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Why Do We Test?

There are so many piano teachers who ask this question and others.  Is it REALLY important?  Who benefits?  Does it cause more angst than rewards?

These are great and valid questions and as a piano teacher of 40 years, I have also pondered the process.  I also come back to one answer, however, YES!  I think all students should have goals and testing is the perfect way to measure their progress;  determining what kind of test is the real issue.  What do we want our students to know?  Should they have working knowledge of scales?  What about sight-reading & transposition?  Musical language?

Many piano tests allow teachers to “pick and choose” what they think their students should know.  Does this mean that some parts of a student’s education is not being addressed?  Other tests are all-inclusive, but have set repertoire that students must learn, boxing a teacher into teaching the same pieces every year.  There is nothing wrong with this, but it does get a bit tedious year-after-year.  Some tests are not cost-effective for the majority of students.  Almost all tests have scheduling issues that requires school-aged students to get out of school or test late, even into the night hours.  How are these issues beneficial to students and is there a solution?  Well, of course there is!

PCS Piano Proficiency Examinations were designed to address all of these issues.  The test is accessible to any and all students who take piano lessons.  It is cost-effective and can be scheduled any time during the year.  We allow teachers the freedom to choose their repertoire, but it must include 4 periods of music (Levels 4+).  This is a simple test to see if the student is making progress and “getting the job done”.  Based on a numeric system, students are graded in different areas as to their competency.  Did they add dynamics or not?  Did they play the correct notes & rests?  Was the tempo correct?  Do they know their musical terms?  Parents understand this system and appreciate the simplicity.  As their children are graded in school, numeric grading in piano is a plus.  If you make a 90+ on the test, you receive a grade of Excellence; if you receive a grade of 70-89, you receive a grade of Proficient; if you score below 70, it is scored as Remedial and the student has to take that test again in order to advance in level.

Why you wouldn’t want your students to have their progress measured?  It seems very logical to me.  I want my students to have the skills to be competent and capable pianists (and musicians).  When they stop taking lessons, I want them to be able to sit down with a piece of music and be able to read and analyze it.  I equate it to being their piano parent:  I must give them all the tools to go out into the world and not need me to hold their hand.