Some of my students voiced dismay at Trinity moving the exams forward (closer) by a whole month.
Sure, that is frightening. Especially to those who were planning to take things slow.
But in the real world, children, you never get a full year to prepare for any performance. You get two months, maybe; or if you’re not that lucky, two weeks.
You need to have a good standard of play and a repertoire. Those two things will carry you through any short-notice engagement (alright, there is a limit beyond which you should not go – if someone offers you an audition in the next half-hour you ought to decline, if already out of professional pride. There needs to be a little notice).
A good standard of play is obtained by practising regularly, and challenging yourself with fairly technical stuff. Etudes (studies) are a good way of furthering your core technique. Also don’t be shy to use Mr Maelzel’s invention: The Metronome. (No, that is not a small person dwelling in a city.)
The best function of the metronome is not to push your speed up but keep your pace down and discipline yourself to play in time so that you don’t fly through the easy passages at a different pace than you battle through the difficult ones (classic beginner’s mistake).
Self-discipline is in any case the key. Anyone who has had the self-discipline to learn a classical instrument, has miles of advantage in terms of knowing how to tackle a problem in mini-steps.
A repertoire is a collection of pieces you have “at your fingertips” and can brush up to performance level at very short notice. To build a good repertoire takes effort and dedication, but most importantly a passion for the music. It also helps to perform regularly, to keep your repertoire fresh. Never stop adding to this; keep challenging yourself to better pieces.
So in summary, an exam is really just a measure of where on the path you are right now. (In that light, practising for an exam is nearly like fudging the measurements, isn’t it?)
Go forward and play, the way you play right now, and accept whatever mark they give you as an independent assessment.