Strategies for Success in the HSC Aural Exam
Is it me? Am I the only one who gets very frustrated with my students? Their lack of effort? Their lack of commitment? Or am I just expecting too much? Or is it just the cycle of ups and downs that we have with our senior students as we progress through the course? Maybe it is all these things, I don’t know?
This year, the class of 2017 will be my eighth class that I have taken through to the Higher School Certificate. Even though I have been teaching since 2001, I did not get to have a senior class until 2006. Since then, myself and my colleagues would take turns taking a class through to year 12. I have done it year after year a couple of times, but it is really exhausting! I do prefer to takes turns – I like sharing the workload!
We are now about 4 weeks away from the Half Yearly exams at my school for Year 12. I do not know why, but this current class is really testing me. Their lack of motivation is frustrating me. I have done all that I can to help them, but they are not meeting me half way. I know this seems to happen around this time of the course, but the feelings I get myself, just can’t be ignored. Do you feel this frustration too? Do you feel like you are doing all the work, and not getting anything back from your students? I should say, this is not true for all my lovelies in my class, but unfortunately it is for most!
So, out of frustration, and a desire to not let things “beat me”, I am always looking for ways to help motivate my students. This post is as much about helping you as it is about selfishly helping myself process things! Below is a lesson that I will be giving my class on Monday. A way to “attack” the Aural Exam! It is something I have always done, but this time it is more about making it explicit for my students, and hopefully yours too.
The HSC Music 1 Aural Exam is a very weird type of exam. Students are given four questions, with timed music samples and pauses in which to answer the question. Their answer is meant to have no “opinion” on the music at all, it is a straight analysis of what they can hear happening in the music, in regards to the concept/s that the question is asking. No matter what the questions are, the process they go through to complete the exam should be the same. Below is a breakdown of what I like my students to do, I hope it helps you too.
This is so important. In the exam students are given “reading time”. It is vital that students use this time to read every single bit of information presented. They should take mental note of the question, performer/composer and how many times they will hear the excerpt. A this stage they can not write on their papers, but they can be making mental notes.
After reading the information, they should be “predicting” what the music will sound like, what features it will have and what instruments will be in the excerpt. It is now that they should be drawing on all their prior musical knowledge to make connections with what is presented. They may be proven wrong, their predictions may be incorrect, but the process of predicting and connecting is still a very valuable one.
As the question starts, they should be planning what they will do in each listening. What aspect of the concept will they concentrate on at each stage of the listenings? Will they use tables. Will they be making lists, will they want to use diagrams? They should be planning how they will actually structure their answer in the space provided.
This is vital. And I know it seems really obvious to “listen” in an Aural exam! However, I have watched students get easily distracted if it is a piece of music/style/genre they are more familiar with. Unfortunately, students can get sidetracked and will sit back and enjoy the music – and not actually start writing and answer the question until too late!
In the first listening, you might ask your students to just sit back and listen with their eyes closed and with complete focus on the music. You might want them to write down each instrument they hear as it enters the music. You might prefer for them to write down the basic structure of the piece. Whatever strategy you ask them to use, encourage them to do this with purpose.
Students need to clear their mind, and actively listen to the music. They should be making note of any musical technique/change that they can hear. Then they can start to write this information down.
I have a developed a series of Acronyms that I get my students to use with each concept. I like them to write this down at the top of the page near the listenings. This way, as they cross off each listening, they can cross off what part of the Acronym they have answered. This really helps them when they get stuck – they can refer to the acronym to help them concentrate on what they should be writing down in their answer. I you want more details on the Acronyms I use, check out the links in YouTube below. Please note, these videos are in the process of being updated with printable resources for both Teachers and Students! I have only updated the Duration concept so far. More will come in the next few weeks.
Links to past videos on YouTube. Here you will find heaps of videos to help you and you students! Check them out, they are FREE!!!
This is so important – WRITE! It never ceases to amaze me when a student gets their exam back, and complains that they didn’t get a good mark. I simply ask them – do you think you deserve one with only three things written on the page? I encourage my students to keep writing. The examiners are looking to give you marks – so give them something to mark!!! Keep writing, keep writing, and keep writing some more.
The last thing that students need to do is check their work. If they think they have finished writing, go back and read their own work – is there something they can add? Is there something there that is wrong – fix it. If you have time go back and add in more information and definitions, add more details. Check that you have actually answered the question in the right space! Check that your student details are correct, check over everything. If possible, keep adding to your exam until the very end!
So, there you have it. This is what my students are going to be hit with next lesson. If you have found this helpful I would love to know!
Until next time
Julia from Jooya.