Fair access guidelines for candidates requiring a spoken language interpreter

These guidelines contain information for candidates regarding the use of spoken language interpreters in practical exams.

A spoken language interpreter is defined as a person who is allowed into the exam room for the purpose of translating the examiner’s instructions and the candidate’s responses through spoken language.

These guidelines apply internationally. The exceptions, as stated by our regulators, are as follows:

  • In England, all qualifications must be assessed in English
  • In Wales, all qualifications must be assessed in Welsh or English
  • In Northern Ireland, all qualifications must be assessed in Irish or English

Before reading these guidelines, we recommend you also read our Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments Policy, which can be found at www.abrsm.org/specificneeds.

Please make sure that you select the access provision for a spoken language interpreter when making an entry. This is to make sure that extra time can be added to the exam to allow for the time taken to translate instructions and answers.


Due to the specialist nature of our exams, you must make sure that the spoken language interpreter has sufficient musical knowledge to undertake this role.

Spoken language interpreters should be familiar with our exam syllabuses and assessment requirements. This information can be found on our website: www.abrsm.org/our-exams

It is recommended that spoken language interpreters use the specimen tests available on our website to familiarise themselves with the format of the exam and the types of questions the examiner is likely to ask. Specimen tests for each grade can be found on our website: www.abrsm.orgexam-support/preparation-for-exams/mock-aural-tests/

Who can interpret?

To avoid any conflicts of interest, you should not engage a spoken language interpreter with a personal connection. Interpreters should not be:

  • A member of your family, including a parent, guardian or sibling
  • Your present or former music teacher.

Individuals that both perform as spoken language interpreters for ABRSM exams, and enter their own candidates for exams are required to declare this in advance by emailing [email protected]

To make the interpreting from the examiner to the candidate as clear as possible we recommend that interpreters be situated near to the examiner.

You should communicate the following information to your interpreter prior to the exam:

Spoken language interpreters must:

  • interpret everything that is said during the exam, by both the candidate and the examiner, as closely as possible.
  • communicate all technical terms such as scales, dynamics, articulation, tempo accurately.

Spoken language interpreters must not:

  • give any undue assistance in answering any of the questions.
  • explain or re-word anything said by the examiner. If the candidate does not understand, the examiner will re-word the question and the interpreter will then interpret this.
  • physically demonstrate any of the technical instructions unless copying that of the examiner.
  • alter the candidate’s response in any way when interpreting it back to the examiner.

The examiner will be prepared to re-word questions if necessary.

Where provision for audio recordings is available, exams may be reviewed by ABRSM to check the quality of the translation and to determine whether the candidate gained an unfair advantage.

Arrangements are in place by ABRSM representatives to provide candidates in China, Macau and Vietnam with spoken language interpreters.

In all other countries, it is the responsibility of the applicant to recruit an appropriate spoken language interpreter, to make sure that the interpreter is sufficiently knowledgeable to interpret during an ABRSM exam, and to make sure that the interpreter follows the guidelines as outlined in this guidance. 

If a spoken language interpreter is found to have given undue assistance to a candidate during an exam, action may be taken against the applicant in accordance with ABRSM’s Malpractice and Maladministration Policy.

We will not accept complaints or appeals in relation to the quality of interpreters engaged by candidates.

Contact details

Access Coordinator

4 London Wall Place

T +44 (0)20 7467 7342
E [email protected]

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