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Tips on how to make the grades

Three subject teachers assess new pupil guides to Standard grade and Higher examinations

How to Pass Standard Grade Music; by Joe McGowan book with CD pound;9.99

How to Pass Higher Physics; by Hugh McGill pound;8.99

How to Pass Standard Grade Physics; by Campbell White pound;7.99

How to Pass Standard Grade French; by Douglas Angus book with CD pound;9.99; Hodder Gibson;

Many parents will have made the obligatory trudge to the book shop to pick up the relevant past exam papers for their child. For many years these have been available in most subjects except music. Copyright issues and the time it takes to write music practice questions have meant pupils only have limited access to good revision materials.

At last music students have a Standard grade textbook giving detailed knowledge of the exam requirements, with some great music excerpts on the accompanying CD.

In How to Pass Standard Grade Music, Joe McGowan speaks directly to the student throughout. It is therefore ideal as part of an individualised study plan or for home revision.

The book is written in plain and simple language and looks at each of the main areas of musical activity: listening, inventing and performing.

It has four types of revision exercises: 10-minute testers, practice exercises, buddy study (where the students try to come up with new questions for their peer group) and CD-based exercises and examples. There is also a useful reference section, a glossary and some good internet sources.

The first two chapters revise the listening concepts necessary for the written music listening paper. The tracks selected are varied and well chosen but the CD neither gives a voice introduction with the number of the question, nor repeats a track if the same music is needed in a follow-up question. This will slow pupils' progress. Constantly having to operate the CD player, sometimes up to three times in succession to replay a track, becomes slightly annoying.

Chapter two provides sample listening papers at all levels. These are particularly useful for home study and provide a wide variety of practice-paper materials.

The invention section covers three activities through a series of fun workshops and inventing exercises. It also puts into practice many of the musical concepts necessary for the listening exam. The topics cover composing a song, composing an instrumental piece and improvising.

There are useful tips throughout the chapter. Some of the materials provide a good source of reference for those going to study beyond Standard grade.

The exemplar music used for the section on composing an instrumental piece (track 76) sounds contrived and not particularly inspirational. However, it is straightforward and clearly set out.

The performing section seeks to give general advice on good practice habits. It also includes hints and tips on coping with the practical exam.

With a competitive price of pound;9.99, this is an excellent extra resource for anyone studying Standard grade music.

Aileen Monaghan is principal teacher music at King's Park Secondary, Glasgow

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