RGT Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam Outline

rgt grade 1 acoustic guitarThe Acoustic Guitar Syllabus has become one of the most popular choices for RGT teachers and students alike when it comes time to choose an appropriate exam and course of study.

Offering levels of study from Initial Stage exams all the way to Acoustic Guitar Teaching Diploma exams, the RGT Acoustic Guitar syllabus has something for everyone looking to improve their abilities on and knowledge of the instrument.

In today’s article, we’ll be looking into the requirements for the Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam. Feel free to bookmark this page and come back when necessary as you study the various sections of this exam with your teacher and in your personal practice.


Grade 1 Acoustic Exam Intro


The RGT Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam is aimed towards candidates that are 10 years of age and older, and the exam itself lasts approximately 13 minutes.

Though it is recommended that candidates study for and perform this exam on an Acoustic (Flattop) guitar, the use of a nylon string is absolutely fine. Whilst the use of an electric guitar for these exams will be allowed, it is not recommended.

There are five main sections to this exam, Fingerboard Knowledge, Performance, Aural Assessment, Musical Knowledge and Accompaniment, which are outlined in more detail below.

When combined, these different sections of the exam are geared towards introducing you to new scales and chord shapes on the guitar, building your performance ability through the study of chord progressions and melody lines, and increasing your knowledge of both the instrument, aural skills and relevant theoretical concepts.


Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam Breakdown


To help you have a better understanding of what is required from this exam, here is a brief outline of the five main sections of the Acoustic Guitar Grade 1 Exam.

Each of these items can be found in the RGT Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam Handbook, and it is recommended that anyone taking this exam purchase and work through this book in their preparations.

The exam entry form is also contained in the book, which is necessary to fill out and submit before registering for this or any RGT exam.

Each section of the exam is worth a different amount of marks, and here is a quick breakdown of those marks to keep as a reference when preparing for the exam.


  • Fingerboard Knowledge 10 Marks
  • Performance 50 Marks
  • Musical Knowledge 10 Marks
  • Accompaniment 20 Marks
  • Aural Assessment 10 Marks


As you can see, using this division of the marks can help you divide your practice time, as you can spend more time preparing for the sections with more marks, and less time on sections that have less marks in order to ensure that you have spent enough time on each section of the exam relevant to the marks given for that section.


Fingerboard Knowledge

During this section of the exam, the examiner will request a selection of chords and scales to be performed from memory.

For the chords, each requested chord should be strummed once slowly, and for the scales, they should be played ascending and descending without repeating the top note of the scale.

In the exam, you will be required to know the scales and chords from the previous two exams, as well as a number of new chords and scales to be chosen by the examiner in the exam.

New required material consists of A, E, A7, B7, D7 and E7 open-position chords, as well as one-octave positions for the D Major and A Natural Minor scales.

Remember, while playing the correct chord is of course important, there is a strong importance placed on chord clarity and scale evenness, so make sure to work on these aspects of your playing in the practice room before taking the exam.

If you have already taken the Initial Stage Acoustic Guitar Exam and Preliminary Stage Acoustic Exam , then many of the items required in this section will be review for you at this point in your development. This will allow you to focus more of your attention in the practice room on the other four sections of the Grade 1 exam.

If this is your first RGT Acoustic Guitar Exam, then more time will be needed to fully ensure that you are secure with each of the chords and scales from this section, both the new requirements and those including in the previous two exams.



The Performance section for the Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam is divided into two sections, the Rhythm Study which is worth up to 25 marks, and a choice of one Melody OR one Fingerstyle Study, which is worth up to 25 marks for the one piece that the candidate chooses to perform.

The Rhythm Study, and either the Melody or Fingerstyle Study from this section of the exam, can be read from the Grade 1 Handbook, as they are not required to be memorized in order to achieve full marks in this section of the exam.

Candidates will need to prepare one of the Rhythm Studies from the Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Book, as they will be asked to perform this piece unaccompanied during the exam.

The melody component of this exam can be chosen from the songs presented in the Grade 1 Exam Book, or the melody can be a “free choice” as long as it is a well-known melody from 1960 onwards and at least a similar technical standard and duration to the melodies found in the exam handbook.

You can find more details about these free choices at the RGT Acoustic Guitar Grade 1 Exam Page.

If you choose to perform the Fingerstyle Study, you will choose one of the options presented in the Grade 1 RGT Acoustic book and perform that on the exam. The studies contained in the book will be at the same difficulty level as the melodic options, but will allow candidates to study and perform a fingerstyle song if that is of more interest to them than the melody selection.

Because there are two pieces to be performed during the Performance section of the Grade 1 Exam, each song is worth 25 marks, for a total of 50 for the melody section as a whole.

As you can see, the Performance section of the exam is worth 50 out of a possible 100 marks, and therefore it is recommended that you spend enough time in the practice room to fully prepare to be successful during this section of the Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam.


Musical Knowledge

For those candidates that have already taken their Preliminary and Initial Stage Acoustic Exams, you will notice that this is a new requirement beginning with the Grade 1 Exam.

This section will test your knowledge of the basic anatomy of the guitar, including notes on the fingerboard and the parts of the guitar. Study guidelines for this section of the exam can be found in the RGT Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Handbook.



This is another new section of the exam as compared to the Preliminary and Initial Stage Acoustic Guitar Exams. In this section of the exam, the examiner will play a short melody and the candidate will provide the accompaniment for this melody.

The melody presented here could be drawn from one of a range of musical styles that you would normally associate with the acoustic guitar, including traditional folk, contemporary folk and blues.

After the chord chart is presented to the candidate, and they are given a short time to look it over, the examiner will play the melody through once and you may listen and follow along during this first run through. The melody will then be played three more times without stopping as the candidate attempts a suitable accompaniment over the melody.

In the first verse of the three continuous playings your playing will not be assessed. You can either sit and listen to the melody or practice your rhythm playing during this first verse of the three. The style of accompaniment will be left up to the discretion of the candidate, and they can choose to either fingerpick or strum the chords along to the melody.

For the Grade 1 Exam, the time signature will be limited to 4/4.


Aural Assessment

The Aural Assessment section of the Grade 1 exam will be relatively familiar for those candidates that have already taken the Preliminary Grade Exam.

Here, you will be tested on your aural abilities via five individual tests appropriate for this grade level.

Tests A, B and C – In this section, a four-bar melody will be played and the tests will involve clapping the pulse of the melody, identifying the time signature of the same melody, and well as reproducing the rhythm of an extract taken from the melody.

Test D – Here, you will reproduce on guitar a short melodic phrase after the examiner has performed it twice for you on their instrument.

Test E – The final aural assessment test involves recognizing chords and movement between chords appropriate for this grade level.

Since aural skills are often a weak point for developing acoustic guitarists, spending time in each lesson and practice session will help prepare you to be successful in this section of the Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam.


Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam Tips


To help you prepare and give you further insights into the Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when studying for and sitting this exam.


1. Learning the parts of the guitar tends to come easy for most people, but this is only half of the Musical Knowledge section. Spending a bit of time each day learning the notes on the fretboard can help you securely answer all of the questions in this section of the exam.


2. Candidates may be tempted to choose what they perceive as the ‘easiest’ choice between the melody and fingerstyle study in the performance section. Keep in mind that the better choice might be the piece that showcases your strengths, which may or may not be the easiest of the two to learn and play on the exam.


3. Aural skills cannot be crammed for overnight, so incorporating them into your daily practise routine is the best way to prepare for this section of the exam.


4. Accompaniment will now be a regular part of each RGT Acoustic Guitar Exam moving forward, so spending time on this section with your teacher in lessons, and your self study, will help you prepare for this, and all future RGT exams.


To find out more about the Accompaniment section of this exam, please refer to the RGT Acoustic Guitar Accompaniment Grade 1 Book now available.

To find out more about the RGT Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam, please visit the RGT Acoustic Guitar Exam page, or feel free to read and download the RGT Acoustic Guitar Exam Handbook and the RGT Acoustic Guitar Exam Syllabus from the RGT website as well.

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Have you taken or taught a Grade 1 Acoustic Guitar Exam? Share your thoughts or questions about this exam in the COMMENTS section below.

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