RCM Crossover Syllabus


Late in August of 2016 the Royal Conservatory of Music announced that a new theory syllabus was in effect. At first glance, the new syllabus seems to be a major change to the program, but on closer inspection, it is more of a reorganization of the material, with an emphasis on incorporating theory and history earlier on in a student's music studies. I attended a workshop by the RCM on September 07 2016, and the message was clear: don't panic.

The most obvious change, and one I suspect will be welcome by both parents of music students and students alike, is a change in the naming conventions for music theory subjects. Theory levels will now correspond to instrument levels, making the understanding of theory co-requisites more intuitive. For example, Level 5 theory is a corequisite for Level 5 piano or guitar.

We can group the different levels of the RCM program into four progressive sections: Elementary Certificates, Intermediate Certificates, Advanced Certificates, and ARCT.

Elementary Certificates cover the Preparatory Level through Level 4. No theory exam is required or available for these levels. Instrument instructors are strongly encouraged to incorporate theory studies at these levels in the lesson or in group lessons. This practice will help prepare the student for theory studies at the intermediate level and beyond.

Intermediate Certificates include Level 5 through Level 8. For theory, these levels correspond to the old Rudiments program: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Rudiments. As with the old program, students may elect to write exams at each level, or write the Level 8 exam to complete their theory requirements up to Level 8 in their instrument.

New material includes melody writing, and a history section. Level 8 introduces some introductory harmony. Although students may choose to skip Level 5-7 exams, they cannot skip the material, it is still accumulative.

Advanced Certificates correspond to Levels 9-10. Theory corequisites include Level 9 Theory, Level 9 History, Level 10 Harmony & Counterpoint, Level 10 History.

Counterpoint is now integrated into the Harmony program. Students must complete Harmony 9 before writing Harmony 10. 

History 9 and 10 include a few new pieces. Optional works are removed: all students study the same compositions.

ARCT Certificate in Performance now requires ARCT Harmony & Counterpoint, ARCT Analysis, and ARCT History.


All paid courses now follow the 2016 syllabus. We will be transitioning over courses listed in the student resource section over this year.

Last modified: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 9:45 PM