Important changes to A level Music | Pearson qualifications

Important changes to A level Music

3 December 2020

We have made changes to our A level Music specification. 

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These permanent changes will take immediate effect, meaning these amendments will impact on the exam from summer 2021 and beyond. Our updated specification will be available soon, however our Sample Assessment Materials (SAM) will not be available until early next year.  

We have made these changes due to feedback received from teachers about the amount of content to deliver and the time candidates have to complete all aspects of the exam. In order to make the specification more manageable for teachers and candidates the changes we have made are:

  • A reduction of set works from 18 to 12 (as outlined in the table below)

  • An additional 10 minutes on the exam time, now 2 hours 10 minutes 

  • A fourth optional question for question 6

The set works included in the specification are now: 

Area of Study Set Work
Vocal Music
  • J. S. Bach, Cantata, Ein feste Burg, BWV 80: Movements 1, 2, 8
  • Vaughan Williams, On Wenlock Edge: Nos. 1, 3 and 5 (On Wenlock Edge, Is my team ploughing? and Bredon Hill)
Instrumental music
  • Clara Wieck-Schumann, Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17: movement 1
  • Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique: Movement 1
Music for Film
  • Danny Elfman, Batman Returns: Main theme (Birth of a Penguin Part II), Birth of a Penguin Part I, Rise and fall from grace, and Batman vs the Circus
  • Bernard Herrmann, Psycho: Prelude, The City, Marion, The Murder (Shower Scene), The Toys, The Cellar, Discovery, Finale
Popular Music
  • Kate Bush, Hounds of Love: Cloudbusting, And dream of sheep, and Under ice
  • Beatles, Revolver: Eleanor Rigby, Here, there and everywhere, I want to tell you, and Tomorrow never knows
  • Debussy, Estampes: Nos. 1 and 2 (Pagodes and La soirĂ©e dans Grenade)
  • Anoushka Shankar, Breathing Under Water: Burn, Breathing Under Water and Easy
New Directions
  • Kaija Saariaho, Petals for Violoncello and Live Electronics
  • Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Introduction, The Augurs of Spring, and Ritual of Abduction

Although six set works have been removed from the specification and will no longer appear in questions on the exam paper, centres should add these to the wider listening list as they can prove to be valuable pieces to study when answering questions 5 and 6 in the exam. 
In support of these changes we have recently published full mark responses for question 5 and 6a, which are available online.

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We would like to thank all centres who have raised concerns with us and responded to the questionnaires we have issued to consult on the changes. We would especially like to thank Miranda Ashe and Nancy Redman from Lady Eleanor Holles School for working with us on making these changes happen from their initial contact and raising the concerns from teachers with us to the research they carried out with colleagues, and also Anna Power and Martin McCarrick for also working with us on making these changes.

We would like to encourage all teachers to continue to share their feedback about our qualifications with us so we can continue to listen and improve our specifications. Please contact Jeffery Hole, Subject Advisor for Music and Music Technology, using the customer support portal.

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