Eduqas draft specification for A-Level Music - teacher and musician

This is the final post in a series looking at the draft specifications for A-Level Music.  You can find the full series of posts (including those looking at GCSE Music) by clicking here.  This final post looks at Eduqas, the brand name for WJEC qualifications offered in England rather than Wales.  You can download the full specification here.

Unit structure

I must have missed something in the Ofqual requirements because Eduqas is also calling their units ‘components’.  While the unit content offers no surprises, Eduqas has gone down a similar path to OCR by offering flexibility in the ‘size’ of the performing and composing units.  Now that I’ve looked at each board, I have to say that the flexibility offered by OCR and Eduqas is much more appealing than the enforced equality of Edexcel or the inflexible extra weighting towards performance from AQA.  This factor alone could cost Edexcel and AQA to lose centres to OCR and Eduqas.  
Eduqas outlines their components as being:
  • Performing
    • Option A: 35% of the A-Level
    • Option B: 25% of the A-Level
  • Composing
    • Option A: 25% of the A-Level
    • Option B: 35% of the A-Level
  • Appraising (40% of the A-Level)
As with OCR, I find it quite odd that these units go ‘long-short-short-long’.  On this occasion, it makes a little more sense if we think of it as ‘Pathway A’ (the performance heavy route) or ‘Pathway B’ (the composition heavy route) but I can still see this causing silly mistakes when it comes to paperwork.  Again, it’s probably just me but the lack of symmetry bothers me a little.  

Areas of study

Candidates are required to learn three areas of study.  Fitting in with Ofqual’s requirements, the first is Western Classical Music (WCM) and Eduqas has decided to focus on the symphony for this.  Students (or, more likely, their teachers) pick one area of study from a choice of three popular music styles and another from a choice of either 20th or 21st century classical music.  
  • Mandatory
    • Western Classical Tradition (The Development of the Symphony 1750-1900)
  • Choose one of:
    • Rock and Pop
    • Musical Theatre
    • Jazz
  • Choose one of:
    • Into the Twentieth Century
    • Into the Twenty-First Century 

Set works

Although Eduqas has decided to include set works, they haven’t done so for every area of study.  There’s only set works for WCM and the two ‘into the’ units, which means that students will study four set works.  
  • Western Classical Music
    • Haydn: Symphony No. 104 in D major, ‘London’
    • Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A major, ‘Italian’
  • Into the Twentieth Century
    • Poulenc: Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano, Movement II
    • Debussy: Three Nocturnes, Number 1, Nuages
  • Into the Twenty-First Century
    • Thomas Adès: Asyla, Movement 3, Ecstasio
    • Sally Beamish: String Quartet No. 2 (Opus California) Movements 1 (Boardwalk) and 4 (Natural Bridges)

Performing

Having two different pathways means that there’s two different sets of criteria for the performing unit.  Candidates taking Option A will:

  • Perform for 10-12 minutes
  • Perform at least three pieces
  • Perform at least one solo piece (the other two can be ensemble)
  • Perform at least one piece related to an area of study
  • Perform at least one piece related to a different area of study
Those who take Option B will:
  • Perform for 6-8 minutes
  • Perform at least two pieces
  • Perform as a soloist and/or as part of an ensemble
  • Perform at least one piece related to an area of study
This is the only specification I’ve looked at that makes no mention of music technology or turntablism as being a valid option for performing.  With other boards having been very clear about this it’s a shame that Eduqas appears to have ruled out music technology and centres will certainly want to make this a key factor in their decision making process.  
The requirement to link pieces to an area of study seems a shame to me as it certainly isn’t an Ofqual requirement and, for many candidates, will require them to perform pieces that may not put their best foot forward.  

Composing

Students who take Option A will:

  • Compose 4-6 minutes of music
  • Compose a total of two compositions
  • Compose at least one piece related to the Western Classical Tradition in response to a board-set brief
  • Compose a ‘free’ composition is response to a brief they set for themselves
Those who take Option B will:
  • Compose 8-10 minutes of music
  • Compose a total of three compositions
  • Compose at least one piece related to the Western Classical Tradition in response to a board-set brief
  • Compose at least one piece related to a different area of study in response to a brief they set for themselves
  • Compose a ‘free’ composition in response to a brief they set for themselves
I was interested to note that, compared to the other boards, Eduqas is taking a different approach to compositions that fall short of the required length.  Whereas other boards are explicit that no marks will be awarded to short compositions, Eduqas states:

There is no fixed penalty for compositions which are under time, as it is unlikely that the candidate will have developed material sufficiently to access the higher mark bands

This is probably more familiar to teachers than a ‘zero marks’ approach and it’s interesting to note that this isn’t consistent across all of the exam boards (or even within this specification since the performing unit will still adhere to the Ofqual requirement to award 0 marks to short performances).

As always, I’m pleased that the free compositions require pupils to submit a brief as this approach helps to lend structure to the composing process.

The link to the area of study is clearly going to be very strictly enforced with the compositions in response to a brief being awarded zero marks if they are not clearly linked to WCM.  Eduqas stresses this quite clearly with an example:

For example, no marks will be awarded for a response to a WJEC set brief which is clearly in a rock and pop style. 

Alongside the lack of music technology in the performing component, this requirement isn’t really encouraging the widest range of students to study the course.  

Appraising

The listening examination is a 2hr 15mins examination and carries 100 marks.  Students will:
  • Western Classical Music (40 marks):
    • Complete a question about an unprepared piece from WCM
    • A detailed analysis on a choice of either WCM set work (the wording of the specification suggests that the choice is the candidate’s and not the board’s)
    • An essay on the development of the symphony referring to the set works and wider context
  • First chosen area of study (30 marks):
    • One question in response to an unprepared piece from the first chosen area of study (i.e. the range of popular music options)
    • A comparison of two pieces from the first chosen area of study
  • Second chosen area of study (30 marks):
    • An analysis for one of the set works from the second chosen area of study (i.e. the ‘into the’ options)
    • A question on an unprepared piece from the second chosen area of study, requiring students to:
      • “answer aural perception questions”
      • make compositional links between the music of the extract and one or more pieces they have studied during the course
There’s a reasonable amount of detail about each area of study within the specification but not an awful lot about the conduct and administration of the exam itself, so it would be good if the board were to provide some additional clarity on this point.  
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