Inconsistency in the marking of composition modules in AQA music?

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schenker
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Has anyone else had any experience of this?

On results day my music classes mark for the A2 composition module (MUS5B or whatever) appeared to be utterly random and not reflective in any sense of the comparative compositional ability in the class... in fact those of us who wanted to study music at uni appear to have generally done the worst in this particular module, resulting in some of us losing our places (myself being one of them).

My composition actually recieved an E grade (40/90), but I’d hate to be thought of as a sore loser, however I did submit a similar composition as and AS re-sit and that scored the top end of an A grade (85/90), which is what they were both predicted...
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Shoei
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Hi Schenker,

'Inconsistency in the marking' - you are now officially a master of understatement.

You're not alone in this, my daughter missed her first choice uni by one mark because of this rogue module. Out of six entrants two missed their first choice and in the same way you describe, actual marks way off those expected and no one able to explain why.

If you, your fellow students and the two here had this experience how many were affected out of the 1231 people who took AQA A2 in June?

This is only the second time this module has been taken but it was the same story last year. Results that were completely random and seemingly marking down the more able students who their teachers thought had done good work.

There's a thread over on the TES website were the problem is being discussed. If this were a more popular subject there would be Facebook campaigns, newspaper reports and all the rest. Because it's 'just' music it'll probably be the same next year and the year after.

Anyone who needs good grades should avoid AQA music like the plague. It doesn't matter how hard you work or how good your composition, you'll get a random number for a mark and that may hit your whole music grade. (It may boost it, rolling dice is rolling dice).

The TES thread is here..

http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/p/512439/6947190.aspx
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waynethomas
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Talking as someone who is going into their second year at uni studying music throughout my whole education I have found marking of both composition and performance to be massively subjective...
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Shoei
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You're right that some exams are very subjective and that particularly affects subject such as music, english lit and history. The exam process is supposed to minimise the effects of the bias of individual examiners but some inexplicable marks always get through.

In the case of AQA composition though something more sinister is going on. There is a large disparity between what experienced teachers and other professionals would expect from the markscheme and actual marks, so much so that the module is unteachable.

Take this together with the fact that the module is about Bachian harmonization, which can be rigidly and consistently marked because it is so rule-based then something is deeply wrong.

AQA has chosen to use 'impression marking' for the module which everyone seems to agree is just plain silly. It's akin to marking a maths paper by how aesthetically pleasing it is but without regard to whether the calculations are right or not.

The sad thing is, as Schenker has intimated, the scheme seems to favour less able musicians who seem to score highly while the more expert students who make a plausible effort at the harmonisation get marked down.
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schenker
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Thank you for your reply Shoei, I apologise that I haven’t replied sooner I’ve been away for the last week making my BBC Proms debut with the Gabrieli Consort!! An amazing experience only tempered by the fact that I have returned to find my re-mark of MUS5B has came back exactly the same...

It is no comfort knowing that this apparent problem is not local to my own exam centre. I dread to think how many able musicians have been denied places at top universities due to AQA!

I did not mention this before, however this year I was a third year student at my college re-sitting this module because I had received a D in it last year (very disappointing and consequently limited my choice when applying to uni this year). Last year a friend of mine did the Bach harmonization question for MUS5, and received a U. Please bear in mind the person in question was an Oxbridge applicant and had an offer from KCL to study music, his chorale harmony (an example of which was requested from him upon interview) was good enough for said universities, but turned out not to be NOT good enough for AQA! Something is wrong.

I am well aware of the subjective nature of music, but composition should be marked with respect to academic rigour more so, than the ‘effectiveness’ (AQA’s term) of the submitted composition. In the AQA specification for music, the criteria for MUS5 states that “candidate[s] should be able to show their understanding of and ability to handle” a range of techniques, which surely when satisfied and explained in the review of the composition should mean the candidate has satisfied AQA’s requirements for A2 composition!? Apparently not is the answer.

As for myself, a score of 40/90 corresponds to a raw mark of 27/60, or in terms of AQA:

“• The piece will be partially effective and complete but will demonstrate limited understanding in relation to structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture and timbre.
• The writing for instrument(s)/voice(s)/electronic sound source(s) will be partially successful and the expressive qualities of the music will be unconvincing and tend to be contrived.
• The score/chart/annotation will contain limited detail relating to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail.
• The review provides an evaluation of the process which lacks detail and is not always accurate with some use of technical language.”

