• International Music Navigator

The power of a checklist

Currently, my students are getting ready to turn in their draft for the Musical Links Investigation for the IBDP (May 2021) music course. Writing a musical analysis is already a challenge for some of my students, turning it into a media script of no more than 2000 words can be seen as an intimidating endeavour.



In addition to teaching the students in depth musical analysis, exposing them to a variety of music cultures and showing the examples of successful candidates in the past, breaking down the work into small sections (by assessment criteria) has been greatly appreciated by my students.


For each of the five areas, my students and I work out a checklist. We use the guide as a foundation as well as materials from IBDP courses. I cannot thank Mary Jo West enough for her excellent work in this regard.


E.g. Us of musical terminology and its appropriate use.

Here are a few items we discussed:

  • How many different musical terms are you actually using in the text?

  • Did you look up the correct definition of these terms?

  • Are you using the terminology correctly?

  • Are there any words in your text that could profit from changing a word (e.g. getting louder) to a musical term (crescendo).

  • Does the choice of the musical terms fit the chosen culture? (e.g. antiphonal vs call and response, ostinato vs riff)

  • etc.

Another example would be organisation and presentation

We broke it down into very specific items. Some of them were a real eye-opener for my students. (Here are just a few of many points)

  • Does the layout of your MLI look polished?

  • Are all musical examples of equal size?

  • Are pictures in focus and all placements are in line?

  • Did you check that ALL musical examples have a clef, a key signature, and proper bar lines?

  • Have you run a spell checker and did you correct the misspelled words?

  • Is the bibliography complete and uses an equal amount of resources for EACH culture?

  • Did you reference the recordings used?

  • Did you reference all pictures and all scores used? (This is a part of "bibliography" but a much needed reminder for my students. Some did not realize that!)

  • Are all diagrams, charts and notation examples accompanied with a caption describing where you found it (which piece, bar number) and what you are trying to show.

  • etc.

As a teacher, I am allowed to give feedback once - after the draft has been handed in. A comprehensive checklist helps the students to stay focussed and not feel overwhelmed with the completion of the task.


In the past, I have seen a significant rise in my student's grades due to the use of a checklist. I am looking forward to creating similar lists for the new curriculum (examination May 2022)