Well it has arrived at last and I am sure music teachers up and down the country are more excited than ever. It has been a long time coming and I for one am glad that I now have some concrete listening tests to work with. I really am not interested in moaning about the delays on this book because frankly I would rather it be done well than quickly. I don’t work for Rhinegold and so I will be honest with this review. But it is true to say that I am very much a half glass full kinda guy and so I will try and look more for the positives.
The book itself is nice and a good size, similar to past listening tests. The first thing I notice and liked about the book was the separate copy of the skeleton scores. I think this is really helpful as students can then use this alongside the questions in the book. I guess the worry is will this get lost easily! So beware, there is an insert that will easily fall out. At the back of the book you find a download card and I think this is a really nice idea and saves on CDs.
The book starts with the usual – “How To Use this book” style section and I do think this is useful for students to read and take in. It reminds students of how the exam will work and it also mentions the “stresses and strains” of the exam situation. Not sure mentioning the word stress is necessarily a good thing, but I get their angle on things. I think the advice is good and I like the point they make that “many words do not always earn many marks”.
There is a question for every set work – but just one question – many parts – but one question. So in the first part of the book there are 18 questions that take you through all areas of study and all set works. I think this is causing some degree of upset or concern amongst teachers, but in many ways I can see their point here. Whilst it would be good to have maybe two questions per set work, there is only so much that can fit into a book and keep the cost down – £19.95 RRP but obviously we all have the 10% www.musicroom.com discount – surely you do! If not then sign up before you buy anything. So anyway, one question for each set work. The questions themselves look really good and include clear marking guides. All of the answers to these questions are then given in the back of the book.
My plan is to now take these questions and really analyse them and then create my own. That will take some time I know, but I am pleased to have a stimulus to work from. I think it is a shame that maybe they didn’t write more questions and then include them as PDF downloads online – a gift from them to us, saving paper and costs. But hey, once we all get writing there will be plenty out there – see I said I would be half glass full.
The second part of the book then looks at Dictation and there are 15 AS tasks and 15 A2 tasks. I think this is good and I guess you can start with AS and work through all 30. This again gives plenty of food for thought but I will say most of the dictation melodies come from the western classical tradition. Maybe Edexcel have not been clear on where they will draw melodies from for the dictation – who knows. But anyway, a melody is a melody after all and I guess this is a good section to get us started. I am currently creating my own tasks anyway, but this will save some time and I will get started on these ASAP.
The next section then includes some AS Level Identification of Errors tests. Now I am not doing AS so I wasn’t really aware of this. I quite like this as a task though and will likely use with my Year 12 Full A Level class anyway. Good resource but again, all Western Classical so there must be a reason for that.
We then have specimen essay questions on unfamiliar music and you have one AS and one A Level question for each Area of Study – not each set work. I think maybe it would have been nice to have some more example essay questions to be honest, but there we are. They are good and clear and I think again they give us a template from which we can form our own questions.
So that takes us up to page 59 in the book and then we have the extensive answers section – it goes up to 92. They then provide a page on how to find and invent more questions. The first point they make is that this book doesn’t cover Section B of the exam as that does not contain a listening element – so I wonder where this will be covered? Maybe in the upcoming revision guide – lets hope so. They then suggest looking at past exam papers, which in the future will be great, but for now is a fairly useless point! This section really is aimed at students though, as I guess is the whole book.
So there we are. On the whole I think this is a great resource and lets face it we do all need to get a copy – again, I don’t work for Rhinegold. We need a copy because we owe it to our students to get as much as we can for them! If your school can’t afford it then firstly read my fundraising blog, but then suggest that students buy a copy for themselves. It is a well presented book and I think it has been thought through. The insert and the download card are both good. It has a nice fresh look to it and I think students will enjoy having something to work from. It could be a book they use at home or one that you use in the classroom. It will be essential to come up with more questions – but we can all do that and then share them online – or sell on TES!
I hope that you are able to get a copy and I can recommend musicroom.com as they got mine to me really quickly and do that 10% off thing.
And lets not moan about it! I guess it is just good to have something to work with eh! So grab yourself a copy and get copies for your students.