Ballet exam do’s and don’ts

My daughter has done five ballet exams over the years – Primary and Grades 1 to 4. She has also done her Grade 1 tap, Grade 2 modern and Bronze jazz. So we’re getting quite good at these exams! I thought it might be useful to share some tips that we’ve picked up along the way, for families who are new to ballet.

My daughter does the RAD exams, but I’m sure these do’s and don’ts would work just as well for ISTD exams. They are also good practice for exams in other styles, like tap, modern and jazz, although rules about hair in those exams tend to be less strict.


Do get hold of the music and practise at home in the weeks leading up to the exam.

Do follow the rules on whether you should be wearing socks or tights for the exam –  this tends to be socks for Primary and Grades 1 and 2, and tights for Grades 3 and above.

Do get a new pair of tights especially for the exam.

Do make sure your uniform is clean, well-fitted, ironed and looking new. You may need to adjust your leotard if it is slightly too big.

Do make sure your shoes are clean. You can use talcum powder to ‘clean’ satin ballet shoes and you can colour character shoes in with a Sharpie.

Do make sure your bra isn’t visible.

Do make sure your hair is immaculate. The bun should be quite high and quite flat. Use a lot of grips and spray – both to hold the bun in place and to make sure there are no wispy bits.

Do make sure your ballet shoes are tight fitting. Your teacher may lend you a pair which are half a size smaller than you usually wear.

Do arrive half an hour early for your exam, to give you time to pin your number on, do some gentle practise and go to the toilet.

Do make sure you put your character skirt, character shoes and any props neatly in a pre-arranged place in the exam room.

Do remember to smile and enjoy it, you’ve worked hard for this!


Don’t use a donut for your bun.

Don’t wear any extra clips, bows, scrunchies etc in your hair.

Don’t wear knickers (although this can be problematic for older girls on their periods).

Don’t wear any make-up, including nail varnish, unless your teacher advises that it is OK.

Don’t wear any jewellery, including earrings.

Don’t have any temporary children’s ‘tattoos’ or henna tattoos.

Don’t make a noise in the waiting room – other people will probably already be doing their exam. This rule applies to parents too while their children are in the exam!

Don’t forget that the exam isn’t over until you leave the exam room. You will even be marked on your reverence (curtsey) at the end.

Don’t forget to smile and enjoy it, you’ve worked hard for this!

Ballet exam, Ballet exam tips, Ballet exam do's and don'ts, Ballet shoes, Pointe shoes

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Great tips! I suspect my two will be doing exams next Summer so I’ll be referring to this then. There were a few things I had no idea of like not wearing knickers or that they should wear tights for the younger exams.

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    • Good luck to your girls for their exams. I didn’t know about the knickers until my daughter turned up to her first exam with her Peppa Pig knickers clearly sticking out! The teacher sent her to the toilet to take them off. x

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