Advanced Higher

Aims of the course:

  • Broaden knowledge and understanding of music and musical literacy by listening to music, analysing and identifying music concepts, signs and symbols.
  • Create original music, or arrange existing music using compositional methods.
  • Perform music.

There are 2 routes from which you must select for the Advanced Higher Music Course, 3 mandatory components and a further two optional components:

Understanding MusicQuestion Paper /40 marks

The question paper gives you an opportunity to demonstrate the following skills, knowledge and understanding:

¨ aural perception, discrimination and analytical thinking

¨ knowledge and understanding of a range of music styles, concepts and music literacy

Marks are awarded for:

¨ identifying concepts in a range of excerpts of music and styles

¨ applying music literacy skills

¨ analysing two excerpts of music, identifying similarities and differences

¨ identifying the style and/or period(s) of two excerpts of music and providing a valid justification

The paper of approximately 1 hour 15 minutes is set and marked by SQA and conducted in centres for external examination by SQA.

Mandatory concepts at Advanced Higher are built upon previous knowledge. It is therefore recognised that all students will have a secure understanding of concepts at Nat 3, Nat 4, Nat 5 and Higher, see full list of concepts for all levels on NQ website.  Question Paper is timetabled in April/May.

35% of total mark


The assignment allows candidates to explore and develop musical ideas to create music. It has three parts:

¨ composing or arranging one piece of music

¨ reviewing the creative process of their composition or arrangement

¨ analysing a chosen piece of music

Marks are awarded for:

¨ composing or arranging music, a minimum of 1 minute and a maximum of 4 minutes and 30 seconds (10 marks)

¨ review of the creative process, approximately 200 to 350 words (5 marks)

¨ analysis, approximately 600 to 800 words (5 marks)

15% of total mark

Performing Skills

Performance on one instrument (when selecting Portfolio component option)

For candidates performing on one instrument, the total performance time must be a minimum of 6 minutes and must not exceed 8 minutes.

Performance on two instruments

For candidates performing on instrument 1 and instrument 2, the total performance time for both instruments must be a minimum of 18 minutes and must not exceed 20 minutes. You do not need to perform for an equal length of time on each of their instruments, or on their instrument and voice. The performance time on either of the two selected instruments must be a minimum of 6 minutes within the overall programme.

The performance allows candidates to demonstrate their musical and technical skills in an appropriately challenging context. Music can, for example, be selected from current or past syllabuses (including graded anthologies) at Grade 5 or above from any of the following, or any other equivalent music organisation.

Marks are awarded, as appropriate for:

¨ melodic accuracy and/or intonation

¨ rhythmic accuracy

¨ tempo and flow

¨ mood and character

¨ tone

¨ dynamics

Each instrument (or voice) is marked out of 30, and individual pieces are given a mark out of 10. The number of pieces in the performance programme is variable, therefore scaling is used to determine the final mark for each instrument (or voice).

Controlled assessment – marked by SQA visiting examiner (April/May) and QA by SQA.

25% of total mark for each instrument


The portfolio is an optional course assessment component. Candidates either complete this or the performance on instrument 2.

The portfolio option allows candidates to explore and develop musical ideas to create music. It has two parts: ¨ composing and/or arranging music

¨ reviewing the creative process of their composition(s) or arrangement(s)

Marks are awarded for:

¨ composing and/or arranging music (20 marks)

¨ review of the creative process (10 marks)

The composed pieces or arrangements may be in any style or genre and must last a minimum of 6 minutes and a maximum of 8 minutes.

25% of total mark

Course Assessment

Question Paper          35%

Assignment                 15%

 Performance on instrument 1         25%

Performance on instrument 2           25%


Portfolio                     25%

TOTAL – 100%