AQA GCSE Music – Old Spec – Long Answer Questions

As you are aware there is always a question on the exam paper that requires a slightly more extensive answer. In the 2016 Unit 1 paper for AQA was question 8 and carried 6 marks. 6 marks is 7.5% of the marks available on the paper that is out of 80 marks. So it is important that we score well in this section and maximise marks. Here are a few thoughts on this and some tips for the exam.

  1. At the start of the exam you get 3 minutes to read through the paper. Find the long answer question first, go straight to it. Look at how many marks it carries and look at what the question is asking you to do. The reason I think you should go to this question first is because I think you can prepare in advance for this question – I will come on to that.
  2. Now you have read through the question you can prepare for when you come to answer the question later on in the exam. In the 2016 paper students were asked to

    Comment on the excerpt, referring only to:

    Harmony, Melody, Structure & Form

    This question was out of 6 and so it would appear sensible to believe that you can get 2 marks for each of those areas – I take structure & form as one thing and that is how it was laid out on the paper. So what I would suggest is on the lines underneath the question you space out sub-headings for each of this areas of study. What this means is that when you get to the question you know exactly what to focus on – your mind is drawn to these areas only. Exam management like this can really make a difference and save time later on – you may as well put those first 3 minutes to good use.

  3. This question requires you to focus on certain areas of study and so make sure that you focus on one thing for each playing of the extract. In the 2016 paper you heard the extract 4 times and you had 3 things to focus on. The fourth time can then be an extra one just to confirm what you have written. Be organised in your listening. Don’t try and listen out for everything at once.
  4. Make sure you only write about the elements you are asked to refer to. In this case you are being asked to describe any chords used, harmonic devices, the shape of the melody, any significant melodic intervals, melodic devices and how the structure is laid out which could refer to phrase lengths. It does not ask you to say what instruments are playing, how loud it is or how fast it is. Make sure that you give the examiner what they want. Structure can also refer to if there is an introduction, seems obvious, but it is crucial to put something like that down.
  5. You need to write in full sentences to make sure that you explain things. For example in this question if you just put “falls” under melody then you are not giving the full picture – “overall, melodic shape falls”. Make sure that you spell correctly and read over your answers at the end.
  6. Write clearly and neatly. Make sure that you use all the space provided – you have already laid out sub-headings so you should now maybe put points on each line and don’t write in a continuous prose but make each point really clear.
  7. Make sure that you don’t repeat yourself as this won’t help you out.
  8. Don’t write about things that aren’t there. For example there would be no point saying that the piece doesn’t use a Ternary Form or that the piece doesn’t use Inverted Pedals. I have seen it done before which is why I mention it.
  9. Use Italian terms where possible, but if you are in doubt about the term then feel free to also use the english term so that you are sure to get your point across. It is just so important that you explain what you want the examiner to mark.
  10. In 2016 there were roughly 20 points given in the mark scheme for this question – and you only need to get 6 of these. It has been clear to me in the past that the main reason students haven’t accessed these marks is poor question management, answering the wrong thing and not being clear. Hence why I suggest a clear layout on the page and complete sentences.

Just a few thoughts on this style of question. They are a chance to pick up a lot of marks:

2015 – Question 6 – 8 marks – 10%

2014 – Question 8 – 8 marks – 10%

2013 – Question 12 – 8 marks – 10%

2012 – Question 7 – 6 marks – 7.5%

Doing well in these style of questions will make the difference!

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