Exams & Class Awards

At Marble Hill Dance Studio we encourage our students to take part in regular exam sessions, be it taking an exam, or a class award. We are proud teachers of the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) Ballet syllabus as well as the ISTD syllabus for Tap & Modern. Our teachers are all highly trained & qualified by these boards & institutes. They have undertaken rigorous training & observation to ensure they are fully able to teach the syllabus. The learning for our teachers never stops, as they continue to develop their syllabus teaching skills & memorise the syllabus itself.


We are often asked why we enter some of our students for formal exams and others for class awards. It is important to understand that neither one is better than the other; we make the choice based on which we feel suits the individual dancer and which will help them make the best progress in the long run.


In an exam, students are marked on specific criteria & components and graded by an external examiner.  A formal syllabus is covered in classes leading up to the exam and students are entered for the exam once their teacher feels they have fully mastered the criteria required.

As students work their way up the grading system, there is more to cover in preparation for the next level. Most grades include a character dance, solo & partner work too, which are very valuable skills to learn for their dance journey & indeed, life in general.

Exams take place in a more formal setting, although, in our experience, examiners are usually friendly and fair and do their utmost to make students  feel comfortable when presenting their work.


The key difference between an exam and a Class Award, is that a teacher is present in the room with the students. For some dancers, the presence of a familiar teacher provides comfort and gives them confidence when presenting their work. Although teachers are not allowed to instruct or help the children with the steps in any way, they are there to be supportive and to announce the order of each piece. This semi-formal approach allows the teacher to see how students fare under a more formal and structured setting and how they might perform in future exams.

With a Class Award, there is less syllabus to cover and the marking system is different. The RAD describes it as ‘a broad indication of standard rather than a detailed breakdown’. This can really cater to some of our students who have more to learn on their technical journey, as they are not being specifically marked on any criteria.


In all cases, it is important that students attend their grading classes regularly to keep up with learning and mastering the syllabus. Most grades require the preparation of solos as well as partner work and this demands as much practice as possible to be able to enter the exam with confidence. We will do a complete run through of the examination requirements under  ‘mock’ conditions prior to the exam date. Your teacher may suggest additional coaching sessions in the run up to the exam to ensure your dancer feels as confident as possible before attending their exam. Please support your dancer by encouraging good attendance, heeding the advice of the class teacher and keeping in close communication with the school. We find this usually ensures  the best outcome.


Your class teacher will have regular, open communication with you about your dancer’s progress. We will always discuss with you what we feel is best for your dancer and we hope that you will trust our professional judgement when entering them for exams or class awards. Our aim is always for our students to be happy and to maintain their love of dance first and foremost. We want our dancers to enjoy the exam process and not worry about coming to class or feel overwhelmed or under-prepared. We will never enter a dancer into an exam or class award if they are not completely ready – this could lead to an unnecessary blow to their self-esteem – and we hope you will support us in this approach.


The RAD and ISTD offer a wide range of exams and assessments to motivate and reward students of all ages and abilities and they do not need to be taken in a linear way. For example, your child could take a Grade 1 Class Award, and then move on to an RAD grade 2 exam & continue through the levels. The only prerequisite is the minimum age requirement set out by the RAD. If your dancer attends classes regularly with a focused and positive attitude, then these are all good signs that they will continue to progress through the levels under the guidance of their teacher.

Ultimately, whether your child takes an exam or a class award, we want them to feel a sense of achievement and self-confidence. Taking part in exams can provide valuable life lessons from an early age, showing our young people that if they put in the hard work and commitment they can achieve their goals. With this approach, we find that our students truly enjoy their exam or class award. Even the inevitable butterflies leading up to the moment the exam starts become part of the fun and sense of accomplishment once they have proudly presented their work.

As always, if you have any questions, please do reach out to us in the office via email.