The aim of this student conference, revised for 2021, is to provide students with practical, engaging and motivating study day for the GCSE Music examination success in 2021.  Throughout the sessions students will work with examiners and practitioners with a focus on improving their grades. The conference will be suitable for Year 10 and Year 11 students, and will have a running focus around how to improve grades.

The conference has been designed to be of benefit for students of all major GCSE Music examining boards. It will be generic enough to be relevant to everyone all the time, but specific enough that students can apply ideas directly


  • Gain first hand advice and guidance from GCSE Music examiners and expert practitioners
  • Gain advice on how to improve your grades in all the areas of the exam
  • Prepare for exam success in through engaging, interactive sessions with examiners
  • Benefit from sessions on performing, composing and listening/appraising
  • Take away a full set of revision notes containing key ideas, tips and example answers
DATE & LOCATION Thursday 12 March 2022
IN-SCHOOL You can also book this as an In-School Conference


10.30 – 10.40am: Introduction – 

  • Understanding how to achieve your very best in performance
  • What makes the difference between one grade and the next?
  • Identifying your strengths and knowing which areas to focus on for improvement

10.40 – 11.20am: Getting Ready for the Listening Paper

  • Listening with your brain – how to get under the skin of a piece of music, familiar or unfamiliar
  • Techniques and examiner advice on recognizing and applying musical terms
  • The Comparison question – assessing the differences and writing about it well
  • Achieving maximum marks for contextual questions
  • How to get the best marks with the fewest words – unpicking GCSE listening questions
  • Thinking like an examiner – what are they actually looking for?
    Working together to come up with a top grade answer
    Understanding how examiners mark your answers

11.20 – 11.35am: Morning break
Students send in questions to the Examiners

11.35am – 12.20pm:  Composing to a Brief

  • Composing great music to a brief without all the necessary experience
  • Examples of excellent and not so excellent compositions to a brief
  • Staying on brief – developing and recycling ideas effectively
  • What counts as a good composition to a brief? how to response successfully
  • Exploring examples of creating imaginative melodies, with strong shape and direction
  • Exploring how to create atmosphere, moods and characters
  • Exploring how to achieve musical development and contrast
    Assessing and marking compositions to a brief

12.20 – 12.50pm: Extended Responses

  • How to plan a successful ‘essay’ answer
  • Examples of excellent responses to typical questions

12.50  – 1.30pm: Lunch

1.30 – 1.40pm: Question Box

A chance to hear your questions being answered by the examiners

1.40 – 2.30pm: Performance – what makes a good performance?

  • What makes a good performance? What’s the difference between a grade 4/5 performance and a grade 8/9 performance?
  • STUDENT ACTIVITY – assessing and marking performances – hear and compare a variety of performing examples
  • How to get the best out of yourself when performing for assessment
  • What is the examiner looking for in an excellent performance?

2.30 – 3.10pm: Achieving well in Free Composition

  • What are the examiners looking out for in a high level Free Composition? What gets the marks? Examples of ideas that have been developed, sophisticated understanding of composition, good techniques, good fine tuning
  • Songs – what makes a successful song and how can you compose one?
  • How do you use your strengths to your advantage?
  • Using the mark schemes, assessing the compositions and why specific technical and musical details got the marks they did
  • STUDENT ACTIVITY – be the examiner and mark a composition
  • Analysis – examples of grade 4/5 composition, grade 8/9 composition and a grade 6/ 7 composition that just missed a very high mark; what can enhance a composition to achieve a grade 8/9? )

3.10 – 3.20 pm:  Final top tips and close

  • Key points from each of the presenters
  • Action Plan to improve their grade

Rachel Tustain

Rachel is an experienced Senior Examiner and Subject Adviser for a major awarding body and Leader of Music. Rachel has experience of leading outstanding Music Departments in a range of contexts as well as leadership across the Performing Arts. Her students achieve impressive examination results, including 100% gaining Grade 4+ and 54% gaining grades 8 and 9 in summer 2018.

Michael Lamb

Michael Lamb is an experienced Head of Music currently teaching in a thriving music department  in Durham. His varied portfolio has seen his work as Director of Music in a Newcastle secondary, and as an active musician across the UK specialising in jazz performance and musical director of both theatrical and orchestral projects and several high profile music education projects, workshops and seminars in the North of England.

Students £25+VAT

One free teacher place for every 10 student places
Additional teachers £35+VAT
Individual teachers £80+VAT