Top tips for Drama and Speech students

Our senior Examiner for Drama and Speech has prepared some of her top tips for students taking our exams and also some top tips for all the individual sections of the exam. We hope you find them useful!

Top Tips for our Drama Students:

  • Be punctual. It is very important that candidates are at the examination centre at least 15 minutes ahead of the time of examination. This allows them to relax, and practice their deep breathing technique!
  • Present typed copies of pieces chosen to the Examiner. Photocopies are NOT acceptable.
  • Chosen book should be free of dog-ears or any pen or pencil markings in the Reading Aloud section of the examination. Mark the relevant chosen chapters with a bookmark.
  • Dress appropriately for the occasion.
  • Greet the Examiner with a smile and a ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Afternoon’ and remember to say ‘Thank You’ when leaving the examination room. We promise to do the same.
  • Strict time limits given in the RIAM Syllabus must be adhered to at all times.
  • Remember to make eye contact with the Examiner and be prepared to discuss the performance selections in detail. Avoid monosyllabic answers at all costs throughout the examination.
  • Enjoy the various performances. Remember, you have worked hard to bring your pieces to performance level.

Verse Speaking

  • Give careful consideration to your choice of poem
  • Examine the poem for meaning and understanding
  • Look at the phrasing and punctuation
  • Observe shape and form
  • If you perform a sonnet – make sure you understand the type and the rhyme scheme involved – you will be asked about it
  • Aim for a rhythmical flow without any forcing
  • Voice should display a clarity, understanding and colour


  • Give careful thought to selection
  • Examine the piece for meaning and understanding
  • Establish the mood of the selection – is it conversational, reflective, humorous etc
  • What genre does it come from – classical, modern, contemporary?
  • Are character voices introduced? If so, ensure there is contrast between narrative and direct speech
  • Read the whole book that the passage is taken from – you will be asked about this
  • Aim for a colourful interpretation that will display understanding, interest and enjoyment


  • All mimes should be titled and introduced
  • Timing must be strictly adhered to
  • The story should unfold clearly and theme fully developed
  • Gestures should be precise and fluid
  • Mimed items must not ‘appear’, ‘disappear’ or ‘change shape’
  • Dramatic reactions are integral to the mime
  • Characters must be rounded and credible
  • The highs and lows of mime must be secured
  • Vary the pace of the mime for greater interest
  • Concentration needs to be maintained throughout the performance
  • Always keep eyes within the mime frame
  • A creation of mood and atmosphere will enhance mime
  • Think a little outside the box when planning mime
  • A subverted ending is always interesting
  • The climax needs to be held

Drama Scene


  • The play should be read fully, and the character thoroughly researched
  • The style and period of the play must be noted, and adhered to
  • The scene should be blocked wisely and highs and lows secured
  • The character’s emotions and motivation s tracked


  • Take time to establish your character
  • The voice should be well modulated
  • Be faithful to the text
  • Movement should appear natural and organic
  • Maintain concentration and characterisation throughout
  • Be sensitive to structure and mood
  • Engage fully with characters, emotions and physicality
  • Have an awareness of subtext
  • Do not force the scene
  • Play the scene with energy and a sense of spontaneity
  • Aim for truth, honesty and passion.

Sight Reading


  • Choose book of suitable standard for age and grade
  • Read book fully and if required choose chapters as indicated
  • Prepare reading ensuring understanding and correct pronunciation of words
  • Value pauses and use ‘looking ahead’ method to help phrasing and eye contact
  • Consider posture and position of book so that face is not masked and voice is free

Sight Reading

  • Scan passage before reading aloud to capture meaning and appreciate mood and style of author
  • Use punctuation as a guide to phrasing, shape and meaning
  • Be aware that some grades involve reading poetry or drama as well as prose.

