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How to Revise for IGCSE & A-Level Music Exams

By Robert Boer, Director of MusicTutorOnline.

Music exam revision tips to ensure you are well-prepared for your IGCSE or A-Level Music exam.


The earlier you start, the better it is. Make a plan for yourself and set tasks in your calendar. This will make you feel it is manageable and thus alleviate stress.

Try to set times for yourself every day when you will revise. Stick to the same time each day. This is an approach that works best for the majority of people.


Look over the music syllabus and decide how you will approach your revision. Find the format, which will help you determine what to revise. All music exams in the IGCSE and A-Level programs have some aspects in common. They both include listening, they both include questions about works known beforehand, and they both include questions about compositions not known beforehand.

Here is a general approach that works for both IGCSE and A-Level music exam revision:

All the music exams require a broad knowledge of music. This includes:

  • Music Theory - broad - Music Elements

  • Music History - Western Classical Music

  • World Music

  • Popular Music

  • Music Analysis

Try to work out where you need the most work and make a detailed revision plan for yourself. Especially the listening aspect requires practice and careful planning, as this can't be learned in a short time.


Construct a detailed timetable for yourself. Include texts, videos for listening, scores, audio, and notes you have to look over preparing for your music exam. You study only once in your life, so give it your best. Also, don't forget to schedule time for socializing, exercising, and fun things like your favorite hobbies. This will help you stay motivated and relaxed.

Here are some points specific to IGCSE and A-Level music exams you should include:

  • Learn the music characteristics of the western classical music eras.

  • Learn the music characteristics of world music.

  • Learn the music characteristics of popular music.

  • Listen to a wide variety of styles. World music, popular music, and western classical music. Practice recognizing instruments, ensembles, and the main characteristics of the music you are listening to. Recognize patterns, things that repeat, structure, music element characteristics, etc.

  • Listen to various instruments in world, popular, and western classical music. And learn some of the playing/vocal techniques as specified in the syllabus.

  • Practice score reading while listening. Especially large orchestral works are hard to follow without practice.

  • Practice analyzing scores. The progressive approach is essential. Music elements. Structure/form.

  • Analyze your set works in the tiniest detail.

  • Music elements focus. Learn to recognize them in music. And most importantly, learning to describe them using the correct terminology is key. Be familiar with these main ones, and make sure you understand their differences: Pitch, Melody, Harmony, Tonality, Rhythm, Beat, Timbre, Texture, Dynamics, and structure. Practice listening to different styles of music, western classical, world, and popular music, and work on describing the features of the music through these musical elements.

  • Study all music theory requirements as specified in the syllabus.

  • Study form/structure/genre in music.

  • Learn the types of ensembles.

  • Do basic ear training exercises. Simple short two-bar melodic dictations and simple two-bar rhythm dictations as they usually appear in one of the questions in the listening exams.

Most of the above points require a background in music and a thorough preparation time. Careful planning is critical.


There are a lot of revision techniques out there. Find the one that works best for you.

  • Flashcards

  • Past Papers

  • Mind Maps

  • Group Work

  • A Tutor

  • Recording yourself and playing it back

Do you already know what works best for you? If not, don't worry; give it a try. By doing, you will find out.


Phones are fantastic but will distract you. Perhaps turn it off or keep it in another room while you revise. Turn the TV off.

Eating healthy and drinking lots of water will boost concentrations throughout the day.

Sleep is not overrated. While sleeping, your brain processes the things you have been learning.


There is no single path to exam success. Perhaps you don't find all the above tips suitable for you. The key is to find out how you revise best. Maybe the most important of all is to stay calm and positive. We all have a bad day sometimes but try not to let it affect how you revise the next day.


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