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GCSE options - is music a soft option?

(60 Posts)
mysteryfairy Fri 22-Jan-10 17:31:49

I have two DSs in yrs 9 and 8 at different schools and both have to make their GCSE options this term.

Both currently have grade five practical on their main instruments (and will be doing grade six in the summer term), a number of other instruments that they play, are in various bands, orchestras etc and have passed their grade five theory.

They both want to do science ALevels. I have been positively encouraging them to take music GCSE (which they do both want to do), believing it will be fun, build on skills they have already worked hard to acquire and perhaps differentiate them from other scientists a bit.

I've just read comments on the oxbridge options thread suggesting that music is or is perceived as a soft option. In addition my dad has commented (jokingly) that maybe they shouldn't do it as to reach the required performance standard might be taken as evidence of a privileged background and count against them with uni applications.

So sorry for posting this as a separate thread from the oxbridge one but I'd really like to know if taking music might count against them?

DecorHate Fri 22-Jan-10 17:38:43

I have no idea really but my gut feeling is that universities want well-rounded students - so surely if they enjoy music (regardless of ability) and want to do a GCSE in it that is a Good Thing? I suppose it does depend on what they have to not do in order to do music though? Surely no "softer" than doing PE for GCSE which lots of academic pupils do?

My dd is possibly going to do Dance for GCSE - she is not likely to make a career of it but it is the only exercise she does as an extra-curricular activity so I want to encourage her to carry on. (She will be doing it outside school though so won't affect any of her subject choices at school).

Dumbledoresgirl Fri 22-Jan-10 17:46:02

The only counter argument I would put forward is that with the background they already have in music, what more would a Music GCSE add? Wouldn't it show a more rounded pupil if they picked something else entirely, eg a humanities or a language (or second language) as their music ability will speak for itself?

That said, I was trying (unsuccessfully) to get my ds to choose Music as he already plays an instrument.

Out of interest, why is the Year 8 son choosing his options a year early?

titchy Fri 22-Jan-10 17:47:41

Music is not regarded as a soft option at either GCSE or AL. And your dad's talking rubbish grin HTH

titchy Fri 22-Jan-10 17:53:31

Music A2 is on Cambridge's lis of preferred. And to study Music at university you need Music AL, so I'd encourage them!

tattycoram Fri 22-Jan-10 17:56:34

Music isn't a soft option, it's quite difficult

BrigitBigKnickers Fri 22-Jan-10 17:59:17

When I was at school a grade 5 theory and practical was considered to be equivalent to a GCE (as it was in thise days.)

I believe that if you get to grade 7 or 8 this can add to your A level points score.

Having said that Grade 5 thoery and practical does not involve any composing or history of music and as others have said it would show a rounded education.

If they have good sciences at GCSE and A level what difference is one little GCSE going to make that might actually be a bit of light relief for them?

mysteryfairy Fri 22-Jan-10 19:13:24

DS2 is at a state grammar school and they complete KS3 by the end of Y8 and do some GCSEs in y10, hence the early options.

The music GCSE seems to involve quite a lot of composition which isn't in the theory or practical exams they do.

It looks like DS2 will end up with loads of GCSEs 13/14 approx so probably not such a big deal for him.

DS1 only gets to choose 9 so more of a challenge to fit everything in - he will be doing two MFL and history I think.

adelicatequestion Sun 24-Jan-10 10:08:55


My daughter's school is also following that format forfinishing KS3 and she has just had to pick 2 GCSEs to complete in Yr 9.

Does it work. I am dubious about the need for 15 or so GCSe's and think that by sitting early it may compromise grades.

princessparty Sun 24-Jan-10 17:50:26

Well both Oxford and Cambridge have a faculty of music , so obviously don't see it as soft.

Lilymaid Sun 24-Jan-10 18:37:18

Firstly, it isn't a soft option. Secondly, it is not necessary for all GCSEs that you take to be "hard" - but if you are academic and do say eight "hard" GCSEs you can do a couple of "soft" ones as well and no university will look down on you if eight of your GCSEs are Maths, English, Science, Humanities, MFL (hopefully).
Same goes for Art.

mumeeee Sun 24-Jan-10 23:21:40

No music isn't a soft option. My nephew has just got a place on the creative music rech degree course at Huddersfield university. There are only 10 places. He meeded music, Maths and a science for that.

