Special consideration

Special consideration is given in line with the circumstances and processes described in this policy to candidates who suffer temporary illness, injury or indisposition, or adverse circumstances at or near the time of the assessment. Special consideration will not result in an adjustment to marks and will not change the assessment criteria applied by the examiner for the exam.

An application may be made for special consideration either:

When a candidate’s performance in an exam may have been affected by circumstances beyond their control, e.g.

  • a personal trauma or upset shortly before or at the time of the exam, such as bereavement or family crisis
  • a minor injury occurring immediately before the exam, such as a sprained wrist
  • a sudden malfunction of the instrument immediately before the exam, such as problems with the key-work/pads on a woodwind instrument
  • serious disturbance at the time of the exam, such as noise from nearby building works


When the exam is not completed due to circumstances beyond the candidate’s control, e.g.

  • illness partway through an exam
  • instrument failure partway through an exam, such as problems with the key-work/pads on a woodwind instrument
  • disruption to the exam by external factors, such as fire alarm or power failure
  • a sudden and unexpected malfunction of a computer (online Music Theory only)

These arrangements are intended to allow for those who suffer sudden minor illness or injury at the time of the exam and do not include those who are injured in advance of their exam or are ill at the time, for whom the recommended course of action is withdrawal and application for a partial refund on submission of medical evidence to ABRSM.

It is not advisable for a candidate who is unwell to attend an exam, nor for those experiencing illness or injury to be assessed under disadvantageous circumstances that cannot be taken into account by the examiner. Where the illness or injury is very minor and rescheduling the exam within that session of exams would be helpful (Practical exams only), every effort is made to find an alternative appointment, although this may mean attending at an alternative centre.

An application for special consideration must be made in writing as soon as possible after the assessment and not later than seven days after the exam before results have been issued. Customers in the UK should use the Contact Us form on our website or email [email protected]. Customers outside of the UK should contact their local representative 

The application must be submitted by the applicant and must be in writing, with documentary evidence where appropriate, i.e. medical evidence or a statement from an involved party. The application must be signed and dated and the signatory must declare that the information given is accurate.

Should the applicant be unavailable in the seven days following the exam, an initial application in writing may be made by another concerned party (e.g. the accompanist or the parent), but must be followed by formal confirmation by the applicant as soon as possible in line with the instructions above.

It should be noted that an application for special consideration may delay the release of the exam result while proper investigation is made.

Candidates can be assessed only on the performance given during an exam and consequently an application for special consideration will not result in an adjustment to marks and will not change the assessment criteria applied by the examiner for the exam in question. Where a section of a graded exam is not attempted, marks for that section cannot be awarded, but a a candidate may still be successful and be awarded a certificate provided that the marks awarded for the sections attempted meet the pass mark for the relevant qualification.

Applying for special consideration gives the applicant the opportunity to consider the candidate’s options in consultation with ABRSM, should the application be successful. The possible outcomes of a successful application for special consideration are:

  • If appropriate, discussion of the provisional outcome with the applicant (i.e. informal notification of whether or not the candidate has passed), and a decision to accept the assessment as originally awarded, albeit with an acknowledgement that external circumstances may have affected the candidate’s performance.  In this situation, ABRSM will record the outcome of the application for special consideration in writing to the applicant, confirming that the candidate may have been disadvantaged but has decided to accept the assessment.
  • Opting to invalidate the exam in question and to retake* the exam at the earliest opportunity, free of charge and within the same exam session if appropriate (Practical exams only).  This may mean travelling to an alternative venue.

*If this is not possible, a partial refund may be offered to the applicant.

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