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I’ve decided to test! What’s next?

“I’ve decided to test with PCS Piano Proficiency Examinations! What’s next?”

Well, you have made a great decision. Here is what you need to do to proceed with the process.

  1. Order the Syllabus & Vocabulary, both found on our website. (
    *They will appear on this page and the Shop page. (…/piano-proficiency-examination/).
    *These are the only materials you need to test. There are other supporting materials that will be helpful, but are not necessities.

2. Once you have downloaded the Syllabus (digital), read through it completely. Of course, if you have any questions, you can contact me directly.

3. The Syllabus contains:
a. Procedures and forms
b. Level requirements
c. Venue suggestions
d. Judges information
e. Student Awards and much more.

4. The Vocabulary (digital) contains:
a. All 13 levels of required vocabulary
b. Each level has 25 words I feel are beneficial for students to know and understand.
c. Students are asked to orally define 4 of those words during their test.
d. I often suggest that students order this as well. They can keep it on their computers and as they advance, they will have all the words at their disposal.

5. Once you are comfortable with all the requirements, it is time to begin working with your students. As you will quickly realize, this isn’t an exam that can be “crammed” or achieved in a short period of time. I designed it to help teachers throughout the year instill solid technical skills, without resistance.

6. As students become comfortable with the progression, they will actually find it easy to move from one level to the next. They understand what is expected and achieve these milestones relatively easy.

The beauty of this test is you can start now and test whenever your students are ready! We test year-round. The majority of exams have set dates or windows of testing. This puts some students (and teachers) into panic mode. With our test, you don’t have those issues. April through June are our most popular months to test, but remember we can and will test July through March.

If you are confused or have additional questions, do not hesitate to contact me. Hope to see you testing soon!

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Who Should test with PCS Piano Proficiency Examinations?

Who should test with PCS Piano Proficiency Examinations?


When determining the criteria for testing, I wanted the average student to be successful, if they are “doing their work”. We are all different, but I do believe we all want our students to be competent. Each level moves forward, building on what the student has already accomplished and introduces 1 or 2 new elements. Let me give you two examples.

In Level 1, students are asked to play 1 octave white key scales, hands separately. In Level 2, they are asked to play these scales hands together and are also asked to play the parallel harmonic or natural minor scales (either form is accepted) 1 octave. This is a natural progression for students as they begin playing in minors keys.

Time Signatures are part of the required elements. In Level 2, the students is asked to play one piece in either 3/4 or 3/8 and another piece in 2/2 of 4/4. In Level 3, they build on these and then are ask to include a third piece in either 6/8 or 9/8. By the third year of testing, it is felt that the student should be able to feel the difference between simple and compound meter.

As you can see, each level adds a building block. If you have students who have a difficult time achieving these benchmarks, they can always test every other year.

I have found that even adult students appreciate this exam! Those who like to have their progress measured, understand the simplicity of the grading.

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How did PCSPPE get started?

This is how PCS Piano Proficiency Examinations got started and my mission to make it accessible for all students, young and old.

Having tested my students over the years with many different systems, I was becoming more and more disenchanted with their process. I was also becoming aware that other teachers were feeling the same. Wasn’t there something out there, that allowed a teacher to have a little more control, while still seeking high standards? I decided to go investigate.

After almost a year of probing and studying, I decided there wasn’t anything out there that met the needs of my students, so it was up to me to create something. I wanted to keep the best portions of some of the existing systems, but streamline and tweak. I wanted to target the most important elements that an AVERAGE student should be able to accomplish within a year-nothing more, nothing less. I decided that the most important aspects for all students was basic technique, sight-reading & transposition, vocabulary and repertoire, so this is what is included in the exam.

There are 2 phases: Technical & Repertoire

The technical phase is always addressed first. Because so many students don’t “enjoy” this aspect of lessons, if they know they must test in this area at the beginning of the exam (or as I like to tell my students-get it out of the way), they must be knowledgeable in 7 areas: scales, chords, cadences, arpeggios, sight-reading, transposition and vocabulary. Each level, has specific requirements (found in the Syllabus). Students are asked to play 2 each of scales, chords, cadences & arpeggios….HOWEVER…they are NOT from the same key! This ensures us as teachers that the student has a great understanding of key and can easily adapt. This cannot be learned in just a few month, it takes every lesson….so YOU (as their teacher) are able to get those elements into your lesson without issue. The next area, sight-reading and transposition are vital in my opinion. As we all know, pianists are often asked to sight-read, but what is usually most horrifying, is if we are asked to transpose on the spot. Students can generally transpose with practice, but to be able to think in a different key is challenging. The third portion of this phase is vocabulary. How can a student play without understanding the language? Each level has 25 words, that a student is asked to learn for the test. They are asked to define 4 words from that list. If there are language barriers, they are allowed to paraphrase or demonstrate.

The repertoire phase is just that…pieces that the student is asked to memorize. The test requires 4 pieces and in the upper levels, must include 1 piece from each musical era. Students are allowed the freedom of choice in selecting their pieces, but must adhere to required elements, which may be found in the Syllabus.

I then decided there should be a time limit for each level. I encourage students to choose shorter pieces that will exhibit their proficiency. This is not a contest, pieces should be limited to the number of pages.

So there you have it. PCSPPE in a nut-shell .  If you have questions, please ask!

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To print or not to print

All of our material comes to you digitally.  You receive your material and then there is the dilemma of printing.  With the exception of the Piano World Series, all of the other material is not considered consumable, THEREFORE, if you do not want to print, you do not need to.  If your students have an IPad or Tablet, they can just download in the book section and call up when needed.  It is the perfect solution for lost books or books that go MIA.

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Ordering books for students

When ordering our student resource material , it is wise to allow the student to purchase directly.  The Piano Lesson Companion Books and Piano World are large files (36+ pages) and would create a great amount of printing for any teacher.  If the student orders directly, then the printing is on them.  It’s easy to send a page to a student, so they don’t make a mistake.

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Leveling-Part 2

When preparing for PCS Piano Examinations, always use the students technical skills as your barometer.  Any student able to play 1 octave scales, along with their cadences, tonic chords and arpeggios, would be classified as Level 1.  Their repertoire might be more advanced, but this is where they should be placed.

For more information you may refer to the PCSPPE Syllabus. 

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Leveling with The Piano Curriculum Series

I was recently asked about the leveling with The Piano Curriculum Series.  We have thirteen levels, beginning with Preparatory, going through Level 12 or High School Diploma.  It is a graduated curriculum, so you might want to think of it in terms of schooling.

The Preparatory Level is for the very first year of study.  Students as young as four years old, but not to exclude those older beginners as young as 94, will benefit from all the material at this level.  During this period of study, students will learn they way around the piano/keyboard, understanding all their major 5-finger scale patterns, playing in both the treble and bass clef and sight-reading within the staff.  If a student is preparing for the PCS Piano Proficiency Examination (PCSPPE), they would want to be comfortable with all the material in The Piano Lesson Companion BookPreparatory Level, along with repertoire from Primer Level method series or any selections marked Early Elementary.  No pre-reading material is accepted during testing.

Next post will talk about Level 1.  Thanks for dropping in!

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Everything is digital

So many items, where to begin!

Well, just know that all of our current products are digital.  For those of you who have purchase digital material in the past-VERY EXCITING NEWS…no longer do you have to deal with LockLizard…YEA!  Everything is integrated into this site and you will be able to download immediately.  I have put the number of pages with each item, so you will know the size of the file.  There is still much work to be done, but we are off and running.