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The last few days before an exam...


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I am taking my RAD Intermediate exam in 10 days' time and I'd appreciate some advice from those who've taken exams before and from teachers, of course.


We pushed this exam forward (was supposed to do it next year May) because my teacher thought I could do it this year, especially as I'm not that concerned about results - for now, I just need to get through this particular exam for various reasons. So in some ways I feel less ready than I would like (in certain aspects) but in others, more than ready.


At this point, I think I've realised that there are certain things that are not going to improve drastically in the next 10 days, so in my mind, I'd like to continue to try my best, but I'd also like to concentrate more and more on the "details" (heads, upper body movement looking particularly nice, presentation, really fully "using" my music). Most of these details are in place, but I have a few bad habits I'd like to work on preventing (like looking down sometimes) and I'd just like to fine-tune a bit.

One of the problems in this regard is that the teacher I am working with (not the teacher who originally entered me for the exam, for reasons outside of my and her control) believes in just continuing class as normal (in terms of many, many corrections during exercises) up until the exam. My other teacher believed in, closer to the exam, working through parts of the syllabus uninterrupted and then her giving me feedback/corrections after that, allowing me to work through the syllabus uninterrupted and have a more "exam-like" atmosphere.

I am really struggling with my current teacher's approach...and as I have a couple of private lessons coming up, I'm wondering if I should say something along the lines of: "Could we try and do this in an exam-like atmosphere and just work through chunks of the syllabus and then discuss them afterwards?". Would this be a bad idea? I'm not saying I don't want corrections, I just want to practice what it's going to be like in the exam.


Also, is it worthwhile filming the class at this point so that I can look at the video and correct myself on certain things (like, actually having a visual idea of me looking down, so I can actually SEE what my teacher is talking about)? Or is it too late for that?


Does anyone have advice for me? Thanks.

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Maybe a way to approach it would be to say that you are a little concerned with your ability to maintain your stamina throughout the exam (this is always an issue for me as I am asthmatic, but generally seems to be something that we all battle a bit with) and could you please have a couple of classes run like an exam to reassure yourself???


I have used recordings up to a week before my exam, I just didnt believe that my leg in arabesque was not straight at the end of the grande jete en tournane (sp?), a recording quickly proved that it wasnt and I have been able to fix it since then (most of the time). :unsure: BUT only if it will not stress you too much.

I would be more inclined to find someone I trust who would be super critical to watch me dance and fix things for me.

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Thanks, Balletlove. I'll try your suggestion - my only concern is that then she'll still be yelling corrections at me through those exercises...I'll figure out a way. And yes, stamina is a problem for most people I think. Or at least most recreational dancers. Glad I'm not the only one who could see the value of filming...I think if I were to ask someone to be super critical I would probably feel worse - I think that's one of my problems already...too much criticism, from myself and teacher. Some of the things I need to fix are just not going to be fixed by the exam (e.g. posture) so maybe I just need to focus on what I can do well for now.


I think I just miss my old teacher :unsure: She would concentrate on presentation and stop nagging about every technical detail by now. I just miss her in general though.

I need to stop comparing the two teachers.

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Some of the things I need to fix are just not going to be fixed by the exam (e.g. posture) so maybe I just need to focus on what I can do well for now.

This is my only concern with you filming it that you may become fixated on things that cannot be improved.

It would be a bit like me filming myself doing batterie a week before my intermediate exam, I knew that they were terrible, but there was nothing I could about it at that stage so watching it may well have caused me to have a complete melt down.


I do think that going and practising your whole syllabus by yourself is a good idea, I often do this (I go to the gym and use one of the studio's there, Sunday afternoon's/evening's are particularly good days as the studio's are fairly deserted). It is great for testing your stamina, and also your knowledge of the syllabus. I am busy learning the advanced I syllabus at the moment and this is a true test as to whether you know the exercise - the beauty in the execution of this is of course a different story.


Perhaps I should qualify my "super critical" telling you that your beats are terrible would not help at all, telling you that you need to make the arms a bit more definite or the head more whatever will help the presentation and the overall execution and sometimes even the feel of the movement.

