Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board and SQA Examinations
The National Piping Centre offers piping and drumming examinations through the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board (PDQB), a number of which are accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). This page will give you all the information you need to start your journey towards completing these exams and taking your piping and drumming further. Watch our short video about these exams, click through the guide to sitting an exam then get in touch with us to arrange your exams
PDQB – what is it?
The Piping and Drumming Qualification Board is a partnership between the National Piping Centre, RSPBA, Army School of Piping and Drumming, Piobaireachd Society and the Tri Service Cadet Centre.
What does it do?
It meets on a quarterly basis and has formed a partnership with the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) to deliver examinations in piping and snare drumming. Examinations for Bass and Tenor are carried out by the PDQB. These exams are based on national standards of teaching assessment. These exams enable a consistent approach to the study of Scottish Bagpipes and/or Scottish Pipe Band Drumming in Scotland and internationally. These SQA National Progression Awards (NPA) and Professional Development Awards (PDA) in Scottish Bagpipes and Pipe Band Drumming cover the skills and knowledge pipers and drummers need for performing on Scottish Bagpipes and Scottish Pipe Band Drums
Where can I sit these examinations?
Examinations can be carried out at the 4 examinations centres:
- Army School of Piping and Drumming
- Tri Service Cadet Service
They can also be carried out at remote locations under the auspices of any of these centres.
How do I know what is involved?
The syllabus for all levels can be found at the website pdqb.org. The examinations are carried out for both performance and theory, there are mock theory examinations for all levels at this website.
The examinations are credited in line with the national qualifications framework known as the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). This framework provides a means of comparing the level of qualifications and amount of credits they carry which can contribute to other awards offered by the SQA.
What levels of exam are there?
These exams go from level 2 through to level 6 for drummers and level 8 for pipers. Beginners would enter the NPA (SCQF level 2) and advance through each level to SCQF level 6. For pipers there is the opportunity to progress to PDA in Scottish Bagpipes (SCQF levels 7 and 8).
You may work towards any Certificate without holding the Certificate from earlier in the syllabus. In this case, however, you may also be examined on the syllabus of the earlier Certificates.
How do I sit the examination?
- Contact one of the examination centres
- Register for the examination
- Is it performance, theory or both?
- Pay the examination fee (current rates can be obtained from centres)
- Exam date agreed
- Assessor allocated
- Examination location agreed (NPC, Skype etc.)
- Sit the exam
- If successful, certificate issued by SQA (sent by post to registered address)
- If unsuccessful, written feedback can be obtained from centre
How is the examination assessed?
The performance aspect of the examination is divided into specific study areas e.g. tuning, monotones, marching and deportment, sight reading, technique exercises, playing the requisite tunes, etc. The candidate must pass all study areas to achieve an overall pass. The theory paper is a series of questions which the candidate must achieve 50% to pass including topics such as maintenance, staff notation and note values.
Who assesses the examinations?
The PDQB has an approved list of assessors who carry out these examinations. These assessors must have passed the level 8 piping or level 6 drumming to an A standard, together with having the necessary piping and drumming performance and teaching experience before being appointed as assessors. They need to undertake annual training to maintain their assessor status.
Who should sit the examinations?
The examinations are designed for all pipers and drummers regardless of their ability or experience. It provides the musician with goals and objectives that can map out their progress. It can also give the musician the motivation required to develop their skills and gain knowledge.
In 2020 new drumming information was announced by the PDQB. You can read all about it here