How to revise for GCSE Music exams: AQA explains what to do


Exam and revision advice to help you get your target grades in GCSE Music

When you're revising for your GCSE exams, you want to make the most of your study time.

So, we invited the experts at the AQA exam board to share their tips and advice on preparing for GCSE Music exams.

The article that follows has been written by an AQA curriculum expert, based on their years of experience in the assessment of their subject.  

You can find more articles in this series, covering a range of subjects at both GCSE and A-level, over on our revision section.

Also on The Student Room, you can find student discussion of 2024 GCSE exams.

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  • Plan your revision to target the areas you’re less confident about first - but mix it up with the areas you’re stronger on.

Before the exam

  • Approach the exam calmly – try to be relaxed.
  • Prepare for all the different types of question on the exam paper, using past papers where possible.
  • Don’t start writing immediately. Make sure you’ve read through the introductory information on the front of the paper.

During the exam

  • Read each question carefully before answering.
  • Having read the question, look at how many marks have been allocated for the answer: if there’s only one mark, just give one answer. Similarly, if it asks for two or three, don’t give any more, as only your first two or three answers will be marked.
  • Don’t rush your answers – take your time.
  • Keep your writing as neat as possible.
  • In questions requiring a musical dictation response, be careful that you place notation accurately on the stave.
  • Move on if you get stuck.

Written exam: unfamiliar music

  • You can use one of the many online streaming services to practise listening to a range of unfamiliar music from all four areas of study. Many online streaming services have a ‘free’ option you can sign up to.
  • Make revision cards for the musical elements you need to know and understand.
  • Practise identifying musical elements as you listen to unfamiliar music from each area of study.
  • Make sure you understand how the different styles and genres of music were influenced by their context.

Written exam: study pieces

  • Make sure you spend time revising the study piece(s) from both Area of Study 1 and your other chosen area of study.
  • Revise your knowledge and understanding of the effect of audience, time and place on how the study pieces were created, developed and performed.
  • Make notes on how and why music across the selected areas of study has changed over time.
  • Listen carefully to the study pieces and map out how the composer’s purpose and intentions are reflected in their use of musical elements.

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