Written by Matt Allen.
Content rich. Candidate friendly. Colourful. The new study guides by Rhinegold Education are the sort of books that you can’t wait to open; not just that the books are well presented and eye catching. That they’re crammed full of usefulness. It’s the fact that these are more than just textbooks: the concept of the “Study Guide” has hit the new GCSE for the three most popular specifications.
So much more than a book full of scores and analyses, these books tell you everything you need to know to complete all the work and succeed in GCSE Music. With accreditation from OCR and Edexcel, the resources are fully checked and verified, so you can totally rely on every single word. You’ll wonder how you got by without one!
Each book picks apart the assessment areas in their individual specification. They break down tasks into manageable targets and goals. The guides address the student directly; writing in prose that students will understand. Examination assessments are also explained, which is arguably just as useful for the teacher as for the student.
These books have tailored material to meet each specification’s requirements and use the same terms and phrases as the Exam Board. Each book also includes an exam preparation section. This gives guidance on the techniques and skills that need to be developed for the coursework and formal examinations. There are sample questions, tasks/assignments and tips wherever possible.
A Study Guide is so much more than a textbook and these three resources do not disappoint. You could use these books in any lesson format: practical, theoretical or blended. These books offer much more than just a guide to understanding the listening music set by the Exam Board. This is crucial to the new syllabus requirements; with unheard / unfamiliar music being incorporated into the listening test and music theory playing a larger role in assessment.
All three books include an excellent guide to basic musical knowledge. It explains the “Elements of Music” by including a “Reference” section suitable for beginners to advanced students. The ‘Glossary’ section can help students get accustomed to the “correct” technical language required in exams. And if that’s not enough, there are companion books of Listening Tests and a very handy Revision Guide that complement and extend the Study Guide content. These are due to be released in the next few months. The Revision Guide also comes as an e-book.
All three would work very nicely alongside the Rhinegold Education Online Music Classroom resource – a fantastic tool for music teachers (worthy of a separate review!) that is especially powerful when working with students taking GCSE, AS/A levels or other exams.
This Study Guide starts with a look at the structure of the exam before embarking on a closer look at Performing. It clearly defines what will be assessed and what choices the candidate has to deal with. It also includes step-by-step guidelines to help students focus on how to improve and how to get the best marks.
The Composing section explains how composition is assessed. It explores some techniques and ideas that are useful when creating music; including preparation and planning for the Free Composition task. The Set Brief Composition sections open with sample briefs for each Area of Study. It then breaks down each task by examining what techniques and stylistic approaches might be needed to compose in each Area of Study, including targeted tasks to develop skill and experience.
The Areas of Study used for the Appraising / Listening exam take up the bulk of the Study Guide. Each section introduces common themes in each area; analysis and exploration of the individual set works set by Edexcel; and gives ideas for “Wider Listening” too. Analysis is based around the “Elements of Music” and uses the terms and vocabulary that will be used in the examination questions. Each set work section concludes with revision questions and exam-style practice questions; both for the set work and for “Unfamiliar Listening” relevant to that Area of Study.
After explaining the structure of the exam, the AQA Study Guide gets straight to the “Understanding Music” requirements. Areas of Study are explored systematically; with key words highlighted and musical examples for every Topic area; as well as detailed analysis of the Study Piece.
Each section concludes with some example questions for Contextual Understanding practice. This Study Guide leads you through each of the four Topics and the Study Piece(s) in a focused, succinct and targeted manner. You could follow the book and guarantee the course you were studying would be fully covered.
The Study Guide concludes with a look at the coursework sections. The Performing section is particularly good in explaining DJ and Music Technology based performing.
The Composing section opens with a guide to various composing techniques. It is crammed full of ideas and helpful pointers that all relate to the assessment of the work produced. The Set Brief and Free Composition areas are explored and explained in detail; with a very useful section on the submission of the work as a recording with score / written account / annotation / lead sheet and the programme note.
The OCR Study Guide also launches with a quick overview of the Exam as a whole, before focusing on the “Integrated Portfolio”, the solo performing and free composition tasks. The guide explains Assessment procedures very clearly and includes hints and tips on how to improve performing skills. It also acts as a guide to composition techniques, including some assignment tasks to develop skills.
In the “Practical Portfolio” section (Ensemble performing and Set Brief Composition); the main focus is the composing task, with sample briefs and assignment tasks included for each Area of Study. The section concludes with detail on how compositions will be assessed.
The Listening and Appraising section starts by exploring exam technique and vocabulary. The Areas of Study are covered extremely well by using relevant example; including musical analysis on very handy “listening grids”, musical extracts and listening tasks. This includes the sort of questions likely to come up in the exam for both short and long form answers. The Guide reinforces Vocabulary and technical knowledge throughout. There are plenty of listening and practical tasks for students to help them engage with each Topic within each Area of Study.
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