For those who are unfamiliar with LAMDA exams, they are graded examinations in Speech and Drama. (LAMDA is a world-renowned drama school; the letters stand for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.)
LAMDA exam subjects include Acting, Speaking in Public, Devising Drama, Speaking Verse and Prose and Musical Theatre. Students can prepare for these nationally accredited exams in much the same way that they prepare for music or ballet exams. We operate a private centre, and every December LAMDA sends examiners to our studios in North London to assess our students. The vast majority of our students spend the Autumn Term preparing to take a LAMDA exam in a subject of their choice. You can find more information at the LAMDA exam website.
Last year our youngest student to take an exam was five years old. It was her first exam of any kind. She had to learn a short poem off by heart and bring in a favourite toy to talk about with the examiner. Her exam lasted ten minutes, and although she was a little nervous at the start, she came out grinning.
Our oldest student was also taking a LAMDA exam for the first time. He was eighteen and in his first year at university. He took a Grade 8 exam in Speaking in Public. He had to prepare two contrasting speeches, one political and the other on a topic of his choice. He also had to produce an impromptu three-minute speech on a subject given to him fifteen minutes before the exam. Following his speeches, he had an in-depth discussion with the examiner on different speech styles, vocal modulation and the use of visual aids when speaking in public.
These were just two of nearly 250 students taking exams last year, but it is interesting that both the youngest and oldest of our students were taking LAMDA exams for the first time. And really that should indicate that the answer to the question at the top of the page is, “Well, that depends…”
Age is not the most important factor when deciding whether or not to take a LAMDA exam for the first time. Our students are taking exams for very different reasons.
For our younger students it is often an experience that falls outside the usual range: walking into a room and reciting a poem to a stranger. If they are well prepared, then it gives their confidence a boost: it is something else that they ‘can do’. As a result, they are more likely to volunteer for class assemblies, audition for leading roles in school plays, and so on.
Some of our students have some special educational needs that make regular school life challenging. They can benefit hugely from the boost in self-esteem they experience every time they do well in an exam.
Others might take their acting classes very seriously and may even be considering a career in the profession. For those students, doing well at LAMDA Acting exams gives a clear sense of progression each year, and the knowledge that an objective examiner rates their performance just as highly as their teacher does.
Other students are motivated by the UCAS points that are awarded with the higher level exams, which can be useful when applying for university places.
But ultimately it comes down to this: life is not an endless rehearsal. There are times when you have to give an account of yourself: job interviews, work presentations, auditions, wedding speeches are some examples. A LAMDA exam is a great way of preparing for these moments. We could do all the work involved in preparing for an exam (clarity of diction, breathing technique, projection, inhabiting a character, mime skills, researching a speech etc) without the actual exam at the end. But the sense of a goal, a point at which the work must be presented, motivates our students and raises standards.
You may be interested to learn that the university student I mentioned had previously suffered from a stammer. His reason for taking the exam was to prove to himself that this was something from which he had fully recovered. I was delighted that he achieved a Distinction, the highest possible grade.
Our youngest student also got a Distinction, and is now busy preparing for her second LAMDA exam.