GCSE Revision

Mental Multiple Choice

Listening exams are upon us, They are coming and they are real! It is going to be a week of revision sessions and last minute question asking from the students – hopefully anyway!

In all my years of teaching I have found that the best advice I can give students ahead of the listening exam is that they learn to create Mental Multiple Choice lists.

When they see a question they need to think about the possible answers – and let’s face it there aren’t that many. They need to create a list of key terms in their mind that they can choose from. When analysing a piece of music they need to think about the options and almost tick off what they can hear. The thing I find is that students can often hear things but they then miss them in their answers.

So this week let’s make lists of options and let’s make sure that students create mental lists in the exam:


  • Syncopation
  • Hemiola
  • Rubato
  • Dotted
  • Swung
  • Straight
  • 4/4, 3/4, 6/8 etc
  • Even more values
  • Diminution
  • Augmentation
  • Scotch snap


  • Conjunct
  • Ascending
  • Arpeggios
  • Sequence
  • Disjunct
  • Scalic


  • Pedal Notes
  • Cycle of Fifths
  • Tonic/Dominant
  • Perfect/Imperfect Cadence


  • Melody Dominated Homophony
  • Octaves
  • Polyphonic
  • Imitative texture
  • Solo


  • Crescendo
  • Forte
  • Dynamics change constantly/very little

The lists above are not exhaustive but hopefully you get the point. When they are asked to analyse a piece of music, maybe for a longer answer question, they need to be able to quickly think about the options available to them. Often students can hear things, but don’t remember to mention them, or they talk about the wrong thing. The minute they see the word Texture say, they need to be able to recall all of the possible answers that they can offer for this. They then just tick them off in their mind.

I find that this approach really helps as students then see that in the exam there are only so many options. This can be really comforting for a music student who just feels that there are an unending number of things that they can write. This method helps them get to the point and get the answers that are appropriate for the question. They need to be confident in the exam and I believe that this approach can really help them with this. I think it will also lead to excellent results in the summer.

So make sure they get the mental game right and in the lead up to the exam they can make lists for each Element/Area of Study. See proviso blog posts for more detail about some of the key areas listed above. Happy revising!

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