Exam Board

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The A Level in Music is 100% externally assessed, and consists of one written paper and two non-examined assessment components. The course covers a wide variety of musical styles. Candidates can choose whether to specialise in composition or performance.

Course Content:

Component 1: Performing

Assessment overview

  • Option A: A performance consisting of a minimum of three pieces lasting between 10-12 minutes. 35% of the qualification.
  • Option B: A performance consisting of a minimum of two pieces lasting between 6-8 minutes. 25% of the qualification.

Component 2: Composing

Assessment overview

  • Option A: Students must produce two compositions, one of which must reflect the musical techniques and conventions associated with the Western Classical tradition and be in response to a brief set by the exam board. Students will have a choice of four briefs. The second composition is a free composition. 25% of the qualification.
  • Option B: Students must produce three compositions, one of which must reflect the musical techniques and conventions associated with the Western Classical Tradition and be in response to a brief set by the exam board. The second composition must reflect the musical characteristics of one different area of study (i.e. not the Western Classical Tradition) while the third composition is a free composition.

Component 3: Appraising   40% of the A Level qualification.

Content overview – Students cover three areas of study:

  • Area of study A: The Western Classical Tradition (The Development of the Symphony 1750-1900) which includes two set works. Choose one set work for detailed analysis and the other for general study.

– Symphony No. 104 in D Major, ‘London’: Haydn

– Symphony No. 4 in A major, ‘Italian’: Mendelssohn


  • A choice of one area of study from:

– Area of Study B: Rock and Pop

– Area of study C: Musical Theatre

– Area of study D: Jazz


  • A choice of one are of study from

Area of study E: Into the Twentieth Century including two set works:

– Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and piano, Movement II: Poulenc

– Three Nocturnes, Number 1, Nuages: Debussy

Area of study F: Into the Twenty-first Century including Two set works

– Asyla, Movement 3, Ecstasio: Thomas Adès

– String Quartet No. 2 (Opus California) Movements 1 (Boardwalk) and 4 (Natural Bridges): Sally Beamish

  • Exam Questions: This component includes a listening examination.
    • Set work analysis with score
    • Extended responses on wider contexts
    • Unprepared extracts of music with and without a score
    • Comparison questions.

Students will also have to apply their knowledge to unfamiliar works of music; not just the set works.

Entry Requirements

GCSE Music grade 6 or equivalent. Trinity or ABRSM instrumental or vocal exam to at least Grade 5 standard.

Further Progression and Careers

Possible Career Pathways:

  • Music therapist
  • Musician
  • Private music teacher
  • Secondary school teacher
  • Sound technician, broadcasting/film/video
  • Arts administrator
  • Broadcast engineer
  • Community arts worker
  • Event manager
  • PPC specialist
  • Radio broadcast assistant
  • Radio producer
  • Theatre stage manager

If you choose to follow a music career, you may have to take on several roles with different employers and work on both a freelance and contract basis. For example, you could combine teaching with freelance performance work, as well as doing contract/session work on particular projects.

Employers include:

  • music production companies – creative and administrative roles
  • music retailers
  • media organisations – including music magazines and licensing bodies
  • schools and colleges
  • orchestras and touring companies
  • travel industry companies, e.g. hotels, summer camps
  • mental healthcare providers and charitable organisations
  • the armed forces

a range of employers in the cultural and creative industries including film and gaming companies.