Greetings DP Music teachers!
During this post, I will be discussing critical thinking and the listening paper. The May 2013 Subject Report was released a few short weeks ago; the report provides examiner feedback and instructional suggestions. This report is available on the online curriculum centre (OCC). I will be basing my post on the section of the report that discusses section A – the prescribed works section.
ATL – Thinking skills & Communication Skills

May 2013 listening paper prescribed works:

Classical symphony – S. Prokofiev – retrieved on 31 October 2013 from

Yellow River Piano Concerto – Xinghai – retrieved on 31 October 2013 from

When discussing the listening paper I always share one of my favourite strategies for student preparation – having students design their own section A questions. I believe that if students are able to develop well-designed questions they will respond to the actual section A questions with elegant and deep thinking.

On approach to teaching this skill is to have students analyse exam questions from previous exams. Students could apply the old questions to different sections of the prescribed works. The first time this is attempted, one should select a very small section of the work (50-100 measures) for students to use when answering the question. Students would write a response based on the selected measures using an old question. The length of the response would depend on the amount of measures selected for use in the response. Regardless of the length, students should use the section A rubric to score their responses. Students could also grade the responses of other students. Responses could also be generated in advance by the teacher.

As students become more comfortable, students should begin selecting the measures used in the response and creating their own questions. Students would also continue to generate responses to their questions. The team who creates the listening papers vary the amount of measures used in a section A question. In past exams, students have been limited to a movement or a section of a movement. Students should be prepared to use the entire work or specific sections of a movement when designing and responding to questions.

Students need to have enough general knowledge of the piece to be able to employ their critical thinking skills when responding to the listening paper questions. A strong student response demands that students move past memorization and use analysis and synthesis (critical thinking) skills when responding to the questions.

Having students generate their own section A questions will provide opportunities for students to use and develop their critical thinking skills.