, cadences and arpeggios at the beginning of the testing session.  When preparing them, understand they will be playing 2 different keys in each area.  Other testing systems might ask students are asked to play a “block” of technical skills, ie, 1 scale with tonic chord, a cadence and perhaps an arpeggio, from the same key.  This is great, but if they student just memorizes this block, do they really internalize the key?

With PPE, the student is asked to play 2 scales (2 different keys), 2 chords (2 different keys, not the same as scales), 2 cadences (not the same as scales or chords) and 2 arpeggios (not the same as scales, chords or cadences).  I felt this was the perfect way to encourage students to study these throughout the year and internalize a sense of key.  Going a little deeper, I will share my process of teaching Level 1.

In Level 1, students are responsible for all Major white key scales (C, G, D, A, E, B & F) 1 octave, tonic chords, I-V6-I cadences and tonic chord arpeggios.  At the beginning of the year, the student begins to study each key in what I call a “block”.  I begin with the scale, ask them to write the fingering and then the student proceeds to learn the scale, hands separately.  They are also asked to add dynamics (p < f  > p).  Once they have mastered the scale, I then add the tonic chord and I-V6-I cadence, hands separately and with dynamics.  I then add the arpeggio.  As the student becomes comfortable with each portion, we move on to the next key.  I always use the Circle of Fifths, when teaching scales.

A few months before testing (usually 2), I begin asking the student to practice differently.  They play all there scales, followed by all their chords, then cadences finishing with arpeggios.  Some students will play these in the Circle of Fifths, but others like to just go up the keyboard.  It usually takes them 2-3 weeks to get comfortable playing in this manner (we are now about 6 weeks out from the test).  During the last few weeks, I begin mixing everything up.  I might ask them to play me a C Major scale, F Major tonic chord, A Major cadence and G Major arpeggio.  I always give them a few moments to process what I am asking, but with each week, they become more confident.

If you look at the critique sheet, you will notice this is the first element that is tested.  Each section, has 3 areas:  notes, fingering & dynamics, totalling 20 points (5 points per area).

I hope this has helped you in preparing YOUR students for their upcoming exams.  We have many supplemental materials that are assessable under PCS Piano Proficiency examinations, The Piano Lesson Companion Books and Piano World.  If you are unsure about which materials would benefit your studio, do not hesitate to contact me either on our Facebook Page or directly.