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Advice for teachers -

Unit 4​ Music Style and Composition

Sample approach to developing an assessment task

Area of Study 1


In this task students aurally analyse and write critical responses to four excerpts of previously unheard music.

Task design

Teachers should select four excerpts of music that are unfamiliar to the students. Each excerpt should be different in style from the others. A matrix or mind-map​ is one way to keep track of the excerpts selected and monitor the range of styles and genres represented in excerpts used for teaching, learning and assessment activities. Students should practise listening to and responding to music in a diverse range of styles and genres as part of the learning program and in assessment tasks.

Sources for selecting excerpts include:

  • Physical and online music libraries such as the Australian Music Centre.
  • Music listening and download sites including those hosted by record labels and/or available via subscription.
  • CDs, vinyl etc.

The excerpts selected should be about one minute to one minute 30 seconds in duration and feature treatment of element/s of music and/or compositional devices that is both obvious and significant.

Task conditions

The task is worth 60 marks and contributes 7.5 per cent of the study score for Music Style and Composition. The assessment task should be completed in class over approximately 45-60 minutes. At the discretion of the teacher, students could bring in support notes such as glossaries of music terminology.

Teachers may decide to play the excerpts via a central play-back system with a set number of playings with specified writing time between each playing. Another approach is to allow students to have individual access to the excerpts, for example, from the school intranet or on a USB. This approach allows the students to control the order in which they listen to the excerpts, how many times they listen to each one and whether or not they pause during an excerpt. Teachers may decide to use one approach for Unit 3 and the other in Unit 4.


Preparation for the task is undertaken across Unit 4 and builds on the learning in Unit 3 Outcome 1. Students should complete aural analysis activities relating to a diverse range of music developing experience in writing responses that focus on use of elements of music and compositional devices including repetition, variation and contrast. They should be given the opportunity to develop skills in using music terminology to describe how the manipulation of elements of music and use of compositional devices contributes to the creation of style and character and elicits subjective responses.

Writing the task

In this task, the questions function as prompts, alerting students to the aspects of the music they are required to analyse. The questions should also guide students to provide a critical response as their answer; that is the question should prompt the student to include subjective comments in their response but also to substantiate these with objective and analytical information evident in the music.

Some context may be provided as background to the question but students are not required to demonstrate knowledge of the context.

Questions might focus on one or more elements of music and/or compositional device/s or might allow students to base their response on treatment of elements of music or use of compositional devices they can hear in the excerpt, for example;

Excerpt: [provide details such as name of work and composer/creator, section etc. as appropriate]

  • Describe how melody is used in this excerpt. In your response, comment on how the composer has used the compositional device of motif.

  • Or

  • How is unity created in this excerpt? In your response refer to at least two elements of music and one compositional device.

  • Or

Excerpt: [provide details such as name of work and composer/creator, section etc. as appropriate]

  • Use letter names or a diagram to describe the structure of this excerpt.
  • Describe the role of one instrument/sound source
  • Discuss how contrast is achieved between any two of the sections. Refer to at least two of texture, tone colour and/or articulation

Marking the task

The marking scheme used to assess a student’s level of performance should reflect the relevant aspects of the performance descriptors and be explained to students before commencing the task.

Each question and sub-part should be allocated a specific number of marks. The available marks can be evenly weighted across the questions or can be allocated differently between questions. For example, each question could be allocated 15 marks or the questions could be allocated 10, 15, 20 and 15 respectively.


The task should be completed under test conditions so that student work can be authenticated.

Assessment rubrics/performance descriptors provide a guide to the levels of performance typically demonstrated within each range on the assessment task/s. The performance descriptors for each outcome identify the qualities or characteristics expected in a student response.