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Immediately before the exam, we practise going through the whole syllabus and I do try very hard not to correct . However, sometimes it's the last minute corrections which turn out to be the most useful. My Intermediates also practised on their own this year, going through the whole syllabus without me to make sure they knew it well enough and to build stamina. How long is your private lesson? Could you ask the teacher to give you a mock exam during that? Would there be enough time?


In the actual exam of course you won't do the whole syllabus and you will get lots of time to rest and drink whilst the examiner is writing. Don't get scared that she is writing too much - she needs to write a lot in order to evaluate you properly. By the way, I return home this friday, but as our house is still not finished, I won't be on the computer as regularly. I'll be in touch though, I promise! All the best!

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Thanks Hamorah. I'm going to go through the whole syllabus the morning before my exam. I will ask the teacher to give me a mock exam at some point (I've had a mock exam for every exam I've ever done, and my first exam was when I was 5, so it's strange that we don't have a mock exam).


We are not allowed to drink water in the exam (yes, it's hard...my mouth gets dry when I'm nervous too). It was even discouraged for the pre-exam course. I don't know - exams are treated very formally here. Apparently the examiner is nice and quite nice to look at too :) (my sources tell me), so hopefully that'll help in the nervous moments between exercises :)


I think the biggest thing is that I want to enjoy the exam, if I can...as in, show that I love dancing, even if I'm not technically perfect. If all else fails, I'll just become an RAD pianist as my connection to ballet instead of a teacher :P


I'm not sure why I feel so "over-corrected" in my classes with this teacher :(


And Hamorah, how early were you awake this morning???? :o

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I thought everyone did a mock exam or pre exam session or whatever you would like to call it. We always use that as a last check with the pianist that the speed of each of the exercises is correct etc, a check for placement in the studio (we dont dance exams in our own studio) etc etc


Swantobe I am absolutely speeechless that you dont take water into the exam with you!!!!??? I know that some of the girls take a towel in with them as well. I am one of those rare species that never sweats so have never had need for a towel, but even I drink water in the exam and I am not a big drinker.

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Yes, I've never been allowed water in an exam before. Or a towel. When I was a little kid, I could understand, because we would probably drink all the time or whatever. But now...? It doesn't really make sense not to take water in :) But then today I was told in class that apparently this specific examiner has said that students may in fact bring water into the exam which is a big relief! As for sweating, I have hyperhidrosis, so I sweat a LOT, but fortunately we are permitted to take small towels in but are only supposed to use them when at the barre or when changing into pointe shoes (which clearly excludes the allegro section... :().


In my experience of RAD, the pre-exam course (which isn't compulsory and is about 4-6 weeks before the exam) is the only opportunity for students to "test out" the exam venue, and then there are sometimes as many as 30 students in the class instead of the 4 students per exam, so it doesn't really help with placing. We don't get to practice with the specific pianist who will be playing during our exam, unless they happen to be playing at the pre-exam course too. I'm really, really hoping that I don't get a certain pianist whose tempo is always off :)

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All our students take a bottle of water with them for the Vocational exams - they also are expected to take a smallish towel in with them. We wrap our pointe shoes in the towel and they carry both in with them when they enter. After the first reverance, the shoes are placed in the corner and the towel goes on the barre. The teacher usually sneaks in the water bottles inbetween exams!

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Swantobe am pleased that you are allowed to take water in, I must be honest this one still has me totally confused as to why you might not be allowed. Okay so if they didnt allow the really little kids to take water in I might understand as the duration of the exam is not very long but when you are getting to an exam in excess of an hour long ...


We dont have a pre exam course, what we have is a time slot which is just a little bit longer than we would have for the exam on a day (usually a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday), when we literally do a complete run through. Barre once on each side and doing everything once straight after each other. Sometimes we will "double up" for these sessions by that I mean each group will not necessarily get their own slot, but we are not a very big studio so I think the biggest "group" we have ever had at the pre exam session has been 5; but then we get a longer time slot and will do things in the groupings we are going into the exam as so placing/spacing is perfect.