Recital Certificate Programmes

  • A Recital should primarily entertain an audience and again, choice in selections is crucial
  • Consider variety in the chosen selections as this makes for an interesting presentation
  • Recitals are now thematic so each selection of verse speaking, prose/drama and mime must fit into theme
  • Consider the flow of the Recital Programme. It must be presented as a continuous performance
  • Linking script needs a confident approach. It is therefore essential to include it in the beginning of preparation rather than add it at the end. Avoid making it too ‘wordy’. Show a sense of enthusiasm and enjoyment as you introduce selections
  • Aim to have any setting up of space before you begin and work around it rather than stop the flow to place furniture
  • End on a strong note. It is important for Examiners to know that the Recital has come to an end

Acting Examinations

  • As with Recital Programmes a high standard of performance is required for these examinations
  • Remember to take your selections from published plays
  • Ensure choice of material suits the age and capability of the performers
  • Check definition of ‘Play Periods’ (page 39 in Syllabus) before you make your choice
  • Students are required to introduce own choice selections giving a brief outline of the character, setting and context. Devise this intro at an early stage of preparation so that the student becomes confident with it
  • Be prepared to discuss the selections and offer an opinion on the character and the play in general. Make sure you read your play. If you haven’t access to a play then choose another selection
  • Grades 5-8 have undergone many changes in our current syllabus and we want to introduce students to the challenge of performing different genres of theatre. This will be a valuable learning curve for those who wish to pursue drama and theatre studies or progress eventually to a Teaching Diploma
  • From Grade 6 on Mime is replaced with Improvisation. All students look forward to improvisation sessions in the Speech & Drama class and this essential element of drama gives them an opportunity to bring their own creative skills into the examination room

Stage School Performance

  • Aim to fully embrace the mood and style of the song
  • Sing with vocal clarity
  • Be fully au fait with your character’s life story
  • Perform with energy and flair
  • Engage fully with your audience
  • Present a contrasting monologue to show your diverse talents. This does not have to be taken from a Published Play
  • Work with your character’s emotions and physicality
  • Move and gesture with confidence
  • Maintain concentration and characterisation
  • Engage fully with Examiner after performance
  • Develop answers fully and have a sound background knowledge of your work
  • Allow your personality to shine through

Public Speaking

  • Choose a topic to research on a subject with which you are comfortable
  • Strive for a natural approach, with a sense of spontaneity
  • Structure your talk with a beginning, middle and ending
  • Remember the importance of eye contact
  • Engage suitable use of pause to help pace and variety
  • Use good posture to support vocal authority in performance
  • Notes should be on cards and not hinder vocal or visual communication
  • Impromptu talks need to be structured, coherent and within time limit
  • Oral Précis requires a summary of what has been read and should convey salient point

Oral Communication

  • Have a specific audience in mind when choosing each item
  • Read selected book in full – this will form part of the discussion
  • Appreciate the vocal requirements for delivery of poetry, prose and talk
  • Prepare all areas carefully to achieve a confident delivery
  • Understand the importance of eye contact
  • Notes when used, should be on cards, making sure not to mask face
  • Try to ensure body language captures and holds audience interest
  • Visual aids when used, should be carefully planned

Interview Techniques

  • A good, well prepared, error free Curriculum Vitae is essential. It should be properly punctuated with no grammar or spelling errors
  • Be punctual – although this is an examination of interview skills, being late for any interview is the worst possible start
  • Leave no stone unturned when it comes to personal appearance and hygiene. First impressions are lasting and valuable points will be lost if care is not taken here
  • Plan for the interview. Plan what will be worn on the day. Appropriate dress is of paramount importance. Never lie – it’s not worth it!
  • When discussing Section 4 Interview Techniques Advanced Grade (pg 66 of syllabus) try not to dwell entirely on the positives of the initiative. Articulate the challenges, critical decisions made throughout the initiative coupled with concise and constructive evaluation of the project in terms of further development and/or ones on-going interest in the initiative
  • Select a passage of factual prose which would be of personal interest to you. For the Advanced Grade, read the prose at a rate comfortable for you and scan for difficult words and phrases
  • Engage with the Examiner with confidence, ease and enthusiasm
  • Be polite and professional at all times. Smile and SELL YOURSELF!

Royal Irish Academy of Music, 36-38 Westland Row, Dublin 2, 016325300

© 2017 RIAM. All Rights Reserved. Web Design by Walker