GCSE Music is a fascinating course with a good balance of breadth and depth and is a great choice for any pupil who enjoys listening to, performing or indeed composing their own music. The syllabus supports pupils to deepen their understanding and enjoyment of all aspects of music across a wide variety of genres. This is not only valuable academically but also develops a wide array of transferable skills, including creativity, aesthetic sensitivity, emotional awareness, cultural understanding, self-discipline, and self-confidence.

Performing (30%)

Solo = 15%
Ensemble = 15%

Assessment: Internally marked, then moderated by Edexcel.

Pupils record performances lasting at least four minutes comprising:

  • solo piece or pieces (at least one minute)
  • a piece with an ensemble (at least one minute)

Pupils can really shine here with careful preparation. As this is not a live performance like a grade exam, we can pick from several recordings made during the course so as to submit the very best snapshot of a pupil’s work. In class, we work regularly on developing nuances of performance and play to one another, in addition to pupils’ one-to-one instrumental or voice lessons. Pupils can perform on one or more instruments if they choose.

For the very top marks, performances should be grade 4/5 standard, but you do not have to have taken any music exams previously.

Composing (30%)

2 pieces (15% each)

Assessment: Internally marked, then moderated by Edexcel.

Pupils compose at least three minutes of music comprising:

  • a piece to a brief set by the exam board (at least one minute). A choice of four briefs each year relates to the areas of study.
  • a free composition (at least one minute)

We work on a series of compositions in a wide variety of styles before attempting the final assessed pieces, learning:

  • how to develop and extend musical ideas;
  • about a variety of compositional techniques and strategies;
  • how to ensure technical control and coherence;
  • methods of notating and presenting composition scores.

Composition can be created live or using music specific software, students will be taught in both Logic X and Sibelius in addition to mixing MIDI and audio sounds.

Listening and Appraising (40%)

Assessment: Listening Examination (1 hour 45 minutes), marked by Edexcel.

Lessons place equal weight on acquiring detailed knowledge of eight set works and developing the skill to pick apart and analyse unfamiliar pieces of music, and to understand and describe how composers achieve their intended effects. Areas of Study are:

  • Instrumental Music (set works by Bach and Beethoven)
  • Vocal Music (set works by Purcell and Queen)
  • Stage and Screen (set works are Star Wars and Wicked)
  • Musical Fusions (set works by Anoushka Shankar and AfroCelt Sound System)


Participation in the co-curricular music programme is expected and is a vital adjunct to the work we do in the classroom. There are myriad opportunities to be involved in choirs, chamber groups, contemporary music and larger ensembles, and a lively programme of concerts and external trips and performances.

Next steps

Music at GCSE and A Level is considered a highly desirable subject by universities and employers as a result of its wide range of transferable skills and juxtaposition of both academic and creative dimensions. GCSE is a sound preparation for both A Level Music and BTech performing arts courses and, later, for music courses at university or conservatoire.

Get in touch

Contact us