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Music Theory Grades 6-8

Each Music Theory paper carries a total of 100 marks, 66 are required to achieve a pass, 80 to receive a merit and 90 for a distinction.

Whereas in the earlier grades many of the questions are composite, and therefore dealt with on a subject-by-subject basis, in the three highest grades each of the first three questions is normally geared towards one primary task. For this reason the marking guidelines and assessment criteria are considered below on a question-by-question basis.

It should be observed as a general principle that an answer to a question will never receive a pass mark (i.e. 10 out of 15, 13 out of 20 or 17 out of 25) if it is fundamentally wrong, despite any merits which it might have; although the latter could well justify a mark which is near a pass (e.g. 16 out of 25). A minimum of 5 marks is awarded for a complete attempt at a 15 mark question and similarly 7 marks for a 20 mark question.

Marks

Description

Distinction

14-15 marks

  • Key/tonality, cadence points are correctly treated
  • Chord progressions are harmonically acceptable and stylistically appropriate
  • Initiative is shown in the chord choice, i.e. inversions, use of chords other than I, IV, V, etc., where appropriate
  • Grammatical implications are correct

Merit

12-13 marks

  • Key/tonality, cadence points are correctly treated
  • Chord progressions are harmonically acceptable and stylistically aware
  • Initiative is shown in the chord choice, i.e. some inversions, use of chords other than I, IV, V, etc., where appropriate
  • Grammatical implications are mostly correct

Pass

10–11 marks

  • Key/tonality, cadence points are correctly treated
  • Chord progressions are generally harmonically acceptable
  • Chord choice is more limited, i.e. largely I, V, root position, etc.
  • A limited number of incorrect grammatical implications

Below pass

8–9 marks

  • Imperfect grasp of key/tonality, cadence points
  • A significant number of harmonically unacceptable chord progressions
  • Some chords do not relate correctly to given melody notes
  • Chords not allotted to some asterisks
  • A significant number of incorrect grammatical implications

Not achieved

5–7 marks

  • Incorrect grasp of key/tonality, cadence points
  • Most chord progressions are harmonically unacceptable
  • A significant number of chords do not relate correctly to the given melody notes
  • Chords not allotted to many asterisks
  • Widespread incorrect grammatical implications

Marks

Description

Distinction

14-15 marks

  • Key/tonality, cadence points are correctly treated
  • Bass notes and figuring imply satisfactory harmonic progressions
  • Initiative is shown in the chord choice, i.e. inversions, use of chords other than I, IV, V, etc., where appropriate
  • Chord choice shows some grasp of the style
  • Grammatical implications are correct

Merit

12-13 marks

  • Key/tonality, cadence points are correctly treated
  • Bass notes and figuring imply satisfactory harmonic progressions
  • Initiative is shown in the chord choice, i.e. some inversions, use of chords other than I, IV, V, etc., where appropriate
  • Chord choice shows some grasp of the style
  • Grammatical implications are mostly correct

Pass

10–11 marks

  • Key/tonality, cadence points are correctly treated
  • Bass notes and figuring imply harmonic progressions which are generally acceptable
  • Chord choice is more limited, i.e. largely I, V, root position, etc.
  • A limited number of incorrect grammatical implications

Below pass

8–9 marks

  • Imperfect grasp of key/tonality, cadence points
  • Bass notes and/or figuring imply a significant number of harmonically unacceptable progressions
  • Some bass notes/figures do not relate correctly to given melody notes
  • Frequent incorrect grammatical implications

Not achieved

5–7 marks

  • Incorrect grasp of key/tonality, cadence points
  • Bass notes and/or figuring imply mostly unacceptable harmonic progressions
  • A significant number of bass notes/figures do not relate correctly to given melody notes
  • Widespread incorrect grammatical implications

Marks

Description

Distinction

14-15 marks

  • Figuring is correctly interpreted
  • Melodic line shows musical interest
  • Part-writing is good and 6/4–5/3 progression(s) correctly handled
  • Grammatical errors are sparse

Merit

12-13 marks

  • Figuring is mostly correctly interpreted
  • Melodic line shows some musical interest
  • Part-writing is generally good and 6/4–5/3 progression(s) correctly handled
  • Grammatical errors are few