NoahAndTheWhale Sun 24-Jan-10 23:31:28

I did gcse music 18 years ago and tbh for me it was a soft option. I didn't have to put in much work during the lessons (I did do some composition work at home as it wS easier to work then).

I remember another girl also did History and Appreciation of music which involved indepth study of various pieces of music and in retrspect I wish I'd done that as well.

I had a rounded set of gcses including two languages, two sciences, two englishes, maths, RE and history so felt music fitted in well.

juneybean Sun 24-Jan-10 23:37:46

I don't think it's a soft option, I did it 8 years ago.

At the time you had to be actively taking lessons in an instrument, then you had to make two compositions for at least two instruments, a listening exam, a written exam and a practical exam on your instrument of choice

clam Sun 24-Jan-10 23:43:15

We're going through this with DS at the moment. But I figure if all his other subjects are academic, it won't make much odds if there's a lighter-weight one in there too. Although, as someone said, if they're doing graded instruments anyway, then it might be better to plump for something else. There are a lot of boys doing dance at his school at the moment. A number of "cool" boys lead the (strong) department, so it's become high profile recently. So, dance or music?

RedbinDippers Sun 24-Jan-10 23:48:50

Music is never a soft option, it requires intellectual activity, memory and skill. it certainly not light weight when compared with options such as media studies.

cat64 Mon 25-Jan-10 00:21:57

Message withdrawn

cookie200 Wed 27-Jan-10 15:10:35

My daughter wants to do music and art at GCSE as well as 7 others. I'm not sure if this provides enough academic subjects - would art and music be considered dumbing down? If anyone can help I'd be grateful.

Flightattendant Wed 27-Jan-10 15:31:45

I'm afraid I can't answer as to whether it might count against them, but I can assure you that GCSE is no picnic and is in fact bloody, bloody hard and very technical!

It's not airy fairy subject but may still be perceived as such by the powers that be.

snorkie Wed 27-Jan-10 15:46:24

ds does music GCSE and really enjoys it. There's a lot of composing (30%) and a performance element (30%) and a listening paper which can be quite tricky, but overall although it's supposedly quite well regarded it's not as difficult as many subjects and provides light relief in class and very little homework (mostly just composing). I'd recommend it really - as long as it's not combined with hundreds of true 'soft' options.

As to the argument that it looks too middle class, unless you are proposing to not mention their musical achievements at all on their personal statement that will come across anyway. The comment that it doesn't add much given they already have grade whatever is more valid, and one that ds considered, but he did it because he wanted to & because he enjoyed it and so it was the right choice for him.

CoffeeCrazedMama Wed 27-Jan-10 15:46:53

Dd1 is doing A-level music. Its is by no means a soft option - and I speak as someone who detests any soft options at school. Dd has achieved Grade 5 theory, grade 6 cello and grade 8 singing and has still found it a challenge, particularly composition. Sure, with that much extra-curricular music experience, she found the practical module a doddle (and scored very highly) but found that the AS written paper was a nightmare. (And had to be sent for a remark but that's another story...)

And ignore your dad - Unis, esp Oxbridge, like applicants to have musical activities as they are something that take years of dedication. I'm sure this is why she got an interview for Oxford. Sadly, having gone to a mediocre comp gave her no advantage at the interview.

CMOTdibbler Wed 27-Jan-10 15:53:57

I did music GCSE, and although I had grade 8 theory and grade 5 practical, I found it quite hard - the composition stuff really challenged me.

Personally, I think it's a lot harder than dance/drama/art/cdt as there are so many elements to it.

I went on to do physics at a Russell group university, and knew a number of people studying physics and music which was considered to be a highly technical option

snorkie Wed 27-Jan-10 16:02:31

Oh it is hard in one sense - ds has just got his mock results - straight A*s except music which is a B. He is grade 7 nearly 8 piano & cello, grade 5 theory disticntion yadda yadda. So it's not easy as such, but it's a different sort of effort required, and enjoyable.

TiggyR Wed 27-Jan-10 17:02:43

Absolutely not. Music is HARD, unless your child sight reads music and has been playing the piano since it could sit up. It is one of the more challenging GCSEs to do very well in.

TiggyR Wed 27-Jan-10 17:06:22

Must just (though I see this will not be an issue for your children, but others many be interested) that not only are you expected to be able to show a degree of technical competence, you also need to have the confidence to perfom live in front of an audience and enough creativity to compose your own short pieces.

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