Examinations have been central to the College’s work since it was founded in 1864.
The College’s original Royal Charter of 1893 and revised Charters charge it to promote the arts and practice of organ playing and choral directing to the highest standards of competence and artistry, and empower it to implement such standards through examinations.
Both in the United Kingdom as well as abroad, the College’s diplomas remain as highly prized now as they were more than a century ago, not least because they continue to demand the combination of technical and interpretative skill with stylistic, analytical and historical understanding that marks out the truly accomplished musician: the Certificate (CertRCO) validates ‘reliable and confident musicianship’, Associateship (ARCO) ‘professional competency’ and Fellowship (FRCO) ‘professional expertise’, while the Licentiateship in Teaching (LTRCO) and the Choral Directing Diploma (DipCHD) validate ‘professional expertise’ in those particular skills.
The development and refinement of the College’s examination syllabuses continues year by year. This work is overseen by the College’s Academic Board, which consists of leading practitioners and teachers working in the school, university, and conservatoire sectors. Periodically, a full review of the College’s examination programme is undertaken, and the Academic Board is currently engaged in such a review. Any future modifications to diploma requirements stemming from the review will be notified to members well in advance via the College’s website, the e-bulletin Notae Breves and RCO News.
Recent years have already seen various welcome changes. The conditional marking strictures in organ playing and keyboard skills (by which it was previously possible for a candidate to achieve an aggregate pass mark, but still fail) have been removed: a simple aggregate pass mark is required. All papers at ARCO, FRCO and DipCHD are now separately passable and resittable. At DipCHD the Viva Voce has been deleted and the exemption of ARCO and FRCO diploma holders from the Chorale/Counterpoint question in Paper II has been removed, placing all candidates on an equal footing. The implementation of comprehensive examination criteria has resulted in greater transparency of assessment and an improved focus on artistic and technical priorities. Two years ago new organ playing repertoire lists at Cert, ARCO and FRCO were introduced. It has been heartening to see candidates at all levels taking full advantage of the stylistic breadth of the classic organ repertoire contained in these new lists, presenting works familiar and less familiar. Candidates entering for organ playing examinations from July 2013 onwards are asked to note that the Sight Reading test in the Keyboard Skills section will also be available for review in the study period before the examination. The time allowed to study the tests has been increased to reflect this revision, which it is hoped reflects more accurately everyday circumstances. Candidates are referred to the rubrics about the Keyboard Skills on pp. 9, 12 and 16, for CertRCO, ARCO and FRCO respectively, for more information about this and other alterations.
The actual process of sitting the component parts of an examination for RCO qualification may seem daunting to the candidate. However, the College's aim is to encourage and nurture candidates towards success as much as possible. All the College's qualifications are structured in a modular fashion so that they can be gained cumulatively; many candidates now successfully progress towards RCO qualifications in this manner. The College runs preparatory day-courses and workshops, it offers library resources to candidates, and past written and organ test papers are readily available from this website. I cannot emphasise enough that the most vital and valuable part of the process is the preparation and study before the examination.
The pages below this webpage give access to the General Regulations and the specific requirements for all the College's examinations. Information about examination centres, application deadlines and written paper schedules are also given. The annual publication Diploma Examinations contains all this material in one document. It is available as a download on the 'Diploma Regulations' page of this site click here, or in print on request from the College's Administration. Further details concerning examination schedules and fees are published periodically. Again, such information is available from the College website or in print on request from the College's Administration. Any further enquiries about College examinations should be addressed to the College's Administration.
Examination Regulations 2013–2014
The examination regulations and requirements for July 2013 to January 2014 are available here (click here). The application deadlines, provisional examination timetables, and fee schedules for examination year July 2013 to January 2014 may also be found in these regulations.