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GCSE Music

Studying Music at GCSE offers students the chance to explore a wide variety of music from different genres and cultures and to learn more about the way music works in depth.  It is particularly suitable for those who already enjoy making music and are keen to pursue their interest in a subject that combines academic rigour with creativity and practical music-making.

Students opting for Music at GCSE should have reached Grade 2 standard on at least one instrument by the start of the course.  It is also expected that students contribute to at least one of the many extra-curricular musical activities at St Olave's.  These conditions are put forward not only to encourage GCSE Music candidates in their role amongst the senior ambassadors of Music in the school, but also serve to support the curriculum content and offer the students the best chances of reaching the highest grades. 

This course of study provides an excellent foundation of general knowledge in music, as well as being an essential preliminary stage preceding the study of Music at AS and A-Level.

We use the Pearson Edexcel GCSE specification which comprises three components: Performing (30%), Composing (30%) and Appraising (40%).

Areas of Study

Four broad Areas of Study, designated by Pearson, provide the stimuli for the composition activities:

  • Instrumental music 1700-1820
  • Vocal music
  • Music for stage and screen
  • Fusion

Within each Area of Study, there are two prescribed set works. Knowledge of these will be the subject of examination in Component 3 (see below). Each will be listened to in class and studied in some detail so that the recordings and the scores are familiar to all students in preparation for the written paper.

For Component 1 (Performing), students choosing this GCSE must already be having and commit to continuing with regular individual tuition on voice or on a musical instrument.  Although the course is intended for all those of any practical playing ability who are interested in music of all types, students who are not strong performers generally find the other aspects of the course much harder than their more experienced counterparts.  You will be expected to play both as a soloist and as a member an ensemble performing a distinct role.

Regular class performances are recorded and assessed by the Music Teacher according to criteria laid down by Pearson.  The best solo performance and best ensemble performance are submitted and an external examiner subsequently moderates the teacher’s assessments of this work.

Component 2 - the Composing paper - requires students to complete a number of creative exercises, of which the best two will be developed into submitted pieces. The compositions are produced as written scores and accompanied by a recording of both pieces.  One work must address a brief specified by Pearson; the second may be to a freely-chosen brief.  The final submissions will be completed within controlled class time, principally using Sibelius software, and is assessed by the Music Teacher and moderated by an external examiner.

The Appraising paper (Component 3) is in the form of a written exam in two parts, where tasks relate to the Areas of Study and the associated collection of musical set works.  Section A involves technical and short-answer questions about both recorded extracts and printed music.  In Section B, students write in more detail about one of their set works and compare this with an unfamiliar piece of recorded music.

Not only does this course act as a strong foundation for those wanting to study Music at higher levels, it is a highly regarded course for any university application on account of the breadth of skills developed and the discipline required to succeed.  Studying Music at GCSE does not preclude an individual from pursuing any future study programme or career of their choice.  Instead, it can be the perfectly complimentary subject for the well-rounded learner.

Full details of the GCSE Music course can be found at http://qualifications.pearson.com/en/qualifications/edexcel-gcses/music-2016.html