GCSE Revision

Read Me the night before your music exam!

I compiled a list as a result of some mock exams. It is basically a hit list of things that I find my students often forget or get wrong. This is by no means an exhaustive revision guide, but it is something I have come up with as a reminder. This list is there to simply jog their memories the night before an exam and is of course a small part of the overall revision process. I thought I would share the list with you and you may like to do something similar. Ultimately all students are different and an exam has so many things they need to learn. But this list brings together some common mistakes etc. I currently do AQA of GCSE but I don’t think this list is to specific to AQA.

Hope it might be of use to you or your students.

  1. Hopefully you are in bed nice and early reading this sheet of paper
  2. Remember to eat breakfast in the morning and wake up your brain by listening to music or playing your instrument.
  3. Describing Melody – this is where you talk about pitch, nothing else! So when you describe a melody you might mention if it ascends or descends or you might mention any intervals. Just don’t say how loud it is or what instrument it is played on. Melody is the horizontal organisation of pitch!
  4. Describing Rhythm – This is basically the opposite of melody in some ways. When you describe rhythm you are talking about NOTE VALUES and how they might be changed. So you need to remember things like Syncopation, Hemiola, Dotted Rhythms, Swung Rhythms. And don’t forget how important it is to remember Rubato.
  5. Perfect Cadence – this is when it sounds finished, rounded off & complete. Go with your gut. If it sounds like the music is over, full-stop, then it is a perfect cadence. This will come up in the exam so make sure you are ready for it.
  6. Imperfect Cadence – Well this is the opposite of Perfect, so if the music doesn’t sound finished and complete and you feel like you are left in mid-air then it is Imperfect.
  7. Remember what the Melodic Devices are – Sequence, Inversion, Retrograde, Ostinato, Repetition,
  8. Also remember Harmonic Devices – Pedal Note, Cycle of Fifths, Inverted Pedal, Drone, Suspensions.
  9. Don’t forget to write answers in complete sentences where applicable. Just make sure you qualify and explain what you are saying on the longer answer questions.
  10. In a Multiple Choice question make sure you rule out some options. Think through what each key term means and then use a process of elimination.
  11. Make sure you use an Italian term where possible – and aim to spell it correctly of course!
  12. If you have time at the start of the exam then quickly read through and look for long answer questions. Underline what the question is asking and if there is a space provided, maybe add some sub-headings so that when you get to the question you are ready.
  13. Take note of how many times you will hear each extract. Work out quickly which parts of the question will need more focussed listening.
  14. Remember that Tonality means – Major, Minor, Pentatonic, Atonal, Modal.
  15. If you are asked to Describe Texture then you need to do just that. Explain what each layer is doing, and what instrument is playing each layer. Describing texture is way more that just naming So if you hear something that is melody dominated homophony explain which instrument is playing the melody and what instruments are providing the accompaniment.
  16. Pizzicato will possibly come up – don’t forget it is where strings are plucked.
  17. Imitation is where one instrumental part copies another. If the same instrumental part copies itself this is just a repeat!
  18. A Hemiola is where two bars of ¾ time sounds like 3 bars of 2/4 time. It sounds like a kind of like a staggered moment in the music. It is a rhythmic device.
  19. If you hear a repeating bass line this is called a Ground Bass.
  20. Remember this music exam is all about you listening, hearing, explaining and defining. But don’t let it define you. Relax, do your best and go to sleep!


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