Apr 07

Music Theory Diplomas – a Comparison


Music Theory Diplomas Comparison

Which Examination Board Offers the Right Diploma for you?

graduateGrade 8 is just the beginning! If you’ve got to grade 8 (ABRSM or Trinity) in music theory (or in your instrument), ¬†you are now at the point where can jump ahead to diploma level study and get some letters after your name for your endeavours.

The ABRSM, Trinity Guildhall College of Music and London College of Music (University of West London) all offer post-grade 8 level examinations. These qualifications are split into three or four levels, which have varying names, all depending on the examination board. It can be quite confusing to compare them, but what they all have in common is that gaining a particular diploma qualification is equivalent to a certain level of study at university.

This post is about music theory diplomas, and at the time of writing the ABRSM does not (unfortunately) offer diploma level music theory exams, so if you want to further your studies you will have to choose between these two examining boards (this article does not make any attempt to look into non-UK diplomas):

Trinity Guildhall or The London College of Music (LCM)?

Trinity offers three levels of diploma and the LCM offers four. In order to compare the levels accurately, I’ll show the QCF level for each exam. (“QCF” is the “Qualifications and Credit Framework” which is used to standardise all academic exams within the United Kingdom.)


Trinity Associate (AMusTCL)  Р Licentiate (LMusTCL) Fellowship (FMusTCL)
London College of Music Diploma (DipMusLCM) Associate (AMusLCM) Licentiate (LMusLCM) Fellowship (FLCM)
QCF 4 5 6 7
University equivalent 1st year BA 2nd year BA 3rd year BA Masters


In this article I’m going to compare the entry level diploma offered by each board. Please note that although the information is correct at the time of writing it is, of course,¬†subject to change. Check everything with the individual boards before committing yourself to an exam. Links are provided.


LCM: 101 pounds (sterling)

Trinity: 80 pounds (sterling)

Duration & Format of Exam

Both boards: 3 hours, written exam in one session. 5 questions in total.

Name of Qualification

(This are the letters that you’ll be able to write after your name if you pass).


Trinity: AMusTCL


Exams you need to have passed before you can sit these: None.

Pass Marks

LCM: Pass 75%, “Upper Level” 85%

Trinity: Pass 60%, “Distinction” 80%



Please note: from 2017 Trinity will be using a revised syllabus. Full details here http://www.trinitycollege.com/site/?id=1589 


1. Stylistic Composition: Bach Chorale completion (compulsory), plus choose from 2-part counterpoint, harmonising a folk song for piano, classical style string quartet or realisation of chord symbols for any orchestration.

2. Questions on a Score: An unseen chamber, vocal or orchestral score.

3. Comparison of Recordings: Compare and contrast two different recordings of the same piece.

4. Essay: 400-500 words on a topic chosen from a selection of about ten topics.


1. Musical Skills: (choose 2 or 3 questions). Completing a Chorale, Completing an orchestration (1760-1810), Completing a piano piece (1810-1860) or Completing a pop song/melodic composition (20th century).

2.¬†Stylistic Development: (choose 1 or 2 questions). Set texts: either Schubert’s Symphony no.5 or Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms.

3. Stylistic Responses: Compare and contrast (choose 1 question Рspecific works are listed in the syllabus). Bach arrangements, Pop music since 1966, two contrasting film scores, two contrasting musicals.



General Information about the DipMusLCM (Website)

Music Literacy (Theory) Diploma Syllabus (PDF)

Sample Exam Paper for DipMusLCM (PDF)

Fees (Website)



General Information about Trinity Diplomas (Website)

Music Theory Diploma Syllabus (PDF)

Sample Exam Paper for AMusTCL (PDF)

Fees (PDF





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