Music (GCSE)

Music (GCSE)

Sixth Form Overview

Students aged 17-18 years old

Course Outline

GCSE Music is a very varied and exciting option to take. There are a wide range of activities tied up with the subject, including performing, composing and learning about different styles of music. 60% of the overall qualification is obtained through the completion of coursework.

Music lessons at GCSE are very different from the lessons in Years 7 – 9. The groups are usually quite small and the learning environment is much more informal. Students learn a lot by studying the music of others, and discussing it within the group. This enables them to see what can be effective in musical composition and also, what possibly doesn’t work. We endeavour to perform music regularly, either as a group, or as individuals.

Assessment Criteria


Students are required to perform on an instrument, or as a singer. This can be on any instrument and the two performances can be on different instruments if the student wishes. The performance can be any style of music. Students are required to provide at least 4 minutes of performances. This must be a mixture of solo and ensemble performing (performing with other people). The ensemble can be anything from a piano duet or a string quartet to a rock band! These two performances are recorded and marked by the teacher. The recordings are then sent to the Board and the marks are checked (moderated). Students are encouraged to do several performances throughout the course, so that we can then choose the best for their final pieces.


Students are required to submit two compositions for this section of the GCSE. There must be at least three minutes’ worth of music from both compositions. One composition is written to a brief set by the Board. That is, they will tell you what the music is for and then you must compose for that situation. The other composition is a completely free choice


This is the only part of the GCSE that is an actual exam. Over the two years, students study music ranging in style from classical music to popular music and music from other cultures. They also learn about the general characteristics of various styles of music. In this 1 hour 45 minute exam, which takes place at the end of Year 11, Students are played extracts of selected set works and answer questions on the music. There is also a longer question where students are asked to compare a piece they know, with a piece they don’t know. This question will require a little more writing than the other questions

Common Questions

  • Do I have to be able to play an instrument? The simple answer is, yes. If you don’t already play an instrument or sing, we have teachers who
    come to school who can teach you a variety of instruments, or voice. It is possible to start lessons in year 10 and reach an acceptable GCSE
    standard by the end of year 11, although you should be prepared to work hard at it.
  • Do I have to write long essays? Not very often. The listening exam generally asks you for information in short answers or bullet points. There is
    one extended writing question, but this is quite straightforward as it always follows a similar pattern.
  •  I can’t read music. Can I do GCSE?
  • You can access much of GCSE music even if you can’t read musical notation. However, there is one question that requires you to read a few
    notes and this can be worth many marks. Studying some of the set works usually requires a bit of note reading as well.
  • How do I compose music? You will be guided through many ways of composing music. Many people who play instruments like to make up pieces
    for their instruments. Others like to compos e at the computer, using the Sibelius or Sequencing programmes such as Logic or Cubase and then
    try it out to see if it works on real instruments. The advantage of using computer programmes is that it gives you the printed music, so you don’t
    have to write it all down.
  • What are the benefits of studying music? Many people wish to try and work in the performing arts and music. It can be helpful in teaching,
    broadcasting, theatre and many other jobs. Employers, colleges and universities generally look very favourably on music as a subject, as it
    suggests a person will have many additional skills
  • Exam Board EDEXCEL
  • Course Code 1MU0
  • ASSESSMENT EXTERNAL ASSIGNMENT (40%) & Portfolio (60%)