[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.
Understanding Music means what it says, with the understanding presumably key to why the units got renamed from the old ‘Listening’ (which was never about just sitting back and listening!). But, like its predecessor, it still involves identifying musical concepts both aurally (the contexts for learning) and on paper (the music literacy content). We should also note the increased emphasis on analysis (rather than just recognition) at Higher and Advanced Higher, with the unit actually becoming ‘Understanding and Analysing Music’ at Advanced Higher. While the Course Assessment requirements tell you what’s required for an overall course award at all levels and are all you really need to know for Nat 5 and Higher, separate units at Nat 4 and Advanced Higher currently still require you to:
(At National 4, from Understanding Music (National 4) Unit Specification)
Recognise and identify music concepts and styles by:
1.1 Identifying level-specific music concepts in excerpts of music
1.2 Identifying the social and cultural influences which have influenced the distinctive sounds of specific music styles
1.3 Identifying and recognising the meaning of music signs, symbols and terms
(At Advanced Higher, from Advanced Higher Understanding and Analysing Music Unit Specification)
Analyse sections/pieces of contrasting music by:
1.1 Identifying and analysing the use of level-specific and other music concepts, signs and symbols
1.2 Analysing style and form, melody, harmony and rhythm and the impact of social and cultural influences on the development of music
So the ‘understanding’ part’s pretty obvious… you need to understand. But, where this understanding is now demonstrated purely through the Listening Paper exam for Nat 5 and Higher course awards, separate unit specifications at Nat 4 and Advanced Higher still require you to collect a range of supporting evidence.