We also have a limit on only two dancers going in together for an exam, so if you have an odd number of dancers doing an exam then someone has to go in on their own (which is usually me as I am quite a lot taller than the other girls and going in on my own our very sweet pianist can with certain exercises slow things down for me just a touch).


We always have the same pianist, who is a very sweet older lady who is VERY sympathetic to the dancer, by that I mean she will hold back for you if you are a bit slow or speed up for you if you are going to fast of course this only works if both dancers (assuming there are two of you) are doing the same thing.

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Yes, we also do the pointe-shoes-wrapped-in-towel thing, left at the back or the side after the first reverence. I'm a bit nervous about the etiquette of the towel and water part, as I've not had either of those in the exam before...my previous teacher said to leave the towel at the back with the pointe shoes and then only use it when changing into pointe shoes (which is about an hour into the exam). But I'm not sure about water...I'll ask today. My old teacher had very specific instructions for us about behaviour in exams (to the extent of how we should stand when others are doing an exercise individually, how we should kneel when putting pointe shoes on etc) and I was shocked about the way some candidates (from other schools) apparently behave.


Balletlove - in the RAD, for the vocational exams, you don't usually go into the exam with candidates from your studio, unless the number of candidates for that exam is particularly small. Here, we have to fill in our heights on the forms and then one is split into groups of four according to height. I will be going into the exam with 3 girls I have probably never met before.

Unfortunately the pianist I am hoping I DON'T get is not sympathetic to the dancer at all and I have actually seen teachers/examiners get annoyed with him because of this! :blink:

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Swantobe- Okay, I understand what you are doing for your RAD exams, it is just so different to what we do (going in with girls from different studio's etc). I know that there are terminology differences etc between the two methods etc etc etc (my teacher did some RAD so we get fed the information and of course also some of the different terminology etc when we get RAD girls joining our studio) but just never expected four dancers in an exam together and possibly dancers that you dont even know.


We get paired together for different reasons for going into the exams, but always in ways which benefit the dancers for instance with our last exam there were four of us (me being the tallest by quite a good way) and the other three being of similar height, but of the other three dancers two preferred to do things at a faster tempo and one at a slower so the dancer who preferred the slower tempo on things went in with me (given a choice, I will do EVERYTHING slower but particularly things like adage, the slower the better for me).

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I am really concerned about failing this exam :blink: I have so many bad habits and my core is so weak, as are my rotation muscles.

I'm also concerned about my pointe shoes - I just changed shoes cos other ones weren't really working but I think these ones might be too soft (in the bottom of the box) already :o but teacher felt them and said they were okay, just am different type of shoe so I need to get used to them. I don't feel secure in them and my teacher and I are going to try and "massage" them a bit so they work better (in the shank)...but she said that the shoes were clearly affecting my pointe work badly today :D The last thing I need right now is a shoe crisis...


Balletlove - the graded exams in RAD tend to work the way yours seem to, but the vocational (Major) ones are different.

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Swantobe I am sure that you are not going to fail your exam! Would you teacher enter you if she wasnt sure that you would pass?


Do you break your pointe shoes? I physically break my shank at a perfect 3/4 mark for me, it helps the shank to stay strong and straight which feels fantasticly supportive and interestingly gives a better shape as well and the shoes seem to last longer. I dont break mine at the roll through point because my feet do it themselves with no effort although I do frequently do it for some of the younger dancers in our studio.


If your shoes feel soft on the platform, maybe try gluing them???

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Well, from those who helped to evaluate me, they don't think I'm going to fail per se...but I'm still really nervous. I'm scared that I seriously mess up on the day.


Does anyone have any advice for boosting one's confidence? My confidence is at an all-time low :dry:


Balletlove - well, those shoes were just particularly soft and I've learnt now that Freeds need a bit extra care :lol: I'm breaking in and later glueing some new and newer shoes now.

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