The New AMEB Series 18 Piano Syllabus – Frequently Asked Questions

The New AMEB Series 18 Piano Syllabus – Frequently Asked Questions

AMEB Series 18 Piano Syllabus

The AMEB – Australian Music Examinations Board – has released its brand new Series 18. For Australian piano teachers, this is very exciting!

I have noticed a lot of questions coming in, especially if the new AMEB Series 18 Piano syllabus has anything to do with the Piano for Leisure Series 4 books I recently helped curate.

To help clear everything up, I decided to do a frequently asked questions blog post. Read through the below questions and answers and if you still have queries, please comment on the post below!

Related Podcast: Episode 83 – What’s the best piano exam syllabus?

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is Piano for Leisure changing? No – there are no changes if your students are taking PFL exams either in new pieces, books, manual lists or technical requirements. It’s exactly the same.
  2. Can I still use the Series 17 books and music with the new syllabus? Yes, Series 17 and 18 books are both valid to be used with the new piano syllabus.
  3. Can I still use the old syllabus? For how long? Yes, you can continue sending students for examination under the old syllabus during 2019 -2020 at which point the old syllabus will be retired. Candidates will be able to choose either the OLD or NEW syllabus and this must be indicated when entering the candidates. No mixing of the OLD and NEW syllabuses is permitted.
  4. What about the Series 15 and 16 books? The OLD syllabus features the Series 15, 16 and 17 grade books, so these may continue to be examined until the end of 2020.
  5. Does the manual of syllabuses still list the actual scales required for each grade or are they only made known in the technical workbooks? Not anymore. The technical work requirements are now only found in the two volumes of Technical Workbooks. The reason I believe the AMEB has made this change is due to the addition of the Technical Exercises which are shown in a lot of detail. For example, the Grade 1 technical exercises cover 4 full pages. It would not have been possible to include this in the syllabus, which will become pretty obvious as soon as you see the new books.
    • For each technical exercise, not only do you get the printed notation, you get full, clear, detailed instructions about the purpose of the exercise and “important things to aim for” – ie what the examiner will be keeping an eye on!
    • You also get a series of optional exercises to prepare for playing in the examination PLUS “extra for experts” – even more exercises for students who need something harder. The written detail provided by the composers, Jo Kotchie and Kerrin Bailey, is absolutely outstanding so teachers teaching this for the first time will be in no doubt about how to approach things and the expected outcomes.
  6. Do my students have to buy the technical workbooks? Well that’s up to you and how you teach. As in past years, all technical work must be presented from memory however the new technical exercises may be presented with or without the music. If your student has learnt all the technical work and exercises from memory, they won’t need the book in their examination.
  7. Do you have to use the fingering shown for the technical work? Here’s what the AMEB states: “The written fingerings for technical exercises must be observed.” However, for scales and arpeggios: “Candidates may alter the written fingerings for scales and arpeggios, provided a logical and systematic approach is adopted”.
  8. There are 3 technical exercises required at each grade level. How many have to be learnt? How many will be requested in the exam? The technical exercises are an integral part of the new syllabus so it’s expected that all three will be heard in the examination. Students must prepare all three regardless.
  9. Is there a big change to the actual number of scales required now? Yes. There are now considerably fewer scales required, especially at higher levels. Look out for my post next week when I go into more detail about this aspect of the new syllabus.
  10. Can I download the syllabus? Yes – it’s available here, and you can buy the complete keyboard syllabuses or Piano and PFL separately.
  11. What do you see as the main differences between the new Piano and PFL syllabuses and will they be bringing similar technical requirements in for the PFL syllabus in the near future? These syllabuses are actually very different (see my notes above), with PFL featuring fewer pieces, fewer technical work items and choices for things like sight reading and aural tests. It’s also the only syllabus that allows students to present their own compositions or own choice works for assessment. In regard to the second question, I haven’t heard any discussion of this so I don’t think it’s on the radar right now, but I’m not certain.
  12. Are 2 extra list pieces still required for Grades 2-7? Yes, extra list requirements have not changed and are required for all Grades 2-7.
  13. How many pieces are required at each level? Preliminary and Grade 1: THREE pieces (no extras), Grades 2 – 4: THREE pieces PLUS 2 extra lists, Grades 5-7: FOUR pieces PLUS 2 extra lists, Grade 8: FOUR pieces only.
  14. The books are so expensive – how can I afford them? Try to consider the of purchasing of books and resources like this as a business expense, just like conferences, subscriptions, software, etc.
    • Try and allocate the cost of teaching resources to come from your business account, not your personal account, and try to budget a certain amount for resources and books each year (and stick to it… I know it’s hard at conferences!).
    • I encourage teachers to charge an admin fee (or similar) for your students to help cover the costs of things like teaching resources, memberships, office expenses, plus your own PD (like Inner Circle membership! [link]). If you’re not sure how to approach these business administration and budgeting decisions, please consider joining my free 5 Day Piano Pivot program which you can access here, and we’ll give you everything you need to know in 5 days. Also, try and invest in the teacher packs which offer a significant discount on buying the books separately.
    • Don’t forget that Inner Circle members get 20% off all Series 18 and PFL 4 books plus FREE shipping until Dec 31 2018 🙂
  15. Do I need to buy the technical workbooks if my students are doing repertoire exams? No, but that said, the new Technical Workbooks offer an engaging and comprehensive approach to developing the technique which is vital for ALL students, regardless of whether it’s being assessed. I encourage all teachers to ensure that students gain a solid technical foundation and using a resource like the new workbooks would be a great way to scaffold that learning for students.
  16. Can I get CDs of the recordings? No. Just like for the last PFL release, the recordings will be available by digital download only. The downloads will be made available by mid-December 2018 and available through online music services like iTunes. There won’t be download codes or physical CDs produced.

Not sure what exam syllabus is right for your student? Check out our ultimate guide to piano exam syllabuses from around the world.


I hope this has clarified some questions you might have had regarding the AMEB Series 18 Piano syllabus.

Next week we will dive right into the syllabus with a deeper analysis, looking at everything from repertoire to technical work and the number of scales required compared to the old syllabus. Keep an eye out for that one.

Also, don’t forget all Inner Circle members can find a very special discount for the new AMEB Series 18 Piano syllabus books in the discount section of the Community – it’s a big saving! (Sorry, the books are only being shipped to Australia at the moment!)

Have any other questions? Please leave them below and we’ll make sure to update this post as they come in.

Tim Topham

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular Integrated Music Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as integrated teaching, creativity, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

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  1. Will the discount and free postage end at the end of December for I C members?

    • Yes MJ – at this stage it will end at the end of the year. I do, however, have a good relationship with the AMEB and will try to organise more in the future, but no dates are set. If you’d like to take advantage of this, I’d do it now 🙂

  2. Does the new Technical book have the scale, etc requirement for Piano For Leisure?

    • No, those requirements are in the (old) syllabus. There are no changes to PFL technical work (yet), so you’ll find them in the syllabus still.

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