IB Music (HL and SL)

Course description

Music in the IB is a non-examined subject, meaning that all assessed work takes the form of three (SL) or four (HL) portfolios. It is an ideal scenario for a school like Wellington for several reasons:

  • It makes the link between curricular and non-curricular music
  • It enables students’ interests to be at the centre of the curriculum
  • It enables the timely completion of the course to allow preparation for examinations in other subjects

Music is a Group 6 subject, but for music award holders it can sometimes be part of an unusual subject combination to allow more flexibility. This can be advantageous  – particularly, for example, for Medics who can take SL Music and potentially finish the course early.

The course takes a bold look at preparing musicians for the future and intends to be inclusive, holistic in its development of the musical mind, and relevant to the 21st century learner by taking students’ personal musical identity as the starting point.

Throughout the course students take on three roles, as researcher,  creator, and performer. In these roles they inquire, create, perform and reflect on three musical processes:

Exploring music in context;

Experimenting with music;

Presenting music.

Students will explore a diverse range of music through four Areas of Inquiry:

Music for sociocultural and political expression;

Music for listening and performance;

Music for dramatic impact, movement or entertainment;

Music technology in the electronic and digital age.

Assessment Structure

ContentInternal / External AssessmentHLSL
Exploring music in context  
Students select samples of their work for a portfolio submission (maximum 2,400 words). The submission contains:
a. Exploring as a researcher
– written work demonstrating engagement with, and understanding of, diverse musical material from at least two areas of inquiry
b. Exploring as a creator and as a performer
– one practical creating exercise (score maximum 32 bars and/or audio 1 minute as appropriate to style)
– one performed adaptation of music from a local or global context for the student’s own instrument(maximum 2 minutes)
c. supporting audio reference material, (not assessed).
Experimenting with music  
Students submit an experimentation report with evidence of their musical processes in creating and performing focused through at least two areas of inquiry in a local and/or global context. The report provides a rationale and commentary for each process. Students submit:
a. Experimenting as a researcher
– a written experimentation report that supports the experimentation (maximum 1,500 words)
b. Experimenting as a creator and as a performer

Practical musical evidence of the experimentation process in the form of
– three related excerpts of creating (total maximum 5 minutes)
– three related excerpts of performing (total maximum 5 minutes)
Presenting music  
Students submit a collection of works demonstrating engagement with diverse musical material from four areas of inquiry. The submission contains:
a. Presenting as a researcher
– programme notes (maximum 600 words)
b. Presenting as a creator
– composition and/or improvisation (maximum 6 minutes)
c. Presenting as a performer
–    Solo and/or ensemble(maximum 12 minutes)
–   excerpts, where applicable (maximum 2minutes)
The contemporary music-maker (HL only)  
Students submit a continuous multimedia presentation documenting their real-life project. Students submit:
Multimedia presentation (maximum 15 minutes), evidencing:
a. the project proposal
b. the process and evaluation
c. the realized project, or curated selections of it.


An emphasis is made on independent research, critical thinking and acquisition of knowledge. Pupils taking this course will be avid listeners and for whom music is a passion as well as an academic course. Pupils should be prepared to analyse any piece of music and discuss its musical features. For the practical areas of the course pupils should be able to play an instrument to Grade 5/6 level and would look to attain Grade 7/8 standard by the Upper 6th form. Pupils should be able to read music and must have attained a 7 grade or higher in GCSE Music.

Potential careers

The course develops the following skills: communication, planning, independent research skills, knowledge acquisition, information technology, problem solving, performance and compositional techniques, confidence, working with others. Pupils learn a great deal about music and the music industry. Musicians go on to study at many courses in a wide variety of disciplines including, but not limited to, humanities, social sciences, music or performing arts at degree level including at Oxbridge and Conservatoire.

Contact for further information

Mr SA Farrell: saf@wellingtoncollege.org.uk (Head of Academic Music) or Mr SRJ Williamson (Director of Music and Arts)