Irish Board of Dance Performance

Examination Guidelines

(These guidelines form an integral part of the syllabus requirements and should be read in conjunction with them)

The Nature of the Syllabus

We have kept everything as short and straightforward as possible – so that the students can relax and be confident enough to give their best performance.

Format of the exam

The exams are short, ranging from ten minutes for Preliminary to twenty minutes for more senior exams. Students enter in groups, bringing their Report Sheets with them, ready to give to the examiner.

They run into their places in a line (arranged 1-4, left to right), and greet the examiner. The examiner invites them to introduce themselves, and then, one by one, each child says her name and hands her report sheet to the examiner, before returning to her place. This is a great ice-breaker and helps dispel nerves.

Ideally, a group would comprise three of four candidates but, obviously, exceptions can be made in certain circumstances. For younger children (Preliminary One and Two), the teacher may enter with the pupils to conduct the exam as a class, if desired. Ideally though, from Junior One onwards, the students would be able to enter without their teacher.

What happens during the exam?

The examiner has a list of who she is going to see in front of her and the Music Operator has a prepared playlist. So, the examiner calls for each exercise in order, allowing a little rest time between exercises for her to write notes, and for the students to draw breath. She will accept whatever the teacher has prepared, based on the syllabus requirements. Often an examiner may ask to see something again. This is just so that she gets to see everyone doing everything. So, do let the students know that this may happen and that it does not mean they got it wrong. If there is time, we encourage the examiner to chat a little with the students. She may ask, for example, what is their favourite exercise or what they think about when dancing! Again, it’s not a test. It’s just to encourage a confident response.

The exam ends with a bow or curtsey. The children say goodbye and run out of the room.

At this point, please ensure that you have timetabled 5 minutes of writing time for the examiner to write her notes before the next group!

What is assessed and what the examiner is looking for?

Students are assessed under these three headings:

TECHNIQUE: This covers the physical technique displayed by the candidate – whether their feet are stretching, arms and legs in the correct positions and alignment, and if the steps and routines are performed correctly. The examiner is looking to see that they understand the work and that they are working in an informed and intelligent manner. (It’s worth noting that Classical examinations by their nature are more exacting in terms of technique, as Ballet technique is a little more difficult).

CO-ORDINATION AND ABILITY TO MOVE: This is as implied. The examiner is looking for basic co-ordination, but she’s also looking for candidates who use the space well and who ‘travel’.

MUSICALITY & ARTISTRY: This is about how the dancer interprets the music. It concerns dynamic action and the ability to hold the viewer’s attention. The examiner is looking to see if you enjoy your dancing and performing – but also if you can convey this to the audience. A dancer who may not have brilliant technique can score highly in this section if they are musical and they show enjoyment of their dancing.

The marking system

The grades awarded for both Classical Ballet and Modern Dance are as follows:

  • AWARDED WITH A PASS: The work shown was of an acceptable standard.
  • AWARDED WITH MERIT: The work shown was of a good standard.
  • AWARDED WITH HIGHLY COMMENDED: The work shown was of a very good standard.
  • AWARDED WITH DISTINCTION: The work shown was of an excellent standard.

CERTIFICATES, REPORTS AND MEDALS: Every student will receive a written report, a certificate and a medal following the examination – usually within one month of the exam at the latest.


The Irish Board of Dance Performance strives to be inclusive. That means that we welcome entries from ALL students. We will do everything we can to accommodate young dancers with particular needs.

Making up the exercises

We are presuming that all dance teachers are familiar with making up exercises and sequences during class, and longer dances for displays and shows. In the About Our Exams section of this site we provide some sample programmes based on the type of work teachers have already submitted for exams. But please remember, we encourage teachers to make up their own exercises and greatly look forward to seeing them!

Please do not use music or syllabus work from other examination bodies.

Keep it simple!

The exam is not the place to show a complicated sequence or a tricky step that the students have only just mastered. So always err on the side of simplicity for the exam itself. We want, most of all, for the student to feel confident and secure.


