Grade Examinations 2017-21

Syllabus 2017-21

The Irish Board of Speech and Drama Grade Examinations syllabus encourages a process of progressive learning from an early age, with each grade signifying an increase in skill and achievement. All aspects of speech and drama performance and theory are covered in the syllabus and the Examinations represent a rigorous assessment of technique and interpretive skills. We expect candidates in the Grade examinations to display a higher level of achievement than those in the Communication Skills examinations, and that the pieces chosen for performance will represent some challenge to the candidates, while being appropriate for their age and examination level.

Informal interaction with the examiner is introduced from Preliminary Grade One, in order to encourage candidates to respond to questions and explain aspects of their selected piece. This is developed in Grade One with an informal talk and in Grade Two with a presentation based on an illustration of the performed poem.

Theory is also introduced in Grade Two. The objective of the theory requirements in the Grade syllabus is to facilitate the candidate’s understanding of techniques and skills relevant to their verse, prose and drama selections, and how these techniques and skills affect performance. Candidates will therefore be asked mostly to explain theory with reference to or by using examples from the pieces they perform. Examiners will not necessarily ask candidates to discuss all items of theory set for each grade.

Please refer to the section ‘How Irish Board Examiners Assess Candidates’ for detailed guidelines on the criteria used by the Irish Board during the examinations.

To book online click here. Examination fees are available herePlease note that the minimum fee requirement for an examination centre is €400. 


Preliminary Grade One – Suggested ages: 4 – 6 years

  1. Speak from memory a short poem
  2. Be able to answer simple questions about the poem and the meaning of the words

Preliminary Grade Two – Suggested ages: 5 – 7 years

  1. Speak from memory a short poem
  2. Be able to answer simple questions about the poem and the meaning of the words

Grade One – Suggested ages: 6 – 8 years

  1. Speak from memory a short poem
  2. Be able to answer questions about the story/theme of the poem and the meaning of the words
  3. Give a one-minute informal talk about yourself OR a toy/book that you have brought to the examination (the talk should not be memorised)

Grade Two – Suggested ages: 6 – 9 years

  1. Speak from memory a short poem
  2. Give a short (about one minute) presentation on the poem performed using an illustration (drawing, painting, model or collage) made by you on the story, character(s) and/or the theme of the poem, and be prepared to discuss the poem and illustration with the examiner.
  3. Theory: Be able to list the organs of speech, identify their locations and be able to identify the organs of speech used to make common sounds (such as M, P, B, K and L)

Grade Three – Suggested ages: 7 – 10 years

  1. Speak from memory a short poem
  2. Announce and read a short (approximately 10-12 lines) prepared extract from a book of your choice and be able to carry on a short conversation about the book with the examiner
  3. Theory:

a  Give a simple definition of a vowel and a consonant

b  Be able to define a pause, and to demonstrate your understanding of the breath pause and the sense pause by explaining where and why you took these pauses in either your poem or prose performance

Grade Four – Suggested ages: 9 – 11 years

  1. Speak from memory a short poem
  2. Announce and perform a one-minute story mime of your choice
  3. Theory:

a Be able to define mime and give a simple description of character mime, occupational mime, story mime, abstract mime and pantomime blanche

b Be able to demonstrate and describe the appropriate posture/stance used for verse-speaking and to explain why adopting a good posture is important

Grade Five – Suggested ages: 10 – 12 years

  1. Speak from memory a short poem
  2. Announce and perform a solo dramatic selection using appropriate characterisation and movement (maximum time permitted: two minutes)
  3. Theory:

a  Be able to describe and discuss the character you performed

b  Be able to follow simple stage directions

c  Be able to discuss with the examiner what it means and why it is important to be able to speak clearly, naturally and expressively

Grade Six – Suggested ages: 11 – 13 years

  1. Speak from memory a short poem by an Irish poet
  2. Announce and perform a solo dramatic selection using appropriate characterisation and movement (maximum time permitted: two minutes)
  3. Read at sight a poem chosen by the examiner
  4. Theory:

a  Be able to discuss the meaning and mood of the prepared poem with the examiner

b  Be able to define and demonstrate pitch and vocal projection

c  Be able to discuss with the examiner the technique you used for your sight reading

Grade Seven – Suggested ages: 12 – 14 years

  1. Speak from memory a poem of your choice
  2. Announce and perform a solo dramatic selection taken, adapted or compiled from a play or book, using appropriate characterisation and movement (maximum time permitted: two minutes)
  3. Announce and perform a two-minute improvisation, prepared by you OR a short piece of movement to music choreographed by you (you are responsible for supplying any equipment you require for your performance)
  4. Theory:

a  Be able to discuss your understanding of the character you performed and his/her place in the play or book from which the selection was taken

b  Be able to discuss the history and uses of improvisation

c  Be able to define emphasis and demonstrate two emphasis techniques you used during your performance of your poem and/or drama selection

Grade Eight – Suggested ages: 13 – 15 years

  1. Speak from memory a short lyric
  2. Announce and perform a solo dramatic selection taken, adapted or compiled from a play of literary merit written by an Irish author, using appropriate interpretation, characterisation and movement (maximum time permitted: two minutes)
  3. Announce and perform a one-minute unprepared improvisation chosen from a list provided by the examiner in the examination room (one minute will be given for preparation)
  4. Theory:

a  Be able to discuss with the examiner what a lyric is, how lyric poetry differs from narrative poetry, and the mood and meaning of the lyric you performed

b  Be able to define rate and pace and to demonstrate, with reference to your solo dramatic selection, how you used pace and pace variation to enhance your performance

c  Be able to define and demonstrate the use of the following pauses: the suspensive pause, the emphatic pause and the Caesural pause

Grade Nine – Suggested ages: 14 – 16 years

  1. Speak from memory a short selection of prose taken from a novel or short story written by an Irish author (maximum time permitted: two minutes)
  2. Announce and perform a solo dramatic selection taken, adapted or compiled from a play of literary merit, using appropriate interpretation, characterisation and movement (maximum time permitted: two minutes)
  3. Announce and perform a two-minute character or abstract mime
  4. Theory:

a  Be able to describe, demonstrate and discuss the importance of intercostal diaphragmatic breathing

b  Be able to discuss your interpretation of your solo dramatic selection, including your use of movement, gesture and voice

c  Be able to define, demonstrate and discuss tone colour

Grade Ten – Suggested ages: 15 – 17 years

  1. Announce and perform an eight-minute recital incorporating an introduction, verse, prose, drama, a script that links the selections and a conclusion, all to be chosen and compiled by the candidate. The recital may be on a theme or represent the works of one author. It should be presented as a continuous performance. (In order to help you to observe the time limits, you may perform suitable lines from poems rather than entire poems.)
  2. Announce and present a one-minute informal talk on a subject chosen from a selection to be provided by the examiner in the examination room.
  3. Theory:

a  Be able to discuss your recital with the examiner, including the theme/author, choice of pieces, interpretation, and techniques used.

b  Be able to define and demonstrate that you understand resonance and inflection

c  Be able to discuss with the examiner techniques you could use to sustain an audience’s interest in a talk.

Grade Eleven (Senior Advanced) – Suggested ages: 16 – 18 years

  1. Speak from memory a sonnet
  2. Announce and perform a solo dramatic selection taken or adapted from a play written before 1800, with suitable interpretation, characterisation and movement (maximum time permitted: three minutes)
  3. Announce and perform a short piece of movement to music choreographed by the candidate.
  4. Theory:

a  Be able to discuss the form and structure of the Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnet with the examiner; and the mood, meaning and your interpretation of the sonnet you performed

b  Be able to define, demonstrate and discuss your understanding of phrasing

c  Be able to discuss how you prepared for performance your solo dramatic selection with particular reference to your use of movement and gesture

Final Grade – Suggested ages: 16 – 18 years

  1. Speak from memory a short poem written after 1960
  2. Announce and perform a solo dramatic selection taken, adapted or compiled from a play of literary merit, using appropriate interpretation, characterisation and movement (maximum time permitted: two minutes)
  3. Announce and speak from memory a short selection of prose taken from a novel or short story written by a non-Irish author
  4. Announce and perform a two-minute mime OR a two-minute prepared improvisation OR a short piece of movement to music
  5. Theory:

a  Understand and be able to discuss any aspect of your use of vocal modulation (pitch, rate and pace, pause, tone and tone colour, inflection, emphasis, power and intensity, and pause) in your programme.

b  Be able to discuss in detail how you compiled and prepared your mime, improvisation or movement to music performance

c  Understand and be able to discuss the use of visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile imagery in literature


Proficiency Examination in Speech and Drama – Suggested ages: 17 – 20 years

(The Candidate must be at least 17 years of age)

  1. Introduce and speak from memory a short poem
  2. Introduce and speak from memory a short prose selection
  3. Introduce and perform a solo dramatic selection taken or adapted from any play of literary merit (maximum time permitted: three minutes)
  4. Introduce and perform a short piece of movement to music choreographed by the candidate OR Introduce and perform a two minute abstract mime
  5. Theory:

a  Discuss with the examiner why you chose, and how you prepared, your pieces for the examination, placing particular emphasis on your interpretation of the pieces performed

b Understand and be able to discuss rhyme in verse (including rhyme schemes, assonance, eye rhyme, consonance and alliteration)

b Understand and be able to discuss rhythm and meter in poetry, and be able to define and demonstrate the following: anapest, dactyl, iamb and trochee

 A high standard of performance is required for this examination. Candidates will be assessed on their communication skills, vocal technique, and interpretative skills, and will be expected to display a thorough knowledge of the theory of Speech and Drama.

70% is required to pass the examination. Candidates receiving 70% or more will receive an Irish Board of Speech and Drama Proficiency certificate. Candidates who obtain 85% or more will also receive an Irish Board of Speech and Drama Proficiency medal.