What Are Dance Exams?

There are actually two types of dance examinations: student exams (also called, “Medal exams”) and professional exams (“Certifications”) and, as we’ve said before, they differ greatly but also share many characteristics.  Both are intended to provide a quantifiable goal to work towards, establish benchmarks for technique and knowledge, and provide a sense of accomplishment upon m eeting those standards, but those standards differ greatly between the two exams.

Student Medal Tests
A medal test is conducted partly for the reasons all tests are conducted, as described above, but also to determine what the student is ready for.  Many studios, particularly franchise studios, will require students to pass a medal test before attending higher-level classes.  This ensures that everyone in the class has demonstrated competency with basic material that may then be built upon.  These tests can be thought of college final exams.  One benefit of such a system is that higher-level classes proceed at a faster pace.  While all-level classes or open classes must occassionally proceed at a slower pace to review basic material for unprepared students, a studio that employs medal exams is unlikely to have these problems.

Medal tests are usually conducted much more formally than typical lessons.  Some studios will bring in an outside examiner, while others will employ a senior teacher to conduct the exams.  Students are typically required to dance specific figures, explain how the figure works in their own words, and demonstrate competency while dancing a freestyle round (i.e. a waltz will be played and students have a minute or so to dance waltz while the examiner makes notes).  Afterward, the examiner will review his or her comments with the student and the student’s teacher, explaining the students strengths that should be developed and weaknesses that need improvement.  As such, the medal test should be thought of as a report card rather than a final exam.

Medal tests may be conducted at each medal level (i.e. bronze, silver, gold) or at various points within each medal if a studio breaks down the levels along such lines (i.e. Bronze 1, Bronze 2, Bronze 3, Bronze 4).  They are usually done by dance (i.e. Bronze 3 waltz, Bronze 3 swing, etc.) and take from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the number of dances, the level, and so on.


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