Graded Pan Exams

Graded Examinations in Solo Steelpan Performances

Graded Examinations in Solo Steelpan Performance, commonly referred to as “Pan Exams,”were developed in 1994 as a collaborative effort among four lecturers at the then Creative Arts Centre, UWI, St. Augustine. The first examinations, conducted in April 1995, were introduced to fill a gap in the existing British system of graded instrumental examinations that have been available in Trinidad and Tobago for all instruments, except the steelpan, for more than 85 years.

The syllabus is updated periodically and there will be new editions in 2020. In addition to assessment from Preliminary (pre Grade 1) to Grade 8 on the tenor pan, double tenor, and double second pans, we have added grades three and five examinations for cello pan (three or four).Originally designed for candidates in Trinidad and Tobago, examinations have also been held in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Maryland (USA), Barbados, and the United Kingdom.

The four objectives of the examinations are:

  • to encourage pannists to become musically literate. Due to the history and tradition of the instrument, students learning to play the pan have not traditionally been given the opportunity to acquire this skill.
  • to widen the scope of instruction in pan playing to include music reading, in addition to rote learning. We have accomplished this by the requirements of
    • playing set pieces which have been notated
    • answering questions on those pieces
    • reading music at sight
  • to encourage composition for solo pan to expand the repertoire of original pan compositions. The inclusion of commissioned works for the steelpan started with the 2009-2011 edition of the syllabus in which nearly 50% of the set pieces chosen by the syllabus committee were composed (in contrast to being adapted) for the instrument.This approach has continued with successive editions
  • to provide pan students with an opportunity to be systematically assessed in a non-competitive setting as individuals. This is significant when one considers that playing the pan has traditionally been a group activity

Frequency of examinations

The examinations are now offered twice per year, in May and November. May examinations are conducted principally at the Department of Creative and Festival Arts, University of the West Indies, Gordon Street, St. Augustine. The November examinations are held throughout Trinidad and Tobago at both public and private centres.

Principal conduct of the examinations

The examinations consist of the following:

  • Performance of three works, one of which must be accompanied by piano
  • Calypscales and traditional scales and arpeggios in selected keys
  • Viva Voce on the chosen pieces
  • Reading at Sight
  • Musicianship tests


The examiners are drawn principally from the music staff at the Department of Creative and Festival Arts plus other external examiners who have been rigorously trained



Mrs. Kelly Ramlal (Registrar). Office: 662-2002 x85443


Mr. Satanand Sharma (Coordinator of the Music Unit). Office: 662-2002 x85448


Mr. Jessel Murray (Deputy Dean for Distance and Outreach). Office: 662-2002 x85440