2023: ABRSM theory exams are impossible

For the Covid scam, music theory examinations by ABRSM switched from in-person invigilated to remote computer-invigilation. The price didn’t go down though – the tests were horrendously expensive, and the price just went up, if anything. There’s a small problem though: you can study the theory, and you can prepare all the technical things you need, but actually writing the test is a complete lottery, because the on-line “invigilation” system is criminally incompetent. We have failed administratively more times than we have written the actual exam. We will not attempt to write ABRSM theory again until it is fixed: it is obscene to use a system that is not only expensive, but has such random contempt for its users.

So here’s the theory:

  • You have a student that has studied music theory
  • You register the student to write an ABRSM theory examination (it’s not cheap!)
  • The student writes the examination
  • You get the results

The trouble is that their software that is supposed to do the test is grossly negligent in its one task: apparently music theory is intimately tied up with downloading and installing this pathetic software, and that is really part of the theory of music. If you fail in some way at the software task (and there are countless ways to fail), you cannot write the test. But it gets better: if you cannot write the test, you have to cancel the examination, request a refund, wait for the refund, and book another examination, and take another go at the software lottery.

The stupid software fails in so many different ways it is depressing:

  • There is a system to check compatibility, and it basically runs a browser session – but this system is completely different to the actual test system! This check as close to a complete lie as you can ever hope to get. After pronouncing your system compatible, they tell you to download and install a .EXE file – which is completely different from the compatibility test that was conducted.
  • You can only download it once. After that it has “expired”. They say “expired”, when they mean “locked out”.
  • You cannot install it if it was previously installed. If it was previously installed, you have to uninstall it, but uninstalling it does not make it possible to install the new version: it still fails.
  • If your microphone doesn’t work, or your webcam doesn’t work, or your network can only do a blazing 5Mbps then it bombs out.
  • They provide “Live chat” support. A helpful person will tell you there is nothing that he/she can do.

So you spend weeks of preparation, hours of administration, you set aside time, you cancel everything else, and your well-prepared student is given a test that has nothing to do with music theory, and everything to do with the incompetence of the examination system. Why? Because stuff you, that’s why.

And what do you do then?

  • You mail them.
  • They send your money back after a few days (it’s a lot of money)
  • You book again, pay again, and after a few days you can write it again. A few days? Nay, a month.
  • You get another run at the software lottery.

And then, for good measure, the one time out of three (five, actually) that it worked just-like-that, it turns out that you booked a Grade II test instead of a Grade I test, but the kid passed anyway (with merit). Weird.

Practice test

Don’t be deceived by the grade practice tests: the practice test actually works, and has none of the hassles of the actual exam. It’s so smooth and painless you are going to be deceived. Don’t be deceived. They will take your money, and then mock you in an automated fashion.

I did the Grade 1 practice exam, and passed. I must be some kind of musical genius.

Don’t be fooled by https://systemcheck.rpexams.com either. They test everything, but not that broken .EXE that they actually insist on using for the test:

Very compatible they say. It will work fine, they say. They lie.

It was painful:

No really, failing at the test was a complete pain:

  • On computer 1: Download PSI Secure Browser
  • Computer 1 says “this version cannot be used: uninstall and reinstall”
  • Uninstall PSI on Computer 1
  • Reinstall PSI on computer 1
  • Computer 1 says “this version cannot be used: uninstall and reinstall” (again)
  • Go to computer 2
  • Download PSI
  • PSI complains that the microphone is not working. Troubleshoot the stupid microphone: works after 6 to 7 tries.
  • PSI complains that the network is not strong enough
  • PSI complains that the test has expired
  • Take computer 2 from network 1 to network 2
  • Try computer 2 again at network 2: the test has still expired
  • Ask live support what to do: they want to know everything about you, your DNA samples etc. And they want to control your computer remotely. Ask live support if there’s anything they can do to un-expire the test. Actually, they can’t help at all. Mail ABRSM, they say.

This entry was posted in Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *