How to Prepare to Take the Musical Merit Exam

As any music teacher in California knows, the Certificate of Merit (CM) program is one of the main goals for music students to strive for. The teachers will likely be preparing his or her students to take this exam in the future over the course of his or her lessons.

The main question is this: what is the Certificate of Merit program and how does any student prepare for it?

1. The CM program is the official evaluation for musicians.

In California, the Music Teachers’ Association of California recognizes the CM program as the official music study program that tests the student’s performance and knowledge of music theory. Every year, around mid-February to April, the evaluation takes place, as students take a theory test (including ear training tests) and perform certain pieces that they have been practicing.

There are 10 to 11 levels for each instrument. It gives the student credibility in merit if they pass (especially for the students who perform well enough to be invited to perform at state convention recitals).

2. The teacher will spend a lot of time on preparation.

Any teacher of any musical instrument will likely be spending a considerable amount of time each year making sure his or her student is ready for the CM test. That includes having the student practice certain pieces until they are fully mastered and memorized as well as reviewing music theory books.

Students will likely be given sections of music theory as homework along with their music practice and further theory practice will come in the form of sightseeing and ear training exercises. Any student should expect considerable amount of practice as the time for the test comes near.

3. Practice makes perfect, especially here.

The only real advice applicable to students for any instrument is the same for any test of mastery: practice and study. Students have to expect that their teachers will be demanding and thus should be practicing every day.

Given the levels involved, any student will be spending at least several years involved in this process. It is hard work, but it can be passed and it does not require some special talent or skill that people cannot earn.

Registration for the CM test happens around fall, so students are likely preparing for the test by now. It can be a lot to deal with sometimes, but it is designed that way to test the student’s capabilities. Because of that, the feeling of satisfaction when given the award is nothing short of excellent.

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Kevin Kwon is a recent graduate from UC Berkeley, currently 23 years old. He works in San Francisco and hopes to continue in the graduate studies regarding the field of psychology.

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