GCSE Music

GCSE Music helps students to develop subject knowledge, understanding and skills, through listening to a variety of music, playing music and creating their own music.

If music be the food of love, play on. - William Shakespeare

Course description

The specification places a strong weighting on practical aspects of music (70 per cent), with choices catering for a wide range of interests and abilities. This four-unit GCSE assesses students' skills in listening and appraising, composing and performing music.

GCSE Music offers a solid foundation for progression to other music studies, including A-level Music, and often to a music-related career. This course provides the opportunity for students to develop valuable transferable skills such as self-confidence, concentration, creativity, evaluation and team work.

  • Component 1 – Understanding Music (40%)
  • Component 2 – Performing Music (30%)
  • Component 3 – Composing Music (30%)                                            

Exam board        

Course code

  • 8271

Past papers


Component 1: Understanding music

What's assessed:

  • Listening
  • Contextual understanding

How it's assessed:

  • Exam paper with listening exercises and written questions using excerpts of music.


  • Section A: Listening –unfamiliar music (68 marks)
  • Section B: Study pieces (28 marks).

The exam is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

This component is worth 40 % of GCSE marks (96 marks).

Component 2: Performing music

What's assessed:

  • Music performance

How it's assessed:

As an instrumentalist and/or vocalist and/or via technology:

  • Performance 1: Solo performance (36 marks)
  • Performance 2: Ensemble performance (36 marks).

A minimum of four minutes of performance in total is required, of which a minimum of one minute must be the ensemble performance.

This component is 30 % of GCSE marks (72 marks).

Non-exam assessment (NEA) will be internally marked by teachers and externally moderated by AQA.

Performances must be completed in the year of certification.

Component 3: Composing music

What's assessed:

  • Composition

How it's assessed:

  • Composition 1: Composition to a brief (36 marks)
  • Composition 2: Free composition (36 marks).

A minimum of three minutes of music in total is required.

This component is 30 % of GCSE marks (72 marks).

Non-exam assessment (NEA) will be internally marked by teachers and externally moderated by AQA.

Ways to help my child succeed

  • Students will need to practise their own instrument regularly and complete composing and written assignments.
  • They will be expected to be involved in at least one of the extra-curricular activities during the course.
  • They will be able to take part in a range of musical events such as: music concerts, band nights, musical shows, lunchtime concerts, Carol Services.

Useful websites

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