Pass

10–11 marks

  • Few errors in interpretation of figuring
  • Melodic line not always musically effective but is generally sound
  • Part-writing is acceptable, if not always musically convincing
  • There are some grammatical errors

Below pass

8–9 marks

  • Some errors in interpretation of figuring
  • Bass notes not harmonised
  • Part-writing is poor
  • There are numerous grammatical errors

Not achieved

5–7 marks

  • Much incorrect interpretation of figuring
  • Numerous bass notes not harmonised
  • Little or no attention given to part-writing
  • Grammatical errors are widespread

Marks

Description

Distinction

18–20 marks

  • An excellent sense of shape and direction
  • Style/character of the given opening has been well maintained and developed
  • The melody implies a convincing harmonic foundation
  • Melodic/rhythmic aspects of the given opening have been well developed and continued
  • In option [a] the modulation has been correctly and musically achieved
  • There is a suitably balanced phrase structure
  • Awareness of anacrusic nature of given opening, if present
  • The melody is suited to and explores the range of the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions have been musically applied

Merit

16–17 marks

  • A good sense of shape and direction
  • Style/character of the given opening has been well maintained
  • The melody implies a plausible harmonic foundation
  • Melodic/rhythmic aspects of the given opening have been well developed and continued
  • In option [a] the modulation has been correctly achieved
  • There is a suitably balanced phrase structure
  • Awareness of anacrusic nature of given opening, if present
  • The melody is suited to and within compass of the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions have been mostly musically applied

Pass

13–15 marks

  • Some sense of shape and direction
  • Some attempt has been made to maintain the style/character of the opening
  • Melodic/rhythmic aspects of the given opening have been continued, if somewhat unimaginatively (rather repetitious, over-use of sequence, etc.)
  • Some sense of phrase structure
  • Occasional faults in rhythmic notation
  • In option [a] the modulation has been achieved
  • The melody is reasonably suited to, and generally within the compass of the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions are present

Below Pass

10–12 marks

  • The melody lacks overall shape and direction
  • Poor maintenance of the style/character of the opening
  • Very repetitious and unimaginative in the use of melodic/rhythmic aspects of the given opening
  • Some faults in rhythmic notation
  • Poor sense of phrase structure
  • The melody is not well suited to/does not keep well within the compass of the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions are sparse and/or inappropriate

Not Achieved 7–9 marks

  • The melody is very shapeless and meandering
  • Style/character of the given opening not maintained
  • No proper attempt to utilise melodic/rhythmic aspects of the given opening
  • Frequent faults in rhythmic notation
  • No sense of phrase structure
  • The melody shows no real thought for the practicalities or compass of the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions absent or quite inappropriate

Marks

Description

Distinction

14-15 marks

  • Key/tonality/modulations (if present) have been correctly perceived
  • The figuring provides a musically satisfactory harmonic structure and a secure sense of style
  • The harmonic vocabulary shows some initiative, and features such as sequences have been correctly observed

Merit

12-13 marks

  • Key/tonality/modulations (if present) have been correctly perceived
  • The figuring provides a musically satisfactory harmonic structure and some sense of style
  • The harmonic vocabulary shows some initiative, and features such as sequences have been correctly observed

Pass

10–11 marks

  • Key/tonality/modulations (if present) have been correctly perceived
  • The figuring provides a harmonic basis which is generally acceptable
  • The harmonic vocabulary is modest but generally plausible

Below pass

8–9 marks

  • An imperfect grasp of key/tonality/modulations (if present)
  • The figuring implies a significant number of harmonically unacceptable progressions
  • The figuring does not always relate correctly to the given bass or melody notes

Not achieved

5–7 marks

  • An incorrect grasp of key/tonality/modulations (if present)
  • The figuring implies mostly unacceptable harmonic progressions
  • Absence of many necessary figures
  • A significant number of figures do not relate correctly to the given bass or melody notes

Marks

Description 

Distinction

14-15 marks

  • Harmonic outline consistently well embellished
  • Excellent consistency of texture and style throughout the passage
  • Implied features such as sequences have been observed
  • Grammatical aspects are correct

Merit

12-13 marks

  • Harmonic outline mostly well (but not excessively) embellished
  • Good consistency of texture and style throughout the passage
  • Grammatical aspects are mostly correct

