KS5 Music

A level Music at St George’s offers a vigorous and academic syllabus to prepare students for university study. Students must achieve a B grade at GCSE in order to take this subject onto A level where we follow the Edexcel GCE Music AS Course.

AS Music

As in GCSE Music, the AS Music Course consists of three units:

Performing (30% of total AS, 15% of full A Level, controlled assessment)

Students must produce a 5-6 minute recital.  This can be on any instrument/voice and can include solo/ensemble performances.  They must provide a score for their performance.  Their Recital is assessed by their music teacher using the Assessment Criteria provided by the exam board

Composing (30% of total AS, 15% of full A Level, controlled conditions and externally assessed by an examiner) 

Each year, the exam board sets a composition exam with a choice of four tasks - students choose one composition task to complete.  Their work must be 3+ minutes in length and a higher level of compositional skill is required than that expected at GCSE.  These skills include:

  • a greater use of instrumental/vocal techniques and more idiomatic writing

  • a wider range of harmonic understanding e.g. extended chords, modulation, harmonic colour

  • extended structures e.g. a bridge section, introduction, coda, variation in repeats, development section

  • more advanced melodic writing including greater range, development of melodic ideas, chromatic writing

  • greater rhythmic variety and use of rhythmic contrast and drive

  • a more complete sense of musical direction, understanding of tension and release

Students are expected to complete a draft version of their composition by December.  They will then spend January/February refining their ideas and recording a final version. The final version of the recording and score are completed under controlled conditions with a time limit of 15 hours.  Students then have a one-hour controlled assignment task in which they must write a sleeve note for their composition. This is worth 20 marks (a third of the total marks for the unit) and it is very important that students plan their responses to the questions on the exam paper for their sleeve note.

Developing Musical Understanding (40% of total AS, 20% of full A Level, terminal exam) 

In June, students sit an exam that consists of the following sections:

  • 2 listening questions, based on music studied during the course

  • an essay-style question in two parts that requires and extended, written answer, identifying stylistic features and comparing the use of musical elements in several of the set works studied

  • chord identification from a given musical score

  • SATB chorale-style harmonic exercise

Throughout the course, students will study chord identification, SATB harmony and the set works for the current year's specification.  Most students find this area of the course the most challenging but it is very important that they engage with this more academic side of music if they are to achieve a higher grade in the course. 

 A2 Music

The A2 Music course is again structured in three units:

Extended Performance (15% of full A Level, controlled assessment)

Students must prepare a 12-15 minute Recital as a soloist and/or ensemble player.  The Recital should contain a balanced programme of music but can be in any style.  As in AS Music, your teacher will advise you on your choice of pieces to perform and work with your instrumental tutor to help you prepare for this challenging unit.

Composition and Technical Study (15% of full a Level, controlled conditions, examiner assessed)

Students continue to study composition techniques and have a choice of assessment options:

  • Two technical studies set by the exam board, each one to be completed under controlled conditions in three hours, or

  • Two extended compositions (chosen from four composition briefs set by the examboard) composed over the duration of the A2 course, or

  • One technical study and one extended composition

Your teacher will advise you on the best choice in order to maximise your music potential. 

Further Musical Understanding (20% of full A Level, terminal exam)

Students at A2 will study a further group of set works throughout the course.  They will also study music composed across the centuries and in a variety of cultures and practise aural dictation skills, putting music into context, harmonic identification (by ear) and comparison skills.  The terminal exam consists of the following:

  • Listening questions based on unfamiliar musical excerpts

  • Aural dictation (writing down music by ear)

  • Harmonic identification (identifying chords, keys and cadences by ear)

  • Extended writing about the stylistic features of music studied in the set works

  • An essay that compares three of the set works studied


Students will receive homework every week in order to prepare them for the terminal exam paper - the homework tasks will include harmony work, learning music vocabulary, revising key facts about the set works and completing exam-style questions.

Useful links and Revision Guides