Grade 2 Music Theory: Exam Hacks
(Trinity College London)

Grade 2 Music Theory: Exam Hacks
(Trinity College London)

by | Jun 28, 2020 | Music Examinations, Theory Exams, Trinity Exams

If you are looking for a place to guide you though the Grade 2 Theory of Music examination by Trinity College London, then you are absolutely at the right place! Here below is the detailed format of this grade’s the exam paper. Oh and not just that, we are filled with tips and tricks to help you solve it. Once you are done reading till the end, you will be absolutely ready to ninja-it-out with your final paper!

SECTION 1: General Multiple Choice Questions

The Trinity Grade 2 theory exam starts with a set of 10 multiple choice questions. These questions test your overall understanding of the topics. Each question has 3 choices out of which one of the choices is correct. These are straightforward questions that are meant to test your knowledge and don’t require any analysis. 

Grade 2 Theory Exam Hacks:

  1. Read the question carefully. Take care of this, and there will be not much more for you to do. 
  2. Revise the theory in Trinity’s Grade 1 exam. Remember that the concepts you learn are built up from the previous level and not all of them are brand new.

SECTION 2: Scales, Arpeggios and Broken Chords

This section is generally divided into 2 parts. The first part asks you to write a scale (either major or minor) within the confines of the instructions given. Following that, the second part asks you to either write an arpeggio or a broken chord.

Grade 2 Theory Exam Hacks:

  1.  The question may ask you to write the key signature or ask you to use accidentals. In either case, take care that you follow these instructions carefully.
  2. Sometimes the notes in the Arpeggio or Broken chord is not using the note with an accidental in the scale. You will still need to write the key signature if the question asks for it.
  3.  Read the direction in which the scale, arpeggio or broken chord is to be written in and write your answer accordingly. 
  4. The question will mention the type of notes they want you to use in your answer. Do not forget to use this information!
  5. Grade 2 theory by Trinity introduces minor scales. Remember that you have been taught to write natural as well as harmonic minor scales. When you are answering, remember to mark which scale is asked to be written.
  6. In the question that asks you to write a broken chord, the time signature and the first note are generally give. After that the question describes where the last note of your broken chord will lie. Understand this information given in the question before writing your answer.
  7. Broken chords in this grade can be written in patters of three or four notes (go through the Grade 2 Theory of Music Workbook by Trinity for more details). Read the question for the pattern that is being asked and write your answer accordingly. 
  8. Lastly, revise the scales and key signatures that you learnt in grade 1. Although rare, it is equally possible for the exam paper to ask for those instead of the new ones you learnt in grade 2. 

SECTION 3: Correcting Mistakes

This is a section that most effectively tests your music writing capabilities. Here you are given a few bars of music that contains some errors. More specifically, 5 mistakes, and asks you to identify those and rewrite the music correctly. 

Grade 2 Theory Exam Hacks:

  1. Start checking your music from the beginning–the clef, key signature and also the time signature. In fact, the question may have either of these on the wrong lines or spaces!
  2. This grade has introduced the metronome marking. Few things to remember for the same are that this should be above the staff, aligned to the first note and always written in the order of the note, equal to sign and then the number.
  3. Check the grouping of the notes in every bar. Unlike Grade 1, this paper may have single quavers followed by a quaver rest as well. Revise and remember all your grouping rules!
  4. Check that the stems are in the right direction and the note-heads are attached to the correct side of the stems.
  5. While writing single quavers, ensure that their tail is always towards the right side (the direction right, as well as the correct side, however you want to interpret it, the conclusion is still the same!). 
  6. Notice that the dynamic and expression markings are written below the staff, the tempo markings above and the articulation markings near the note-heads!
  7. Remember ties are only used when absolutely necessary. If a tie can be replaced with a single note without breaking any other rules, it must be done!
  8. And lastly, use the whole staff instead of writing all the notes close together on one side and having empty space towards the right side and remember to add a bar-line t the end!

SECTION 4: Sequence

Just like the ostinato section in grade 1, it is simple to understand the question in this section even if you have forgotten what it is. Isn’t it funny how so many times the answer is right their in the question and we tend to miss it because we are just nervous? Well, don’t worry, as I am not going to let that happen! Just see our hacks below to make sure you get some really easy marks in your pocket!

