[Note: page updates for new assessment requirements in progress May 2018]
Since National 5 courses changed in 2017–18 to move completely to external assessment and Higher courses are doing the same in 2018–19, only National 4 and Advanced Higher retain the old mandatory unit requirements beyond summer 2018.
As well as your three units (Performing Skills, Composing Skills and Understanding Music), you need to pass the Course Assessment for an overall (‘course’) award at National 4. This consists of another, internally-assessed (pass/fail), ‘Added Value’ unit where you have to give a performance on both instruments (or one instrument and voice) and undertake some additional self-assessment of what you’ve done.
At National 5 and Higher, it’s no longer just pass/fail, with a graded, externally-assessed Performing Exam now worth 50% of your course total, Question Paper worth 35% and Composing Assignment worth 15%.
At Advanced Higher, you can still follow the old Nat 5/Higher model (with 60% Performing Exam) or choose to replace the Performing Exam with a Composing Folio for the same mark, but changes are scheduled for 2019–20.
Please remember that all regular units as well as Nat 4 ‘Added Value’ are qualifications in their own right, so it’s always worth completing what you can even when the course award is in doubt!
For the National 4 Added Value unit, you must perform at least two contrasting pieces/songs of ABRSM Grade 2 standard or above on each instrument/voice at a performance lasting 8 minutes with at least 2 minutes on each. So you could do 4 minutes on one instrument and 4 on the other, or 5 on one and 3 on the other, or any combination up to 6 and 2. But you will also need to complete an evaluation of your performance showing your ability to identify one strength and one area for improvement for each performing study.
For the National 5 Performing exam, you must perform at least two contrasting pieces/songs of ABRSM Grade 3 standard or above on each instrument/voice at a performance lasting 8 minutes (maximum 8 minutes 30 seconds!) with at least 2 minutes on each. This counts for 50% of your course total, with each performing study worth 25%.
For the Higher Performing exam, you must perform at least two contrasting pieces/songs of ABRSM Grade 4 standard or above on each instrument/voice at a performance lasting 12 minutes (maximum 13 minutes!) with at least 4 minutes on each. This counts for 50% of your course total, with each performing study worth 25%.
For the Advanced Higher Performing exam, you must perform at least two contrasting pieces/songs of ABRSM Grade 5 standard or above on each instrument/voice at a performance lasting 18 minutes (maximum 20 minutes!) with at least 6 minutes on each. This still counts for 60% of your course total in 2018–19, with each performing study worth 30%.
Please note that some instruments have certain required content (eg minimum number of different rhythms/fills and appropriate style selection on drum kit or minimum number of chords for ‘chordal’ programmes on guitar) as well as minimum technical standards at levels. And the Nat 5/Higher Performing exams come round sooner than you think in February/March (not May/June like most exams)!
Question Paper Requirements
The National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher question papers test your understanding of the Mandatory Concepts and count for 35% of your course total at National 5 and Higher and 40% at Advanced Higher. (See notes above re. 2019–20 changes to Advanced Higher.) They last approximately 45 minutes at Nat 5, 1 hour at Higher and 1 hour, 15 minutes at Advanced Higher.
National 5 and Higher Composing Assignments
The new Composing Assignments count for 15% of your course total, and involve planning/composing a short piece and reviewing the composing process.
Advanced Higher Composing Folio Option
The Composing folio is a new alternative to the Performing Exam at Advanced Higher and counts for the same 60% of your course total. Should you choose this option, you will need to produce a 12-minute audio folio containing at least two contrasting pieces of music, of which at least one must be a wholly original composition but may also include elements of improvisation and/or arranging. The recordings of your pieces must also be supported by explanation of what you’ve done including performance plans/scores and programme notes/session logs.
[Page under construction from June 2015, revised September 2017 and again May 2018, but not ‘finished’!]