A Level



Entry Requirements

5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including Mathematics and English, plus Grade 5 in performance, or the equivalent standard if you have not taken exams.

You will need the ability to read music scores confidently, and therefore we prefer students to have passed Grade 5 Theory. If you do not have this qualification we will ask you to pass a simple notation test at enrolment, and take an extra theory class in September in order to pass the Grade 5 Theory exam during your first year. It is also preferable to have taken GCSE music, but you may still apply without it if you are an experienced musician.

Symonds is the place for musical ambition!

  • Performing
  • Composition
  • Listening Skills
  • Writing about Music you have studied

A Level Music students at Peter Symonds College have fantastic opportunities to develop these skills, and they receive a great musical experience here.

  • The college pays for your instrumental or vocal 1-2-1 lesson 
  • We have a highly-regarded team of professional teachers
  • You are accompanied by Samantha Carrasco, our Head of Keyboard 
  • Our bands, choirs, orchestras and chamber groups in our music activity programme are second-to-none
  • We have one of the busiest music diaries in the country – come to one of our concerts and hear for yourself! 
  • We have weekly lunchtime concerts – Classical on Thursday and Contemporary on Friday 
  • Our annual Festival invites famous musicians to lead workshops and give you feedback on your performance skills 
  • We have 2 concert grand Steinway pianos, links with Steinway Hall in London and exciting performance opportunities there 
  • A level Music students take their ABRSM exams in college
  • Our students get brilliant results - and a high proportion of our leavers pursue their music studies at competitive universities, music colleges and conservatoires, many with scholarships, to train them for a music career.
  • You can find out more about what we get up to in the music department on our website - www.psc.ac.uk/life/music or our facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/SymondsMusic

Music A level is highly regarded by universities and employers, as it includes so many skills, whether you want to work in music or enter another profession:

  • Employers are looking for candidates who are creative, with imagination and flexibility
  • Musicians are good at working in a team
  • Musicians have superb independent study skills and are good at time-keeping
  • Skilled performers have also developed confidence in presentation skills
  • Live music can never be replaced by computers!

Where Could It Take Me?

Going on to study music at university or at a conservatoire can lead to a career in performing, composing, conducting or teaching. Music can also lead to careers in the recording industry, publishing, arts management and the media.

Students wanting to study Music beyond Peter Symonds receive specialist higher education guidance, and progression to competitive institutions is outstanding. This guidance includes preparation for conservatoire auditions and workshops for Oxbridge/Russell Group entry requirements. Employers across many fields value the wide and varied skill-set cultivated by Music graduates, so as well as pursuing careers in the music industry music graduates can be found in numerous other walks of professional life, including accountancy, law and academia.

Course Content

As part of the course:

  • All music students get many opportunities to play and sing in orchestras, bands and choirs
  • Many smaller groups (like classical ensembles and rock bands) get a chance to showcase their work in our weekly lunch time concerts.
  • There are also lots of opportunities for solo performance, when you will be accompanied by our Head of Keyboard.
  • You receive excellent teaching from an experienced team of A level teachers, and the college provides free individual tuition on one instrument (or voice) per week, from a team of professional visiting teachers.
  • Students are prepared for ABRSM exams (including Diploma).
  • Professional performers attend Peter Symonds to present master classes and workshops, and you will also be invited on trips to a range of live music events.

For A level you can choose your favourite style in performing and free composition, and the written paper is based on a range of set works selected from film scores, classical, pop, jazz and world music.

Methods of Teaching

Performance: weekly one-to-one instrumental or vocal lessons, recital preparation in small groups, various performing opportunities to increase your confidence, piano accompaniment from our Head of Keyboard.

Composition: writing to detailed briefs set by the board, free composition or stylistic composition, using Sibelius software. One or two lessons per week.

Analytical study of set works from the anthology, including a wider historical context and developing listening skills. Two lessons per week.

Methods & Patterns of Assessment

A level Music is a two-year course. At the end of the first year students take assessments in performance and composition, plus a written paper, which are all marked internally. At the end of the second year students perform a solo, recorded recital and complete two compositions, both assessed by the board, and take a two-hour written exam in June.

Financial Implications

Students are required to buy the Edexcel A level Anthology of Music, but these are available from the music office at a subsidised rate of £35 or second-hand for much less. Students pay a £15 contribution towards photocopying and approximately £15 for one obligatory concert trip in the Autumn term – other music trips are optional. The College has a Student Support Fund for those students who have difficulty meeting these costs. Students can also apply for annual awards to help with costs such as ABRSM exams, instruments and courses.