Music GCSE

Music GCSE

Explore traditional and contemporary musical styles through this accessible, flexible course – including classical, pop, jazz and film music. With freedom to compose your own music, you can explore your own creativity, alongside developing your experience as both a solo and ensemble performer.

Why St Mary's

Inspired by subject-specialist teachers, you will have access to a fully-equipped Music department, overlooking the beautiful surroundings of Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

Our smaller class sizes offer a distinct advantage for your progress, as we can tailor a bespoke curriculum to meet your needs, focusing on key areas that need further support and development.

Music GCSE is a fun, practical, accessible and flexible course, offering plenty of opportunity to develop your creativity and musical interests.

Our enriched learning opportunities can include:

  • Collaboration with professional ensembles such as Eboracum Baroque
  • Performing in a range of venues in and around Cambridge, including the Cambridge University Concert Hall and various College Chapels, for example Clare College Chapel
  • St Mary’s Young Pianist of the Year competition
  • St Mary’s Young Musician of the Year competition
  • National competitions
  • Tailored teacher support

Course overview

GCSE Music is an enjoyable and rigorous course, concentrating on enjoying music-making through practical elements such as performing and composing, as well as listening and appraising activities which encourage students to engage critically and creatively with a wide range of music.


The course involves studying all types of music from Baroque to Modern, including popular styles and music from other cultures and traditions. The course is structured around four Areas of Study, which determine the content of the course, and students study two ‘set works’ and a range of associated music within each area of study.

The areas of study are as follows:

  • Area of Study 1: Musical Forms and Devices
  • Area of Study 2: Music for Ensemble
  • Area of Study 3: Film Music
  • Area of Study 4: Popular Music


Performance and composition - internally marked and externally moderated (60% of the final mark)

During the course students will record two or more final performances (one of which must be an ensemble performance, and two final compositions (one following a brief set by Eduquas and one free composition).

The combined duration of the performances must be over four minutes in total.

The combined duration of the compositions must be between three and six minutes.

Listening and appraising - written examination (40% of the final mark)

The listening/appraising examination, taken at the end of the course, assesses students’ knowledge and understanding of Areas of Study 1, 2, 3 and 4 and the associated set works.

Music scholarships

We offer scholarships for talented musicians.

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At a glance
  • Syllabus: WJES Eduquas GCSE (9-1)
  • Ensemble and solo performance opportunities
  • Composition / performance (60% of mark)
  • Listening / appraising (40% of mark)
  • Subject-specialist teachers
You will enjoy this course if you ...
  • Are Grade 3 level+ in your chosen instrument or voice
  • Can join at least one extra-curricular musical ensemble per week
  • Have a passion for music
  • Are committed to instrument/voice lessons

Our students say...

“The music department is pretty amazing at St Mary’s and they have been enthusiastic from the get go. As Music Captain, I was pleased to give something back to the school by running a string quartet for younger students. I’m delighted to have a place at Cambridge – my teachers encouraged me to apply and were so helpful with the entire application process. For the future, I want to keep up my performing, alongside building a broad academic grounding.” Henrietta McF.

“A day without music is a wasted day.” André Previn

Music exalts us. It has the power to calm and de-stress us, to motivate us, to fire our imaginations and take us on journeys, to transport us back in time, to make us want to dance, to laugh, to weep. It permeates and punctuates our daily lives and it heightens and enhances our every-day experiences.

A high proportion of students who study Music GCSE and Music A level at St Mary’s go on to study music at higher level – whether that be at University or at a conservatoire.

Recently, one of our students secured a place to read Music at the University of Cambridge and her classmate has been offered a place to study singing at the Royal Academy of Music. Both full-time members of our Music teaching team studied music at top UK universities (University of Cambridge and University of Durham) and are well-versed in preparing students for applying to such institutions.

Other recent alumnae have gone on to study performance or music at:

Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

University of Durham

University of York

University of Birmingham

University of Surrey

University of Southampton

Leeds College of Music

Royal Holloway

Two of our recent alumnae have forged careers as professional musicians since leaving their university destinations, as a professional freelance conductor and a singer-song writer.

Our results

Achieve the results you need to fulfil your dreams.

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Beyond St Mary's

Our Senior School students go on to pursue exciting futures.

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