Pass

10–11 marks

  • Some embellishment of the harmonic outline
  • An attempt to maintain texture and style
  • A limited number of incorrect grammatical aspects

Below pass

8–9 marks

  • Sparse embellishment of harmonic outline
  • Some clashing harmonies
  • Poor maintenance of texture and style
  • Some harmonies on Staves A have been altered on Staves B
  • A significant number of incorrect grammatical aspects

5–7 marks

  • Much of the harmonic outline not embellished
  • No real awareness of texture or style
  • Many harmonies on Staves A have been altered on Staves B
  • Widespread incorrect grammatical aspects

Marks

Description

Distinction

18–20 marks

  • Melody has an excellent shape, sense of direction and style
  • Melody completely agrees with the harmonic structure of the passage
  • Melody lies well within the compass and capabilities of the instrument
  • Grammatical aspects are correct

Merit

16–17 marks

  • Melody has good shape, sense of direction and style
  • Melody agrees well with the harmonic structure of the passage
  • Melody lies well within the compass and capabilities of the instrument
  • Grammatical aspects are generally correct

Pass

13–15 marks

  • Melody has some shape
  • There is general agreement between the melody and the harmonic structure of the passage
  • Melody is generally within the compass and capabilities of the instrument
  • A limited number of grammatical errors

Below Pass

10–12 marks

  • Poorly shaped melodic line
  • Some harmonic clashes
  • Melodic line frequently exceeds the compass, and/or is unsuited to the capabilities of, the instrument for which it is written
  • A significant number of grammatical errors

Not Achieved

7–9 marks

  • No proper shape to the melodic line
  • Many discrepancies between the melody and the harmonic structure of the passage
  • Little awareness of the compass or capabilities of the instrument for which the melody is written
  • Widespread grammatical errors

Marks

Description

Distinction

18–20 marks

  • An excellent sense of shape and direction
  • There is an excellent unified sense of style/character
  • Rhythmic/melodic aspects of the given opening have been well utilised (but this is optional in chord progression question)
  • Chord progressions have been correctly utilised or well developed
  • Melody is suited to and within the compass of the stipulated or chosen instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions have been musically applied

Merit

16–17 marks

  • A good sense of shape and direction
  • There is a good unified sense of style/character
  • Rhythmic/melodic aspects of the given opening have been well utilised (but this is optional in chord progression question)
  • Chord progressions have been correctly utilised, including appropriate modulation
  • Melody is suited to and within the compass of the stipulated or chosen instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions have been musically applied

Pass

13–15 marks

  • The melody has some sense of shape and direction
  • There is some overall sense of style/character
  • Some utilisation has been made of the rhythmic/melodic aspects of the given opening (but this is optional in chord progression question)
  • Occasional faults in rhythmic notation
  • Chord progressions have been generally correctly utilised
  • Melody is reasonably suited to, and generally within the compass of, the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions are present

Below Pass

10–12 marks

  • Melody lacks overall shape and direction
  • Melody contains some awkward intervals
  • Poor sense of style/character
  • Unimaginative/repetitious use of given opening (optional in chord progression question)
  • Significant incorrect utilisation of chord progressions, including omitted modulations
  • Some faults in rhythmic notation
  • Melody is not well suited to/does not keep well within the compass of the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions sparse and/or inappropriate

Not Achieved

7–9 marks

  • Melody is very shapeless and meandering
  • Melody contains many awkward intervals
  • Chord progressions are mostly incorrectly utilised
  • Melody shows no real thought for, or awareness of the compass of the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions are absent or quite inappropriate
  • Frequent faults in rhythmic notation

Marks

Description

Distinction

14-15 marks

  • Correct interpretation of the bass figuring
  • Imitative figures have been well observed and utilised and are stylistically convincing
  • Added parts maintain the style and texture of the remainder, and have shapeliness of line
  • Grammatical aspects are generally correct
  • A convincing awareness of the compass and practicalities of the instruments involved

Merit

12-13 marks

  • Correct interpretation of the bass figuring
  • Imitative figures have been mostly well observed and utilised
  • Added parts mostly maintain the style and texture of the remainder, and a sense of line is evident
  • Grammatical aspects are generally correct
  • Adherence to the compass and practicalities of the instruments involved