I wish I could post my score and review to demonstrate my point, however I intend to go to appeal, and so I don’t believe it wise to post the work on the internet just yet.
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georgeflint
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Hi schenker, did you do free composition or Arranging?
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Shoei
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Hi schenker,

Congratulations on your BBC proms debut.

You're right to keep your review confidential while an appeal is pending, does your school intend to appeal or is that still being decided? My daughters school is going to appeal over the four candidates affected there, their papers have been returned and you won't be surprised to hear that the marking is highly suspect.

Schools are often reluctant to appeal because the boards typically close ranks and refuse even to consider the possibility they may be wrong. This in itself is disappointing, AQA is a publicly funded body and a charity, it spent £144,000,000 of taxpayers money last year and for such an organisation not to have a credible and transparent complaints process is a disgrace.

It may need a fairly determined effort to challenge the inadequacies of this module but I do feel we owe it to those students who have been affected to hold AQA to account. If this isn't addressed students will continue to have their academic careers blighted by this random and unteachable module.

It may help to coordinate appeals to demonstrate the scale of the problem to AQA. If you or anyone else affected is interested in this feel free to PM me.
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beanstalkgirl_24
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(Original post by stephjess)
I sat AS AQA music last year. For the composition I did Bach chorales and two part harmony. On coming out of the exam I thought I hadn't done too bad but my results proved me wrong. I got a D in this section and I'm therefore resitting this in June. I requested my exam paper back to find that I had done quite well in the four part Bach chorale and horrific in the two part composition. I have taken into account comments the examiner made but I do think he was quite harsh with the other three students in my class too.
AQA are horrendous for marking music compositions. In fact they all are. :/
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stephjess
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I got a C.
AS written exam: B
AS composition: C
AS performance: C

A2 written exam: A
A2 composition: C
A2 performance: E
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Podcaster
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I'm against marking music man. How can you mark the natural vibrations? It either sounds good or it doesn't.

Peace and love.
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When you see it...
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(Original post by stephjess)
I got a C.
AS written exam: B
AS composition: C
AS performance: C

A2 written exam: A
A2 composition: C
A2 performance: E

(Original post by Podcaster)
I'm against marking music man. How can you mark the natural vibrations? It either sounds good or it doesn't.

Peace and love.
One year old.
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stephjess
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Still applicable though
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When you see it...
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(Original post by stephjess)
Still applicable though
Why not make a new thread?
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stephjess
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Didn't think I needed to!
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schenker
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(Original post by When you see it...)
One year old.
Whether this thread is a year old or not is irrelevant. The fact that this thread needs to be resurrected at all, means that AQA have still not addressed the inconsistency in their marking..

There is no need for a new thread as this is a continuation of the same problem students were faced with last year.
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When you see it...
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(Original post by schenker)
Whether this thread is a year old or not is irrelevant. The fact that this thread needs to be resurrected at all, means that AQA have still not addressed the inconsistency in their marking..

There is no need for a new thread as this is a continuation of the same problem students were faced with last year.
Whatever I'm not arguing with you. I was just pointing it out in case stephjess didn't realise.
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stephjess
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(Original post by schenker)
Whether this thread is a year old or not is irrelevant. The fact that this thread needs to be resurrected at all, means that AQA have still not addressed the inconsistency in their marking..

There is no need for a new thread as this is a continuation of the same problem students were faced with last year.

Exactly! Did you do A2 music this year?

(Original post by When you see it...)
Whatever I'm not arguing with you. I was just pointing it out in case stephjess didn't realise.
Thanks
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hovermeerkat
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I'm a mum whose daughter has been struggling with this issue for 2 years... I think we need to lobby AQA to do something about this... I have set up a FB page subject AQA music A level composition, which I would like to use as an online petition to the exam board. Please let others know if they are sharing this frustration.
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schenker
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(Original post by stephjess)
Exactly! Did you do A2 music this year?
No, I finished last year. I was on a gap year this year (reapplying)... Fortunately universities are starting to realise that AQA are leaving some people with funny marks. So their's still hope
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Lucy_95
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I know this post is old but I feel the same! A2 and AS students this year and last year got U's not deserved. This year (my AS) we (me and my friend, there's only 2 people in the class) are really hoping for good marks, as I want to study medicine I really can't let an E or U composition mark drag my grade down to a C or below It's not like we were all incapable either, last year they were grade 8 singing, saxophone, and clarinet, my friend is grade 7 cello and I'm grade 7 flute!
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