ISTD Exam Guide

ISTD exams are an exciting experience! Students are selected for ISTD exams at the recommendation of the Principal. While we encourage students to take up the opportunity, please note, exams are not compulsory at VBDance.

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At VBDance we are proud to be associated with the Imperial Society for the Teachers of Dancing. Following their syllabus in each genre of Ballet, Modern Theatre, Tap and Jazz not only gives the classes structure and ensures the children’s technique develops at a safe and appropriate pace for their age, but it also allows us to enter children for examinations.

These exams give the children a goal and something to work towards which helps maintain focus and the feeling of progressing- something we find important when they are working so hard at something on a weekly basis.

When are they ready?

As a school we assess when each child is ready to participate in an exam. This is through discussion with myself and the teacher of the class. Although the children enter in small groups, they have to be ready to enter the examination room without the supervision of a teacher and perform exercises individually. This can be overwhelming if the child is under prepared so is not a decision we take lightly.

How much time will an exam take?

I’m sure you can all imagine that it requires a lot of time and work to get each child to a point of being ready to take an exam. We are given guidelines to follow by the ISTD which recommends a minimum of how long children should be training for before being entered. This varies from at least 60 hours for our youngest learners at Primary & Grade 1 and goes up to a massive 150 hours once children reach Intermediate and Advanced 1 &2. This is a large reason why we stress the importance of regular attendance and why we often schedule extra coaching lessons for the term leading up the exam. If your child is invited to take an exam but it is too large a time commitment for your family, they will mostly likely still be able to move up a grade with the other children in their class. Although we are keen to encourage our students to take their exams, we understand exams are not for everyone so would never let a child be left behind purely because they cannot commit to the extra time or the financial obligation.


There will be a cost to take the exam for each child. Firstly, there is an Exam Fee. These are made up of the exam entry fee set by the ISTD plus expenses to cover venue hire, staff, administration and other related sundries.

Other costs to considering are additional coaching (if required) and uniform.

Grades and marking

Once they have completed their exam, they will receive a graded mark sheet and certificate a few weeks later which specifies what grade they have achieved (detailed down below).

Distinction80 – 100Reflects a high to extremely high standard of achievement
Merit60 – 79Reflects a good to very good standard of achievement overall
Pass40 – 59Reflects a satisfactory to fairly good standard of achievement overall

It is worth noting these exams do not only hold value as a way of tracking progress in each individual child, but once they are old enough to take our Vocational level exams they actually get the chance to earn UCAS points which can go towards helping them get into their chosen University.

Examiners at the ISTD go through regular and rigorous training to try and make sure their marking is as consistent as possible. However, as with any performing art, personal preference comes into play which can mean that marks do not always come out the same from one examiner to the next. This does not take the value out of participating but is important to understand beforehand.

We have always found participating in exams to be an extremely positive experience. Developing a child’s perseverance and work ethic only leads to build strong individuals and we love the feeling of support we get from each class as they cheer on their classmates to succeed and do the best they can.

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