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From 9 June – 3 July OCR held Expos for all our subjects that are going to be available for first teaching in 2016 which meant I got to go and present our draft Music specifications to teachers.
I had a lovely time gallivanting about the country and seeing London (Emirates Stadium, lovely!), Manchester, Birmingham (the best biscuits were at this one), Leicester, Newcastle (St James’ Park, excellent sandwiches), Leeds and Exeter (and managed to fit a Fleetwood Mac concert in my free time between them!). During this time I also represented OCR at two London teach meets and a Peterborough CPD day.
Here are the top questions from teachers, and how I answered them.
Ofqual and the DfE consulted and have given us new assessment objectives, new regulations for assessment and updated subject content. All exam boards have to comply with these. Among the changes – 40% written exam at all three stages, and 60% non-exam assessment (the performance and composition); boards to set a brief for one of the compositions; at AS/A level all work will be externally assessed, even the performance and composition NEA.
Yes, sorry, assessment objectives 3 and 4 will be assessed through a written exam worth 40% (all boards must do this). There was a lot of discussion and consultation and the exam boards all stressed the importance of the practical assessments.
Another condition that affects all of the awarding bodies. At GCSE there’s a requirement for 4 minutes minimum of performance. One of those minutes at least must be as part of an ensemble. At AS the minimum requirement is 6 minutes which can be solo, ensemble, multiple instruments or a combination at the learner’s choice. At A Level there are ranges – where performance is worth 25% there is 6 minutes minimum requirement, 30% is 8 minutes, and 35% is 10 minutes. Again this took a lot of discussion between the awarding bodies and Ofqual.
OCR have made sure that our specification at GCSE clearly states the 4 minutes can be multiple pieces. As we all know, even some grade 5-6 pieces can be fairly short and then there are the learners who are in the music GCSE group because they are gaining more from their music lessons than “just” the lesson (social skills, engagement, enjoying their school experience…) and may therefore be low performance ability. It’s worth mentioning here that the ensemble piece can be longer than the 1 minute minimum! At AS and A Level the whole performance must meet the minimum and can be a mix of the above mentioned.
Yes. The new weightings and definitions of non-examined assessment mean that keeping it would eat into the performance and composition coursework. We have kept its essence in the composition briefs which we will be releasing for the board set brief. But now learners will have September – May of year 11 to work on a full and complete composition.
Lots of research into our current cohort and lots of consulting with teachers and learners shows that the “no set works” approach works well. Instead, we have areas of study which each have a dedicated page in the specification to filter them down to the specific characteristics and fingerprints that learners need to study. This way, no matter what piece of music they are listening to within an area of study, they can be learning about and applying their knowledge to its specific features.
All areas of study will appear in the listening exam and the board set briefs for composition will relate to them. We have updated our areas of study to ensure there is wide coverage of genres whilst not overwhelming learners and teachers with masses of content. You may spot Bhangra and Indian classical are still there, as is film music. Previously they were within much larger areas of study which feedback told us were bit too big!
We decided to move forward without visiting examiners. The Performance at AS/A Level will be externally assessed by video submission for OCR. We felt it really important to retain the sense of occasion of the visiting examiner; we are, after all, training musicians, and preparing for a live performance is invaluable experience.
Therefore we require a video of the recital, from start to finish, and the learners to perform to an audience (or at least as if to an audience). If I was teaching again, I’d set them a date and have a recital evening (or evenings if I had a nice big class!) parents and friends attend and make as professional as possible. However it’d still work for the recital to be to classmates if leaners are too nervous. As long as it is a prepared, live performance.
There is a window for the performances to take place (again an Ofqual stipulation) which gives us the opportunity that if something goes wrong, or a learner is too poorly, or you simply know they can do it better, the recital can be undertaken again. Visiting examiners would mean this would not be able to happen, or only in very rare circumstances. Allowing the full window also means centres can set their own dates and manage the recital recording in the best way for them.
They are still there if teachers and centres need them! We have been careful to include areas of study that cover Bach chorales and minimalism as these were the most popular options in our current specs. We no longer require technical exercises to be submitted at AS or A Level, but I would suggest including them in teaching and learning activities as a tool for exploring the conventions of the area of study. This way, the candidates who need to show their understanding for HE will still have a portfolio of harmony to demonstrate. The board set briefs at both AS and A Level and the technical exercises in the composition route of the A Level provide opportunities for demonstration of understanding of technical exercises too.
Of the 6 areas of study at AS and A Level, 1 & 2 are mandatory as they will always appear in the written exam. In both cases, Sections A and B of the exam will be based on the set work and some unheard aural extracts belonging to these AoS. At AS, there are set works for each of the other AoSs – learners will choose 1 essay question in Section C. At A Level, there are NOT set works for AoS 3-6, but learners will choose 2 essay questions from these AoS in Section C.
This means where year 12 will be taught in the same group whether they are doing the one year AS or the two year A Level. The content of the OCR specifications is designed so this can happen in as manageable a way as possible
All will be in the same lessons/class in year 12 - AS learners will be assessed at the end of year 12 on their learning, and submit their performance and composition recordings in this examination window. The A Level learners will carry on to the end of year 13 and submit their performance and composition recordings in this examination window.
All can be working on their free composition together – the board set brief for each qualification will be released on 1 September of the year of award but A Level students could even use the AS briefs as a practice.
All can learn about the AS set works in Year 12. AS students will be assessed on these. The A Level has different set works to AS in the interest of wider learning for the A Level students. This means they can use the AS works in conjunction with the AS students to get their foundation/grounding of the genre, and have something new to focus on, increase their depth of knowledge, and use comparatively in year 13. They will be assessed on the A Level set works but this means they will have at least one other piece for comparison, and potentially have studied at least one piece in depth for AoS 3-6.
Of course you don’t have to cover ALL of the areas of study – learners at AS choose one for the exam, and the board set briefs for composition will each relate to an AoS. A Level choose two and then the board set briefs will relate to each. Page 8 of the specification lays this out in a table.
At GCSE – audio recording of the performances, with accompanying score or lead sheet. (This is a requirement – we don’t expect the learners to have learned from the music, they may well be aural musicians. It is an authentication/supporting tool.) Audio recording of the compositions too – with a score, lead sheet or written account (which could be an annotated screen shot). In both cases it is the recording that is the assessed artefact and the “paperwork” is supportive. All exam boards are required to require this from you!
At AS and A Level – video recording of the whole performance, along with scores and lead sheets. Compositions, as with GCSE, audio recording and accompanying score or lead sheet.
These questions and answers all relate to our draft specifications which we are happy with but may be subject to change based on feedback and further requirements from Ofqual. Watch this space for updates!
Visit our OCR Music webpage for more information about our AS/A Level GCE and GCSE Music qualifications, follow us @OCR_PerformArts for the latest updates, or contact the team via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marie Bessant - Subject Specialist - Music
Marie joined OCR in July 2014 as a Music Subject Specialist after teaching Music for 10 years. With experience as Head of Department at secondary schools and FE colleges Marie has taught GCSE, A Level, BTEC and HND. As OCR’s Music specialist Marie is leading the development for the new Music GCSEs and A Levels as well as looking after resources, CPD and support for the current Music qualifications. Alongside this Marie is an organist and pianist with a love for rock music.