Class Award vs Exam. What is best for your child?


Sometimes we have had parents ask a very valid & interesting question (maybe, as a parent, you’ve thought it too)

‘Why is my child doing a class award & not an exam?’

First off, let’s discuss why we, as a dance school, encourage our students to take part in regular exam sessions, be it taking an exam, or a CA (class award).

At Siegeris Dance, we are proud teachers of the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) Ballet syllabus & also the ISTD syllabus for Tap & Modern. Our teachers are all highly trained & qualified by these boards & institutes. They have gone through rigorous training & observation to ensure they are fully able to teach the syllabus. The learning for our teachers never stops, as they continue to develop their syllabus teaching skills & memorize the syllabus itself. As I’m sure you can understand, the higher the grade, the more there is to do & teach! 

A note from the RAD itself ‘Around the world, RAD exams are recognised for their quality, and each year, nearly a quarter of a million candidates across the globe choose to take their dance exams with us.’

Siegeris Dance Grade 3 Ballet Exam

Class Award vs Exam 

To be totally honest, neither one is ‘better’ than the other. However, it is important to understand which is the best choice for your child & why their teacher has made their decision. It is important to note their differences. 


In an exam, students are marked on very specific criteria & components. They are awarded a mark of between 0-10. As I’m sure you can guess, 0 is the lowest score with 10 being the highest. There is also a vast amount of syllabus to cover with exams. The higher the grade, the more there is to cover. Most grades include character dance, solo & partner work too, which are very valuable skills to learn for their dance journey & indeed, life in general! There is just more to do, more to learn, more to cover in lessons & therefore, a teacher has to be very confident a student is taking everything on board at the pace required. 

Exams are definitely a more formal atmosphere, although RAD examiners are usually incredibly friendly & are experts at making students feel at ease & comfortable when presenting their work. Most examiners are or have been teachers themselves & also gone through extensive examiner training, so they are well versed with how to conduct exam sessions with the students’ comfortability in mind.

As a side note for our readers, having been the music operator in many exams, I can assure you that each & every examiner I’ve witnessed treats the students (no matter the level) with the same respect & positive attitude. I was always amazed at the ability of the examiner to remain positive & excited to see the student’s work even though they may have seen the same grade & same sets of exercises multiple times that day already! To give you a better picture, a full day of exams can be roughly 8 hours. 

We emphasize the importance of attending exam coaching sessions, which is where we usually do a complete run through of everything under ‘mock’ exam conditions. Make sure to keep an eye on your emails, as to when our exam coaching sessions take place. 

One of the most substantial differences between an exam & a CA, is that in the CA, a teacher is present in the room with the students. With this in mind, let’s move on to discuss the CA in more detail. 

Siegeris Dance senior student’s exam

Class Award (CA):

Yes, it’s true that with a CA, a teacher (usually the student’s regular teacher) is present in the room. Although they are not allowed to instruct or help the children with the steps in any way, they are there to be supportive & to announce the order of each piece. More often than not, the children find this familiar figure in the room with them a great comfort & support during the CA session. It is also helpful for the teacher to see how the students fare under a little more ‘formal’ & structured setting for future exams or CA’s. 

With a CA, there is slightly less syllabus to cover & the marking system is different too. The RAD describes it as ‘a broad indication of standard rather than a detailed breakdown’. This can really cater to some of our students who have more to learn on their technical journey, as they are not being specifically marked on any criteria. 

Can I talk to my child’s dance teacher about a Class Award vs as Exam?

At the end of the day, our utmost priority is that our students are happy & maintain a joy of dance. We would never want a child excessively worrying about coming to class & their exams. Of course, some natural apprehension may appear, but we firmly believe that dance, no matter the level, should remain a fun & joyful activity for your child. 

If a parent is ‘pushy’ & insistent on their child taking an exam when their dance teacher has shared other views, this can be tricky to navigate for all involved. The bottom line is, if a parent pushes their child to do something that their teacher thinks they are not yet ready for & they fail their exams, where will the blame fall? Definitely not on the child! You, as a parent, will feel upset for your child & of course wonder why you paid for an exam, which your child essentially failed. Please rest assured that our views & opinions as experienced dance teachers are there to only ever want the best for all our students & your child. It could be an unnecessary self esteem blow to your child, when it could have been prevented. There is often no harm in waiting another term or 2 to take an exam! 

Will my child fall behind if they take a Class Award over an Exam?

Short answer, no. The beauty of RAD levels is that it is not necessary for students to follow the exact grade levels; CA or exams. For example, if your child took a Grade 1 CA, there is absolutely no logistical reason & prerequisite as to why they couldn’t take their grade 2 exam & continue on up the levels. The only prerequisite is the minimum age requirement set out by the RAD. If your child continues to come to class, focused and with a positive attitude, then these are all good signs that they will be able to go through the levels under the guidance of their teacher. 

How can parents, students & teachers work together to best prepare?

We would like to think it should go without saying, but it is vitally important that your child attends regular classes, especially in the lead up to the exam or CA. This is for a number of reasons: as mentioned earlier, most grades require the use of solos & partner work. It is important that students get as much practice with their partner as possible, to ensure they can be as confident as possible. 

We know & totally understand that life gets busy, but it is to the full benefit of the student if they attend every class throughout the term. If this is going to be an issue, then please reach out to us & we can try to help you with another class time or day. Remember, there is also no harm in waiting a little longer, if you are unsure you can commit to a full class attendance schedule to prep for an exam or CA. At the end of the day, the preparation & wellbeing of our students is at the forefront of everything we do.  For some grades it is actually a stipulation and a requirement that children take multiple classes a week in order to fully prepare for their exam. 

It is helpful if parents maintain good communication with us, especially during exam/CA time. 

We can all work together, by communicating & supporting the students in their journey. 

The bottom line is that whether your child takes an exam or a Class Award, they are both meant to instill a great sense of achievement and confidence in themselves. It is also a wonderful and valuable life lesson to learn at an early age about taking positive action, putting in hard work and commitment towards a goal. 

With all this being said, we can genuinely say that 9 times out of 10, students really enjoy their exam or Class Award! They’re usually surprised at how fun they are & the sense of accomplishment is evident on their smiling faces.

As always, if you have any questions, please do reach out to us in the office via email.

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