You may choose your own music for both Classical and Modern and edit it into a playlist or CD for your music operator. Do ensure that the children know how many times they are performing a sequence, and ensure there’s enough music for this. If the examiner would like to see it again, she will ask the music operator to repeat from the start. Again, the examiner will accept whatever you have set.

The person operating the music can be an older student or some other suitable person – but not a parent or a teacher!

Please do not use music or syllabus work from other examination bodies.

What to wear

Classical Ballet


  • Sleeveless/short sleeved classic style leotard in a plain colour
  • Short matching ballet skirt (optional from Junior 1 onwards)
  • Ballet ankle socks (Preliminary 1 & 2)
  • Ballet tights (seamless) from Junior 1 level onwards
  • Pink ballet shoes with elastics (can be satin, leather or canvas)
  • HAIR: Neatly tied classical ballet bun with plenty of hair grips and hair gel.


  • White T shirt (fitted, not too baggy)
  • Black shorts/leggings
  • Black ballet shoes

Modern Theatre Dance


  • Leotard & skirt (Preliminary – Junior 1)
  • Leotard & matching short skirt/ well-fitting leggings/dance shorts (Junior 2 onwards)
  • HAIR: Neatly tied in pony tail/side pony tail/French plait/plaits with plenty of hair grips and hair gel.


  • Plain T shirt & shorts/leggings/track bottoms

Ideally, all Modern candidates will dance in bare feet – but jazz shoes and foot thongs are fine, as long as we can still see the extension of the foot.

The choice of exam outfit is up to you and it’s perfectly fine if the students wear their normal class gear, just in its neatest form. However, they should ‘match’ each other in style – e.g. all 4 in one group wear leotards and skirts (albeit different colours), while all 4 in another group may wear leotard and leggings.

A large part of the fun of these exams should be the emphasis on performance and style – so do encourage everyone to really look their absolute neatest and sharpest on the day!

How to book

Booking is simple.

Choose a date for your exam. As soon as you’ve set a date (having checked it against the school calendar, and Communion and Confirmation dates) please contact us even if it’s three or four months in advance. We will arrange the provisional booking. We will do our very best to accommodate your first choice of dates but please have an alternative, just in case. The busiest times are November and December, around Easter, and May and June – so do call us early to ensure you get your chosen date.

Send your Entry Form(s) and fees, to reach us at least one calendar month before the date of your exam. We will be developing an online entry system but it’s not ready yet.

Send us a draft timetable for your exams with the names of the candidates (arranged in their performance groups) and the type and levels of exams they’ll be taking, to reach us two weeks before the date of the exam. (We can supply you with a template for this if you need one.) Please remember to leave 5 minutes of writing time for the examiner to write her notes before the next group is scheduled to start.

About a week before the exam, we will send you confirmation of the name of your examiner and a blank report form for each candidate. Before the day, please fill in each report form with the name of the candidate, the level of the exam and the exam date, and have them ready on exam day for candidates to bring them into the exam room.

Exam day – what to do

So, you’re all ready to go! The students have their numbers pinned on and their report form ready to bring in with them. (So make sure the report form has already been named and dated.) Remember to make sure the music operator has everything she/he needs. And you may like to provide a bell or buzzer – some way for the examiner to signify that she’s ready. The examiner will arrive fifteen minutes ahead of start-time in order to prepare her papers. You will have seen from the timetable that these are short exams with a five-minute writing time in between. We ask everyone (examiners, teachers and parents) to help keep things running smoothly by sticking strictly to the timetable!

This can be achieved by ensuring that the students arrive in plenty of time, well-ahead of their exam. So do add some preparation time to their arrival time. Many teachers ask them to arrive 15 minutes early, already dressed, with their hair done.

Afterwards – what happens next?

When the exams are over, the examiner will leave the report forms with you – which you keep until the certificates and medals arrive. (Although you may prefer to give them out earlier – that’s up to you.)

The examiner then returns her sheet of results to us here at IBDP, and we begin preparing the certificates and medals. As soon as we’ve done these, we post them out to you for distribution. (Usually within a month after the exam. We try to be as speedy as possible.)