New Zealand Scholarship Music Consultation

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is consulting on a proposed change to the external assessment of New Zealand Scholarship Music.


NZ Scholarship Performance Standards are derived from the NZ Curriculum up to and including Level 8. The standards, which are not based directly on the Level 3 Achievement Standards, were assessed for the first time in 2013.

“Scholarship provides recognition and monetary reward to top students in their last year of schooling. Scholarship examinations enable candidates to be assessed against challenging standards, and are demanding for the most able candidates in each subject.

Scholarship candidates are expected to demonstrate high-level critical thinking, abstraction and generalisation, and to integrate, synthesise and apply knowledge, skills, understanding and ideas to complex situations.”  Scholarship » NZQA

The essential Scholarship skills are common across all Scholarship subjects and the largely generic Performance Standards reflect this, with identical Performance Descriptors. The Explanatory Notes to the standards contain definitions of words used in the generic descriptors where a subject-specific meaning is required. See the Music Scholarship Performance Standard.


Music is well established as a NZ Scholarship subject with clear criteria for assessment. The current requirements of the NZ Scholarship Music assessment (portfolio submission, including critical reflective analysis plus the 3-hour written examination) are particularly demanding when compared with other Scholarship subjects which are assessed either by portfolio/report or by external written examination, but not both.

In a subject with learning contexts as diverse as Music, setting a fair, valid, and accessible examination is challenging. The written examination restricts assessment to a sample of the multifaceted knowledge and skills of music students. The current NZ Scholarship Music written examination has a predominantly classical focus, further limiting opportunities for candidates.      

In response to ongoing concerns over some years, NZQA is seeking feedback on a proposal to use a portfolio submission in a format that encourages NZ Scholarship candidates to demonstrate both depth and breadth of musical knowledge.

Proposal for New Zealand Scholarship Music

  • Assessment will be by structured portfolio submission, to be marked externally by NZQA.
  • The current written external examination will be replaced by the portfolio.
  • The portfolio would be comprised of three components involving two music disciplines and a critical analysis.
  • Each of the three components would be weighted equally.
  • Suggested structure:
    • Performance or composition would make up the first component
    • The second component must be different from the first, and selected from performance, composition, or musicology
    • The third component would be a critical analysis of either performance or composition, or both. Note: musicology is not in this component.
      1st component 2nd component 3rd component
      performance musicology or composition critical analysis of either performance or composition or both
      composition musicology or performance

Consultation and Feedback

Please email your comments on the proposal to with Music Scholarship Consultation in the subject line by Friday 7 July 2017.

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