The course

Music is a subject that embraces a wide variety of musical styles, covering potentially one thousand years of development. GCSE students encounter ‘serious’ Western music from the seventeenth century to the present day – including the ‘classic’ composers Handel, Mozart and Chopin, and the ‘modern’ composers Arnold Schoenberg, Leonard Bernstein and Steve Reich – as well as a range of the ‘popular’ music of the twentieth century, and also indigenous music from India and Africa plus folk-rock. 

Students are expected to have reached a minimum performing standard equivalent to Grade 3 by the end of this course – it will therefore be extremely advantageous if they have already achieved that level in advance. Students generally need to have an active and wide-ranging interest in listening to and studying music, as well as the self-motivation to carry out independent study. 

What skills do I need?

For Unit 1 you need to possess performance skills of at least Grade 3 in your chosen instrument.

How is the course assessed?

There are three units. Unit 1 (Performing Music) is a coursework unit. It involves one solo performance (with accompaniment) and one as part of a group chosen from the general repertoire of your instrument or voice. It is internally marked and externally moderated, and is worth 30% of the total marks.

Unit 2 (Composing Music) is another coursework unit. It involves producing two pieces, lasting around 3 minutes in total. One will be composed to a brief set by the examination board. The second will be a free composition. It is internally marked and externally moderated, and is worth 30% of the total marks.

Unit 3 (Appraising) is a written examination. You will study and be examined on eight set works across four areas of study: (i) Instrumental Music (1700-1820); (ii) Vocal Music; (iii) Music for Stage and Screen; and (iv) Fusions. The paper lasts 1 hour 45 minutes and is worth 40% of the total marks.

Students should make their own arrangements to have weekly individual instrumental lessons, as MPW is not able to offer such tuition. They should also be regularly involved in some form of group music-making, eg at a Saturday music school or in a band with friends. It is highly desirable for students to have their own copy of the Sibelius music-processing software (‘Student’ version) so that they can transfer composition coursework effectively between home and college.


Edexcel GCSE (9-1) Music Student Book
By J. Martin, J. Arkell
Published by Pearson, ISBN 978-1292123141

Edexcel GCSE (9-1) Anthology of Music
By J. Winterson
Published by Pearson, ISBN 978-1292118383

Exam Board and Specification Code

Pearson-Edexcel 1MU0

John Cameron
Head of Department