Pass

10–11 marks

  • Generally correct interpretation of the bass figuring
  • Some awareness and utilisation of imitative figures
  • The overall texture and sense of style is acceptable
  • A limited number of grammatical errors
  • The compass and practicalities of the instruments involved are mostly adhered to

Below pass

8–9 marks

  • Some errors in interpretation of bass figuring
  • Limited awareness and utilisation of imitative figures
  • Poor awareness of style and texture in the added parts
  • Numerous grammatical faults
  • Some incomplete beats in the added parts
  • Poor adherence to compass and practicalities of instruments involved

Not Achieved

5–7 marks

  • Numerous errors in interpretation of bass figuring
  • Little rhythmic interest or contrapuntal awareness
  • No proper sense of style or texture
  • Widespread grammatical inaccuracy
  • Numerous incomplete beats in the added parts
  • Little thought given to the compass or practicalities of the instruments involved

Marks

Description

Distinction

14-15 marks

  • A fully convincing harmonic structure, with any modulations correctly treated
  • Style and texture of the given material have been well followed in the added parts
  • Any particular musical features (imitative figures, sequence, etc.) have been observed and well utilised
  • Any changes of clef have been observed

Merit

12-13 marks

  • A satisfactory overall harmonic structure, with any modulations correctly treated
  • Style and texture of the given material have been mostly well followed in the added parts
  • Any particular musical features (imitative figures, sequence, etc.) have been observed and utilised
  • Any changes of clef have been observed
  • There are few grammatical errors

Pass

10–11 marks

  • The overall harmonic scheme is generally satisfactory, and modulations (if present) reasonably well handled
  • Some attempt to maintain a sense of style and texture in the added parts
  • A limited number of grammatical errors

Below pass

8–9 marks

  • A poor harmonic structure, and modulations (if present) not well handled
  • Poor overall unity of style and texture
  • Non-utilisation of any specific musical features
  • Numerous grammatical errors
  • One or two bars not completed

Not Achieved

5–7 marks

  • Little awareness of the harmonic structure
  • No proper attempt to maintain style or texture of the given material
  • No attempt to use any specific musical features contained in the given material
  • Widespread grammatical inaccuracy
  • A number of bars not completed

Marks

Description

Distinction

18–20 marks

  • Musically convincing, with an excellent overall sense of shape and direction
  • There is an excellent unified sense of style and character
  • Melodic/rhythmic features of the given opening have been imaginatively developed and utilised
  • Awareness of anacrusic nature of the given opening, if present
  • The melody is suited to, and within the compass of, the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions have been musically applied

Merit

16–17 marks

  • Musically convincing, with a good overall sense of shape and direction
  • The style/character of the given opening has been well maintained
  • Melodic/rhythmic features of the given opening have been imaginatively developed and utilised
  • Awareness of anacrusic nature of the given opening, if present
  • The melody is suited to, and within the compass of, the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions have been musically applied

Pass

13–15 marks

  • The melody has some sense of shape and direction
  • Some attempt has been made to maintain the style/character of the given opening
  • Melodic/rhythmic features of the given opening have been utilised, even if somewhat unimaginatively (rather repetitious, over-use of sequence, etc.)
  • Occasional faults in rhythmic notation
  • Melody is reasonably suited to, and generally within the compass of the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions are present

Below Pass

10–12 marks

  • The melody lacks overall shape and direction
  • Poor maintenance of the style/character of the given opening
  • Very repetitious and unimaginative in the use of melodic/rhythmic features of the given opening
  • Some faults in rhythmic notation
  • Melody is not well suited to/does not keep well within the compass of the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions sparse and/or inappropriate

Not Achieved

7–9 marks

  • The melody is very shapeless and meandering
  • Style/character of the given opening not maintained
  • No proper attempt to utilise melodic/rhythmic features of the given opening
  • Frequent faults in rhythmic notation
  • Melody shows no real thought for the practicalities or compass of the stipulated instrument
  • Dynamics/performance directions are absent or quite inappropriate

Grades 6–8 context questions are an extension of those asked at Grade 5. The marking criteria for Grades 1–5 demonstrate (in main) how the context questions are assessed at this advanced level. The marks allocated for each section are indicated in brackets on the right hand side of the papers.

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