Accreditation has been central to the College's work since it was founded in 1864.
The College's original Royal Charter of 1893 and revised Charters charge it with the promotion of the arts and practice of organ playing and choral directing to the highest standards of competence and artistry, and empower it to implement such standards through examinations.
In the United Kingdom as well as abroad, the College's diplomas remain as highly prized now as they were more than a century ago, not least because they continue to demand the combination of technical and interpretative skill with stylistic, analytical and historical understanding that marks out the truly accomplished musician: the Colleague (CRCO) [formerly CertRCO] validates ‘reliable and confident musicianship', Associateship (ARCO) ‘professional competency' and Fellowship (FRCO) ‘professional expertise', while the Licentiateship in Teaching (LTRCO) and the Choral Directing Diploma (DipCHD) validate ‘professional expertise' in those particular skills.
In autumn 2016, the College introduced an early-level certificate scheme called the RCO Certificate of Accredited Membership (CAM). Designed to establish and strengthen fundamental skills and musicianship at the organ, CAM offers the player a comprehensive, developmental route from foundation level (roughly equivalent to ABRSM Grade 2) via the intermediate level (around Grade 4) to advanced level (around Grade 6).
The development and refinement of the College's accreditation programme is ongoing, and is overseen by the College's Academic Board, which consists of leading practitioners and teachers in the school, university, and conservatoire sectors.
Changes in recent years have included: the comprehensive implementation of assessment criteria; all papers at ARCO, FRCO and DipCHD being separately passable and resittable; and all keyboard skills tests, including sight-reading, being available for prior study in the quiet room.
The actual process of sitting the component parts of an examination for RCO qualification may seem daunting to the candidate. However, the College's aim is to encourage and nurture candidates towards success as much as possible.
All the College's qualifications are structured in a modular fashion so that they can be gained cumulatively; many candidates successfully progress towards RCO qualifications in this manner. The College runs preparatory day-courses and workshops, it offers library resources to candidates, and past written and organ test papers are readily available from this website.
The College's virtual campus, iRCO, also offers members a range of online learning and teaching materials at all levels, and you can find an introductory iRCO film entitled Your RCO Exam here on the Resources & Support page. This video has been produced to help anyone preparing for, or considering taking, one of our diploma examinations, and it aims to prepare candidates by looking at the examination process in detail.
We cannot emphasise enough that the most vital and valuable part of the process is the preparation and study before the examination.
The pages in this section of the website give access to the General Regulations and the specific requirements for all the College's examinations. Information about examination centres, application deadlines and written paper schedules are also given.
The annual publication Diploma Examinations contains all the information about the diplomas in one document. It is available as a download at the top of the Qualifications page of this site, or in print on request from the College's administration.
Further details concerning examination schedules and fees are published periodically. Again, such information is available from the College website or in print on request from the College's administration.