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Special Consideration Policy

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.

Separate arrangements exist for those who withdraw from an exam or miss an exam due to circumstances beyond their control.

Eligibility for special consideration

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 instument
  • 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 part way through an exam
  • instrument failure part-way through an exam, such as problems with the key-work/pads on a woodwind instument
  • disruption to the exam by external factors, such as fire alarm or power failure

Possible outcomes of special consideration

The candidate’s exam result must reflect his or her achievement in the assessment, and not his or her potential ability, and it should therefore be recognised that candidates can only be judged on the performances given during the exam.  An application for special consideration will therefore rarely result in an adjustment to the marks given, and will not change the assessment criteria applied by the examiner for the exam in question. 

Where part of an exam is not attempted, marks for that section cannot be awarded.  However, a candidate may still be successful in an exam that is not completed and be awarded a certificate.  This is provided the marks awarded for the sections attempted total 100 or more in a practical exam and 66 marks or more in a theory exam.


Applications for special consideration should be made in writing to ABRSM direct, not to the examiner.  Nevertheless, it is assumed that the examiner will be notified of important circumstances affecting individual candidates, via the steward, at the time of the exam in order to allow sensitivity to his or her situation (practical exams only).  This will not, however, influence the marking, nor will the examiner decide whether special consideration can be given; this decision will be made by ABRSM only after formal application and consideration of the circumstances and any evidence submitted.


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 without adjustment to the marks, albeit with an acknowledgment 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 take the exam again at the earliest opportunity, free of charge, within the same exam session (practical exams only).  This may mean travelling to an alternative centre.  
  • Opting to invalidate the exam in question and to receive a fee refund of up to 75% on submission of documentary evidence.

Application procedure

An application for special consideration should be submitted to the UK Operations Director as soon as possible after the assessment and not later than seven days after the exam, in accordance with the following conditions:

  • 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 whilst proper investigation is made.

Special note concerning illness or injury

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 refund of up to 75%, on submission of medical evidence to ABRSM. It is not advisable for a candidate who is unwell to attend for 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.


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