ISTD exams are a great experience, which offer students an official way of keeping track of progress and achievement. Students are selected for ISTD exams at the recommendation of the teachers and Principal within the school. Whilst we encourage students to take up the opportunity, please be aware that exams are optional at the Studios. These exams give the children a goal and something to work towards which helps maintain progress – on a weekly basis.

At Buxton Performing Arts Studios, we are proud to be associated with the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. Following their syllabus in the genres of Tap, Modern and Jazz dance. This not only gives the classes structure whilst we work to a syllabus laid out by the ISTD, but also ensures the children’s technique develops at a safe and appropriate pace.

As registered and qualified ISTD teachers, this allows us to enter students for these examinations.


Students are entered for exams at the teachers and Principals discretion. We want the exam experience to be a fun and positive one for everyone, so it’s really important that students are ready. At ‘Primary Class’ level exams – the teacher will be able to go into the exam room with the children. However, the children still need to know their syllabus and be able to perform their work in front of the examiner in a structured class type fashion, which is led by the teacher. Some exercises and sequences will be danced individually. From Grade 1 upwards, teachers are unable to go into the examination room with students. The children will go into the exam in small groups, and will show many exercises individually. This can seem overwhelming if a student isn’t fully prepared, so we take the decision seriously and often speak to parents and carers beforehand.

As we try to remain accessible for as many people as possible, our classes in different genres at the studios are still ‘once a week.’ Our Tap and Modern classes are still combined into one lesson. (Please ask if you have questions as to how this works and why, as it’s a separate thing to exams.) As you can imagine, preparing students for exams on one lesson a week is a challenge, but the children rise to it – and we are extremely proud of our consistent high marks and results for exams. This is also another reason that we ask for regular attendance and commitment to classes. We may also need to add some additional ‘exam classes’ in the run up to the examinations to ensure students are well prepared and feeling happy and ready.

If your child has been invited to take an exam, but you feel the commitment to lessons and the cost is too much – we understand. Whilst we encourage the participation in exams, we also understand that it’s not feasible for everyone, and in almost all cases your child will be moved up with their class to the next grade after the exam providing we feel the upcoming work will be achievable and enjoyable.


There will be a cost to take the exam for each child. Firstly, there is an Exam Fee set by the ISTD, plus expenses to cover venue, staff, administration and other related costs. We work hard to keep these costs to a minimum. Students will also need appropriate exam wear including shoes.

Grades and marking

Once they have completed their exam, the students will receive a graded mark sheet and certificate which specifies what grade they have achieved (detailed down below). Exam results are sent to the Principal electronically first. Teachers will endeavour to advise students, parents and carers ASAP, however we feel that it’s important to be able to give the mark sheet at the time of advising results so that we can explain the sections of how the exam has been marked and answer any questions the students may have. Please be patient when awaiting results. The examiner has to send their data to ISTD headquarters where it is logged before we receive paperwork to hand out to you. (As teachers we are asked to allow 6 weeks – excluding holidays, but often these results come before this time.)




  • Distinction
  • Merit
  • Pass
  • Not Attained
  • 80-100 marks - Reflects a high to extremely high achievement overall.
  • 60-79 marks - Reflects a good to very good achievement overall.
  • 40-59 marks - Reflects a satisfactory to fairly good achievement overall.
  • 00-39 marks

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

Examiners at the ISTD go through rigorous and regular training to try and make sure their marking is as consistent as possible. However, as with any performing art, personal preference comes into play as dance is a visual art, 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.

As a school, we have always found participating in exams to be a positive experience. Developing a child’s sense of achievement, perseverance, commitment and work ethic, leads to building strong qualities. For many many years we have entered exams in both ISTD and RAD (Ballet) genres and grades, and the feeling of support from classmates as they encourage, help and cheer on their classmates to succeed and do the best they can is both uplifting and rewarding to see.