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Accreditation period Units 1-4: 2023-2027


The VCE Music Study Design 2023–2027 support material provides teaching and learning advice for Units 1 to 4 and assessment advice for school-based assessment for Units 3 and 4. 

The program developed and delivered to students must be in accordance with the VCE Music Study Design 2023–2027.

General assessment advice

Advice on matters related to the administration of Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) assessment is published annually in the VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook. Updates to matters related to the administration of VCE assessment are published in the VCAA Bulletin.

Teachers must refer to these publications for current advice.

The VCE assessment principles underpins all VCE assessment practices and should guide teachers in their design and implementation of School-assessed Coursework (SACs). The VCAA assessment principles determine that assessment at VCE should be:

  • valid and reasonable
  • equitable
  • balanced
  • efficient.

Essentially, these principles invite schools and teachers to create assessment practices, including tasks and tools, that enable students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the outcome statements, and the key knowledge and key skills through a range of opportunities and in different contexts (balanced), that do not advantage or disadvantage certain groups of students on the basis of circumstances and contexts (equitable), that are not overly onerous in terms of workload and time (efficient) and that only assess that which is explicitly described in the study design.

These support materials for assessment, including performance descriptors, provide advice and examples only, and the VCAA does not privilege any assessment theory or practice. Schools and teachers should develop and design assessment practices that best fit their context, cohort and community.

The procedures for managing VCE school-based assessment are explained in Assessment advice for the VCE.

The glossary of command terms provides a list of terms commonly used across the Victorian Curriculum F–10, VCE study designs and VCE examinations and to help students better understand the requirements of command terms in the context of their discipline.

VCE Music Study Design examination specifications, past examination papers and corresponding examination reports can be accessed from the VCE examination webpages for Music Performance, Music Investigation and Music Style and Composition.

Graded Distributions for Graded Assessment can be accessed from the VCAA Senior Secondary Certificate Statistical Information webpage.

Excepting third-party elements, schools may use this resource in accordance with the VCAA’s Educational Allowance (VCAA Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy).

Units 1 and 2

All assessments for Units 1 and 2 are school based. The determination of an S or N for each of Units 1 and 2 is a separate consideration from the assessment of levels of achievement. Teachers must provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding of the outcome beyond formal assessment.

At Units 1 and 2, reporting to the VCAA is through S and N. The level of achievement for Units 1 and 2 remains a matter for schools.

Teachers should note the cognitive demand of the command terms in the outcome statements to determine the type of teaching and learning activities and evidence of student understanding that will be needed for students to demonstrate satisfactory completion of each outcome. Teachers should also be guided by the key knowledge and the key skills in each area of study.

Procedures for assessment of levels of achievement in Units 1 and 2 are a matter for schools to decide. Schools have flexibility in deciding how many and which assessment tasks they use for each outcome, provided that these decisions are in accordance with VCE Music Study Design and VCE Assessment Principles (see above).

The following information provides suggestions for assessment tasks for Units 1 and 2.

Suitable tasks for assessment in this unit may be selected from the following:

  • performances of at least two works, including at least one ensemble / group work
  • a discussion of the challenges presented by these works which may be presented as:
    • oral
    • multimedia
    • written
  • aural, oral, written and practical tasks such as:
    • a folio of exercises
    • responses to structured questions
    • a workbook of class activities
  • composition and / or improvisation exercises and accompanying discussion that demonstrate an understanding of the organisation of music (in Unit 1), or effect in music (Unit 2) which may be presented as:
    • oral
    • multimedia
    • written.

Where teachers allow students to choose between tasks they must ensure that the tasks they set are of comparable scope and demand.

Prior to designing an assessment task for any area of study in Units 1 and 2, teachers should consider the following:

  • The scope of the area of study and approaches that take into consideration the student cohort
  • Selection of the key knowledge and key skills to be formally assessed through the task, and how these will be mapped to the outcome statement (note: key knowledge and key skills that are not included in the formal assessment should be built into teaching and learning activities and achievement can be determined through observation and discussion)
  • Choosing the most appropriate task for the outcome

Each area of study should be represented with assessment tasks in both Units 1 and 2.

Unit 1 assessment should focus on organisation of music and Unit 2 should focus on effect in music.

