Back by popular demand, this course is designed for all Edexcel A level Music teachers who wish to maximise their students’ marks in the Appraising Paper. Run by an A level Examiner and former Head of Music, last year’s courses received universally outstanding feedback, including one delegate who described it as ‘a transformational experience’.

After briefly exploring the key messages from the 2018 and 2019 examinations, the morning will focus on a detailed exploration of the remit of the Appraising Paper, exploring details that, once integrated into teaching, significantly impact students’ marks across both essays, and the Section A listening questions. Exact requirements of both AO3 and AO4, and the balance needed within essays will be examined in detail, along with strategies for embedding Wider Listening in a way that illustrates and justifies for the higher marks.

Suggestions will be made for developing skills of low, mid and high ability students, specifically regarding critical analysis, writing academically, and ways to demonstrate a deep and genuine understanding of the set works and their contexts to an examiner. The course will also look at how to achieve a Level 5 essay for Questions 5 and 6, complete with high scoring examples. Ideas for teaching essay skills, and ways to assess essays throughout the course will also be explored.

The afternoon session explores each set work in turn and, without relying on any existing resources, focuses on alternative perspectives, teaching ideas, key vocabulary, common errors, and strategies to embed historical, social and cultural context within essays.

Delegates will not need anthologies.


  • A vast amount of information covered over the day by an A level examiner, along with detailed scrutiny of the appraising paper and essay requirements.
  • Gain fresh approaches to developing analytical skills and musical knowledge through both Years 12 and 13.
  • Take away innovative approaches and alternative resources for eliciting a deep understanding of the set works
  • Understand exactly what is required of the Question 5 and 6 essays to gain high marks.
  • Gain new approaches for teaching analysis to Years 12 and 13 students, and ways to help weaker students.
  • Gain effective and proven exam techniques, including how to shape preparation and revision
COURSE DATES Online | Tuesday 22 June 2021
London | Tuesday 14 December 2021
  • Heads of Music
  • Teachers of Edexcel A level Music, either new or experienced.
  • Teachers of A level Music looking to change boards to Edexcel.
  • Those new to teaching Edexcel A level Music
IN-SCHOOL You can also book this as an In-School Course
  • Thorough handouts for the day
  • Notes prepared by the educational experts leading the course
  • Expert produced PowerPoint presentations
  • CPD Certificate of attendance


10.00 – 11.15am: Overview of the Appraisal paper and what is need to succeed

  • Feedback and reflection on the 2019 and 2018 exams.
  • Understanding the structure of the Edexcel A level Music Appraising Paper, and how students can maximise their marks.
  • Detailed examination of the requirements of AO3 and AO4, and how students need to use them to achieve high marks.

11.15 – 11.30am: Morning Break

11.30 – 12.45pm: Developing Students Analytical and Musical Skills to Critically Appraise Music 

  • Understanding when and how to use AO4 for success, and how the marking criteria work.
  • Developing, shaping and practising analytical skills, and building up technical language for accurate usage in the exam.
  • Contextual understanding – what examiners are looking for. How much is too much?
  • Level 5 essays – developing students’ skills in writing academically, including the art of embedding wider listening and contextual understanding for the highest marks.
  • Examining high mark examples of both Q5 and Q6 essays.
  • Suggested map of the two year course: building analytical skills and musical knowledge throughout Y12 and Y13

12.45  – 1.30pm: Lunch and Informal Discussion

1.30 – 2.15pm: Analysis; Instrumental and Vocal Music

This, and the following sessions, will explore each set work, focusing on:

  • Embedding historical and contextual awareness: what skills are required?
  • Innovative approaches to teaching the set works and their contexts;
  • Developing a deeper knowledge of the music, and knowing what to put in the exam essays;
  • Useful resources;
  • Key terminology;
  • Relevant wider listening, and embedding this and contextual understanding for a Level 5 response;
  • Common errors and misunderstandings;
  • Supporting students in a Question 5 based on AoS1 or AoS2;
  • Interconnections with the wider specification.

2.15 – 3.00pm: Analysis; Music for Film, and Popular Music and Jazz

  • Examining a variety of analytical approaches to enhance student understanding;
  • How historical and contextual awareness might work for this Area of Study;
  • Mastering communicating about these styles of music;
  • Relevant wider listening, and embedding this and contextual understanding for a Level 5 response;
  • Finding new ways to elicit confidence in students.

3.00 – 3.05pm: Afternoon Break 

3.05 – 3.50pm: Analysis; Fusions and New Directions 

  • Examining a variety of analytical approaches to enhance student understanding;
  • What are the key factors for students to understand in Fusion and New Directions;
  • How historical and contextual awareness might work for this Area of Study;
  • Relevant wider listening, and embedding this and contextual understanding for a Level 5 response.

Alexander Aitken

Alex is an A level examiner with Edexcel, and was also on the review team for the GCSE textbook, having written the analysis for Defying Gravity. A former organ scholar of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, he has been teaching for fifteen years in a variety of schools, as well as privately, and is formerly Head of Academic Music and Choirmaster at Stowe School. His unique, innovative and holistic teaching approach has consistently yielded outstanding A level and GCSE results across all components of the specifications and this, alongside wider educational work, has led to being in great demand as a visiting leader of INSET days and departmental reviews in schools across the UK. Alex is currently the Children’s Musical Director and Cover Conductor for Mary Poppins in London; a role he combines with other freelance work as a musical director, pianist and organist (notably with MK Chorale, the National Youth Music Theatre, National Children’s Choir, and CBSO). Alex has composed scores to numerous short films, which have premièred at both BAFTA and the London Film Academy, and holds Licentiate diplomas in piano performance from both the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity College London, and the Associate diploma in organ performance from the Royal College of Organists.

View all courses led by Alexander Aitken >