For organists who have already received the Service Playing Certificate or have service playing proficiency, Colleague certification is the next logical step. The CAGO examination consists entirely of your performances, and the examination is like a recital or the musical part of a service of worship, where the organist is expected to perform each item creditably. This examination is designed to test the candidate’s mastery of all aspects of the organist’s art, since this is the demand that is placed upon the professional church musician. Membership in the AGO is not required for Colleague certification; however, there is a $115 surcharge for nonmembers.
The colleague exam is entirely practical and has seven basic requirements that fall into two categories: repertoire and keyboard skills. For additional details, see the AGO Professional Certification Requirements for 2024. In addition, click here for the 2023 Certification Requirements Summary Chart. (This will be updated for 2023-2024 on July 5, 2023.) The CAGO exam is given twice a year: in May and November. The specific dates are published each year in the Professional Certification Requirements. Any chapter of the AGO can administer the exam for you (contact a particular chapter). Currently, the test is recorded, and the recordings are sent to AGO Headquarters for evaluation. Candidates usually receive the results two to three months after taking the test; if unsuccessful, they have five years to successfully compete the section they missed.
2023-2024 Examination Dates, Deadlines, and Fees
The next exams are currently planned for November 17, 2023 and May 17, 2024. Examination fee: both sections, $200; single section, $150. Student rate: both sections, $150; single section, $125. Surcharge for non-AGO members: $115. Application deadlines are September 15, 2023, for the November 17, 2023 CAGO exam and March 15, 2024 for the May 17, 2024 CAGO exam.
Revised Hymn Booklet
The new 2023 Hymn Examination booklet is now available. The 2013 Hymn Examination booklet is no longer valid. For a list of the contents (titles and tunes), please click HERE. To download the 2023 Hymn Examination booklet you must contact the Certification Program Administrator to obtain passwords (Email: email@example.com; Tel.: 212-870-2311, ext. 4303). Once you have obtained the passwords, please return to this page and click HERE to access the page with the downloadable files of the 2023 Hymn Examination Booklet.
Please note that the booklet will be updated due to copyright issues. Only a few hymns will be replaced, all other material will remain valid. Please see this page when the certification requirements are released for more information.
Grading Criteria for AGO Certification
Repertoire: Awareness of stylistic period; imagination and musical excitement; phrasing and articulation; rhythm; tempo; note accuracy; registration.
Sight-reading: accuracy of notes and rhythm; keeping a steady beat without hesitations; tempo is moderate, not rushed or halting.
Hymn playing: Accuracy; rhythm; sensitivity to text via registration and articulation; leaving space for breathing; consistent spaces between stanzas; harmonizations that enhance singing but do not get in the way of singing or message of hymn text.
Transposition: Accuracy of notes and rhythm; keeping a steady beat and maintaining voice lines and voice leading.
Accompanying: Accuracy of notes and rhythm; attention to text and breathing places for singers; care in registrations so that support is provided without being aggressive; awareness of dynamics, tessitura, voice leading, and interpreting accordingly.
Harmonization/Modulation: Good voice leading, ease with keyboard harmony, and a sense of rules of counterpoint; form: use of motive, sequence, four- and eight-measure balanced phrases, having a “plan” without meandering.
Following directions is a key factor.
Past Colleague Exams and AGO Educational Resources
The colleague exams are practical and taken at the organ; there are no written solutions.
Study Guide for AGO Colleague Certification (Please note: This is not yet updated for current repertoire requirements, but contains useful guidance.)
Manual of Procedure for the Colleague Exam
100 Strategies for Successful AGO Certification
Preparing for AGO Certification (reprints of articles from TAO magazine)
Past TAO Articles for Exam Preparation
AGO Colleague Examination 2013/Improvisation Question/The Modulating Bridge by Philip Gehring, FAGO, Oct. 2013 (revised)
“It Don’t Mean a Thing if You Can’t Make ‘Em Sing”/Leading Hymn Singing from the Organ: A Practical Checklist by Kenneth Grinnell, FAGO, ChM, April 2006
Ten Tips on Sight-Reading by Jonathan B. Hall, FAGO, ChM, March 2009
Transposition: Not a Four-Letter Word by Kenneth Grinnell, FAGO, ChM, May 2008
On Modulation by Dean Billmeyer, FAGO Handout from a 2008 Convention Workshop