The three areas of study – Performing, Creating and Analysing  and Responding are experienced throughout each unit rather than being divided into separate experiences. It would be possible to construct a whole of Unit assessment which incorporates aspects of each of these areas and allows students to experience the study while they are making music. Examples of such approaches are to be found in Teaching and learning.

Units 3 and 4

Developing School-assessed Coursework (SAC) tasks

Units 3 and 4 Music Inquiry (Study Design pages 33 and 38)
Units 3 and 4 Music contemporary performance (Study Design pages 45 and 50)
Units 3 and 4 Music repertoire performance (Study Design pages 58 and 63)
Units 3 and 4 Music composition (Study Design pages 71 and 75)

In each of the four Units 3 and 4 VCE Music studies students are expected to demonstrate their level of understanding of key knowledge and key skills outlined in each area of study through a program of School-assessed Coursework (SAC) tasks. Each of these tasks is outlined in the VCE Music Study Design. The tasks for units are listed on the pages of the Music Study Design indicated above.

Designing the task

Each SAC task must meet the VCE Assessment Principles, allow students to demonstrate their highest level of performance and allow for student work to be authenticated as their own. Students should be familiar with and understand the meaning of the common terms embedded in the outcomes of the study design and each of the designated SAC task types. Each task has different cognitive requirements that assess different key knowledge and key skills, which should be explicitly taught and embedded in learning activities throughout the course of study. In this way, students will have the opportunity to practise and demonstrate a range of responses using the language of the study design. Cross-study specifications can be found in the Study Design on pages 13–19, and teachers should ensure that students have the opportunity to engage with the appropriate language and terminology for the music they are experiencing.

Assessing the task

To assess a student’s level of performance, the VCAA Performance descriptors can be used and adapted to the specifics of each SAC task, or a school-specific marking guide can be developed. The assessment instrument (performance descriptors, rubric and / or marking guide) should reflect the outcome, key knowledge and key skills. The SAC task and assessment instrument should be explained to students before they commence the task.


SAC tasks must be a part of the regular curriculum and assessment program and must not unduly add to the workload associated with that program. They should be completed mainly in class and under supervision. Variation in those conditions requires teachers to consider ethical scholarship and authentication. Areas of study involving creating music often develop across the course of a Unit, and teachers should ensure that progress is recorded and interrogated regularly. Digital journals recording the development of works over a specified period of time may be useful as authentication records.

Conditions and authentication

Teachers must consider the conditions in which the SAC task is completed and the authentication strategies relevant for each assessment task. Information regarding VCAA authentication rules can be found in the VCAA VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook section: Scored assessment: School-based Assessment.

Students should be provided with clear written instructions about conditions of each SAC task. These instructions should include the specific key knowledge and key skills that will be assessed in the task, how the task will be structured and any materials or resources that will be allowed when completing the assessment task.

Performance descriptors

The performance descriptors are advisory and designed to support teacher judgments in making holistic assessments of students' demonstration of the key knowledge and key skills for each outcome.

he performance descriptors can be adapted and customised by teachers in consideration of their context and cohort, and to complement existing assessment procedures in line with the VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook and the VCE Assessment Principles.

Performance descriptors can assist teachers in moderating student work, in making consistent assessment, in helping determine student point of readiness (zone of proximal development) and in providing more detailed information for reporting purposes. Using performance descriptors can assist students by providing them with informed, detailed feedback and by showing them what improvement looks like.

Teachers should note that, in modifying or developing unique performance descriptors, they should work from the study design and the key areas of outcome statements, key knowledge and key skills. Not all key knowledge and key skills will or can be formally assessed in an assessment task – some key knowledge and key skills are observable in classroom engagement and learning – but all criteria in any assessment tool must be drawn directly from the study design.

Performance descriptors should be able to capture the skill level of every student being assessed and will help provide the allocation of a range of marks. Thus, the lowest quality performance should be something most or all students can do, and the highest quality performance should be something that extends the most able students within the parameters of the outcome statement.

Teachers can also explore the performance descriptors with their students, unpacking the levels of expected performance so students have a clear understanding of what can be possible in terms of development and achievement.

Music Composition

Music Contemporary Performance

Music Inquiry

Music Repertoire Performance