Grade 2 Theory Exam Hacks:

  1. Notice that the question says make a sequence by repeating it twice (mostly, but they can always change this value). Indeed, on of the most common mistake I’ve observed among students is repeating the incorrect number of times! 
  2. The question will mention whether the sequence is moving higher or lower each time and by how much. For instance, one note higher each time or two notes lower each time.
  3. Use interval reading while moving the pattern in the said direction. After you move the first note to the correct place on the staff, try to read if the next note goes higher or lower and by how many steps, and express the same in the bar you are writing. This will really cut down on the scope of error.
  4. You can first draw the note-heads are the correct places and then add the stems. Although this may not work for everyone, for some students, this makes the process much more simple.
  5. Lastly, use the whole length of the staff, dividing it into equal parts and don’t miss out on the bar-lines (even at the end!).   

SECTION 5: Transposition

In this question you are asked to move the melody–the same melody–to a different pitch. For Grade 2, transposition is restricted to moving the melody up or down an octave on the same clef.

Grade 2 Theory Exam Hacks:

  1.  Start with copying the same clef, key signature and time signature as the one given in the line of music that you are to copy.
  2. Following that, use a scale to draw the bar-lines exactly below the given staff. You have now successfully created the structure in which you have to fill your notes.
  3. Read the question to find out whether you have to move the given melody an octave up or an octave down.
  4. Transpose the first note according to the above. Following that read the interval each note is moving and replicate that in your answer. To be sure you have not gone wrong anywhere, check the last note like you checked the first note while starting.
  5. Ensure, by using a scale, that you are writing each note exactly below the corresponding note in the question. This will ensure that the distances between the notes are well maintained throughout.
  6. Take care of the direction of the stems. these may be different from the directions of the stems in the question.
  7. Lastly, in case there is any dynamic or tempo marking given in the question, copy those as well. The music is incomplete without them!

SECTION 6: Adding a Melody to the Given Rhythm

This question gives you three things. The key, the time signature and the rhythm. Your job, consequently, is to create a tune within the confines of the information given. 

Grade 2 Theory Exam Hacks:

  1. the question generally asks you to use the key signature while writing the music. Keeping this in mind, write the key signature before you even start working on your tune.
  2. Next, write the specified time signature.
  3.  The question either asks you to use to first 5 degrees of the scale or the notes from the tonic triad. Write the letter names of these notes on your rough sheet for reference.
  4. The question also asks you to end on the tonic. If it is so, write the letter name of the tonic note above the last note.
  5. Write the letter names of the pitches you want to use on top of the notes given in the rhythm.
  6. Starting the music on the 1st or 5th degree is generally a good idea, but you do not need to confine yourself to this rule.
  7. After your amazing melody, you may also add articulation, tempo or dynamic markings to make it more interesting. 
  8. Oh, and when you finish, don’t forget to add the double bar lines. 

SECTION 7: Analysis

In this section you are given a few bars of music on the basis of which you are to answer a the questions that follow. These are higher order application based question that test a deeper understanding of music and music theory.

Grade 2 Theory Exam Hacks:

  1.  Start with observing the clef, key signature and time signature of the music given.
  2. Understand what the question is asking for. For instance, The questions that ask you to name and the ones that ask you to explain are expecting different answers. While the questions that ask you to name something are simply asking for what the symbol or term is called. Whereas, explain implies that you have to write the name as well as define the term using a few words. 
  3. While you were only asked to find the patterns in the previous grade, for example an arpeggio, this exam may ask you to identify patterns. It is testing the same concept, but in a different way that requires you to have a little more in depth knowledge. 
  4. You may be asked to recognize the shape of the music or describe the music given to you. Use your visual skills and imaginations. Answers like the first half is using broken chords to go up or the music uses sequence to fall or the melody is jumping up and down quickly are expected. It would be a great idea to start noticing the shape of any music you see for practice!
  5. Learn the musical terms and symbols at the end of the book and also revise the ones that you learnt in Grade 1!

All the Best for your Trinity Grade 2 Theory of Music Examination!!

If you have gone through the syllabus, done your practice and reached the end of this page, I am happy to inform you that nothing can come in the way of you and that exam. Stay confident and get ready to have fun in that exam room! Wow, that sounds like an oxymoron! But it is true! And hey, if there is even a little bit of nervousness left in you, you can always go and check my Trinity Grade 1 theory Exam Hacks to help you with some additional tips!