RAD Ballet Class Award Vs Exam – A helpful explanation for parents.

I read a forum question the other day where a mother asked: “why is My Child doing the RAD class award and not the exam and what is the difference?” I thought it was a valid and interesting question that no one could quite fully answer and so I did some research and asked some RAD teacher friends what they thought.

In the RAD exam students are required to present exercises and routines to an external examiner under test conditions. The RAD class Award is a supported form of the same examination material. It is marked in a less formal manner and the class teacher is present.

Ballet teachers will generally not enter students for an examination if they believe the student will not meet the technical standard required to pass the exam. They might enter the child to participate in the Class Award instead. The Class Awards build confidence and can provide an opportunity for those students only attending one lesson a week to work towards an accomplishment.

Why Might My Child’s Dance Teacher Believes My Child is Not Ready for the Exam?

The Royal Academy of Dance defines what they agree to be appropriate amounts of training in hours that should be completed before attempting any of their exams which you can learn about from the RAD website in the exam specifications pdf. This serves as a guide of how much training is needed to be able to meet the demands of that exam level. If your school only offers one lesson of Ballet a week this influences whether your school enters the exams or class awards. If your school offers more classes but you never felt the need to enroll your child in more, this might be the time to consider taking on more lessons. If you’re wondering how many classes or hours is too much or too little have a quick read of the following articles which have some great information and answers for you – and don’t worry you won’t lose this page, they will open up in new tabs for you!

If your child is currently attending the number of lessons prescribed by the RAD perhaps your ballet teacher feels your child is just not showing signs that they are ready to handle the stress of an examination. Some of these signals might be:

  • During class they forget steps or the format of the exam work being taught;
  • They might always race to the back of the class so they can copy others or so they aren’t easily seen;
  • They may not have developed their technique to the same degree as their classmates and because of this are behind the counts in the music or a second behind the others as they try to master each movement;
  • Not having the same level of technique, strength or flexibility as their classmates can undermine your child’s confidence;
  • Their bodies might be growing faster than their friends making it harder for their brains to co-ordinate their bodies;
  • They haven’t mastered the musicality of dancing and constantly need to follow others to keep in time.
  • Their concentration, discipline, and patience is still developing.
My Child is Doing the Class Award But Most of Her Friends are Doing the Exam. Will They be Left Behind?

The great thing about RAD examinations is that other than meeting the minimum age there are no prerequisites to be able to register for the graded examinations.  This means that if your daughter does the Class Award for Grade 1 for example, they can still try for the Grade 2 exam in the future without having completed the Grade 1 exam. Another option is after completing the class award during this round of assessments to either take the same grade as an exam during the next round of examinations in the same year if available. 

Is the real reason my child is not doing the exam because our teacher only registers students they know will get a merit or distinction?

At the end of the day, most teachers want to ensure their students are going to pass. The examinations require such a high standard of technique and ability to pass that some teachers may be cautious and only enter those students they are absolutely certain will pass and this might mean they only put forward students they feel will be in the Merit or Distinction vicinity.

Look at it this way – imagine if your teacher puts your child forward for the exam and they fail? Who would be the first person you are going to blame? Not your child, that is for sure. You will ask the teacher what went wrong and why you are paying them to let your child fail! Therefore deciding whether a student should be doing an RAD exam or participating in the class award is pretty clear cut to a seasoned and experienced Royal Academy of Dance Teacher…… The hard part is explaining the decision to parents and students!

How Should I Respond To Our Teacher With Our Concerns?

When it comes to our children, we all want what is best for them. Many of us don’t want to seem to pushy, but at the same time don’t want our kids to miss out on opportunities that other ‘pushy’ parents ask for. So when our child doesn’t seem to be succeeding as well as other children we start to measure and compare, worry and stress about all the negative things that can happen as a result of our possible inactivity to have resolved what we think and feel of as a problem. This can make discussing topics such as why your child is not being put forward for an RAD examination with your dance teacher a little stressful because let’s face it you are heavily emotionally involved and any criticisms they may have of your child might come with an almighty sting. You might want to check out our article How to Effectively Sort Our Problems With Your Child’s Dance Teacher for some solutions on how to approach the topic with them.

In the meantime, here are two questions you could ask your teacher if you are concerned

1. Can you tell me exactly what things my child is doing that show you they are not ready for the examination?

2. What do you recommend we do in order for my child to be ready for examinations in the future?

Related Questions and Information.

Should I buy my child a gift for completing their Exam or Class Award?

A lot of parents today like to buy their child a gift to show them how proud they are of them. For some families, gift-giving is a sign of love – as written about by Gary Chapman in his books about the Five Love Languages. For others, they prefer to offer words of affirmation or spending quality time with each other. We have put together carefully curated lists that include only three different gifts for various ages in our resource pages if you need some help choosing the perfect present.

How are RAD Examinations Graded?

Reporting for examinations uses a standardized and aggregated point system to determine a fail (0-39), pass(40-54), merit (55-74) and distinction (75-100). The examination process, marking standards and syllabus are all transparent and available for download by students and parents at the RAD website the exam specifications pdf. 

About RAD exams.

There can be from 1 to 4 students in the exam room who enter without a teacher or assistant present, therefore the exam work and procedure of the exam needs to be well-rehearsed and known by students. Students wear numbers and stand in line according to a color ribbon attached to their uniform. The examiner will ask for certain exercises to be performed as well as dances, some of which may be asked to be performed individually. A student going into an exam not only needs to be able to perform the work technically and musically well, but they also need to memorize the order and procedures of the exam. The RAD also recommends minimum training times to master each grade and syllabus before trying for the exam.  To pass Grade 1 a student should have been practicing the exam work for about 70 hours! That is over a year and a half of hour-long weekly lessons during the school term or at least two ballet lessons a week to achieve the level of discipline needed to pass the exam.

How are RAD Class Awards Graded?

Class Awards are marked in a less detailed way with examiners giving the comment – Frequently, Generally, Occasionally and Not shown to about four components or sections of the exam. They are looking for three key features overall which are co-ordination of student’s bodies, demonstrating correct timing and response to the music and maintaining appropriate expression through their face and body. If a student receives a not shown in any section they are unsuccessful in achieving the class award, which is highly unlikely as your teacher would have entered your child knowing they could pass.

About the Class Award

The RAD does not give recommended training periods for Class Awards and so it does mean fewer lessons overall are needed to pass. This caters perfectly for all those one lesson a week kids who are still able to participate and put all their training into practice. Class awards are also good pre-practice for future examinations.

About the Author

Samantha Bellerose

Samantha is a wife and mother of four kids aged 1-9. She danced and acted from the age of 5 and performed in film clips, on television, and in musical theatre professionally. She also taught dance, but after leaving the profession to backpack through Europe, Canada and the USA with her husband for three years, she then completed an Education Degree and taught within primary schools in Australia. Today she is a business owner with her husband and the creator and writer for Dance Parent 101 where she hopes her previous experience as a dancer, current experience as a dance parent and the research and writing skills she gained completing her education degree will help enlighten parents on their journey with their child through the world of dance.