Music A level

A level music explores academic rigour, creativity and expression, enabling us to learn and follow rules and conventions and inspiring us to push boundaries and develop new and innovative ideas. In A level study we are able to build on the building blocks of music history knowledge and understanding, and analytical skills developed at GCSE, in order to explore a greater breadth and depth of familiar and unfamiliar musical styles.

Possible pathways after A level music include application to specialist music conservatoires, as well as academic music degree courses, including Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. We encourage all A level musicians to make a significant contribution to the wider life of the school, by playing or singing in school ensembles, representing the school at musical events and leading or supporting enrichment activities for younger students.


A level music

Awarding body


Entry requirements

At least 25% of the A level music course is performance, so it is important that you are a competent and active musician, working at Grade 5/6 standard or above, demonstrating a regular commitment to instrumental or vocal lessons in or out of school. A Grade 7 or equivalent in GCSE music is desirable, with Grade 5 music theory a significant advantage.

Component 1: Performance

Throughout the course, A level musicians will continue to develop their instrumental or vocals skills, in preparation for their performance in Year 13. At least one of the pieces chosen must be as a soloist, while the other pieces may be either as a soloist or as part of an ensemble or a combination of both. One piece must reflect the musical characteristics of one area of study. At least one other piece must reflect the musical characteristics of one other, different area of study.

Component 2: Composing

Learners are required to prepare a portfolio of compositions, one of which must reflect the musical language, techniques and conventions associated with the Western Classical Tradition in response to a brief set by the exam board. Learners will also have the opportunity to compose a ‘free composition’ to a brief they have developed themselves.

Component 3: Appraising

For component 3, learners will explore music from three areas of study giving a broad range of musical study. These are:


Area of study A: The Western Classical Tradition (The Development of the Symphony 1750-1900) which includes two set works.

  • Symphony No. 104 in D major, 'London': Haydn
  • Symphony No. 4 in A major, 'Italian': Mendelssohn


Area of study C: Musical Theatre

  • No set works

Area of study E: Into the Twentieth Century which includes two set works:

  • Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano, Movement II: Poulenc
  • Three Nocturnes, Number 1, Nuages: Debussy


The A level music course offers two different options, giving a 25% / 35% weighting to performance and composition. These two components are non-examined assessment and are both externally assessed; performance is assessed by a visiting examiner. The remaining 40% of the course is a listening and appraising exam. Exam questions will include set work analysis with a score, extended responses around wider context, unprepared extracts of music with and without a score and comparison questions.


Why study music?

In today’s society, we have access to a world of music, sound, innovation and inspiration at our fingertips; such a wealth of music has never been so accessible. We are privileged to be able to both study how music has developed historically and to become accomplished musicians, performers and composers in our own right