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How to Get Top Marks in GCSE Dance

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

If you’re taking GCSE Dance then you are likely to be a passionate dancer - and perhaps it would be fair to say that you weren’t drawn to the course specifically for the Dance Appreciation component.

Dance crew in rehearsal

Your ability to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of choreographic processes and performing skills and to critically appreciate the work of yourself and of professional works is, however, worth a big slice of your overall grade. Thankfully, when you go in search of revision resources, it isn’t the same minefield as with other subjects as GCSE Dance is only offered by AQA and so there is zero risk of accidentally becoming an expert on the wrong professional dance piece!

That said, describing and writing critically about something as visual as dance takes practice. You’re being asked to think like a dancer, an audience member, a choreographer as well as taking the perspectives of the lighting, costume, sound and set designers. You need to understand the creative processes in developing a dance piece and how to take apart a performance to see how each piece told the story, created an atmosphere, and affected the audience’s response. If this all sounds a bit overwhelming then don’t panic - you can do this! And we have some handy tips below to help you on your way to getting your hands on full marks!

Know the Command Words for GCSE Dance

The spec says you need to “critically analyse, interpret and evaluate” both your own work and professional works from the Anthology. These words come up again and again so even if you feel confident you know what they mean, it doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re crystal clear.

Critically - when you are asked to write about something critically, it means you need to demonstrate your ideas and opinions are based upon knowledge and understanding. It means you've given deep consideration and come to conclusions and judgements which show how much you know about the piece you choreographed and the works included in the anthology.

Analyse - here you’re being asked to break it down into its constituent parts, for example, if you’re asked to explain how the choreographic content helps the audience’s understanding of the choreographic intent - you’re going to need to break down the choreographic content into smaller parts and examine each of them, such as actions, space, dynamics. Imagine you’ve been asked to analyse the big roast dinner you’ve just eaten. It’s not enough to say it was all very tasty! The examiner wants to know what was on your plate, how each vegetable tasted, smelled, what it looked like, what its texture was like?

Interpret - This means you’re being asked to find the meaning that is in the movement or the idea (the theme, the design choice - any element of the piece!). You’ve heard of an interpreter, right? Their job is to translate from one language into another. That’s your job in this exam - you need to interpret the language of dance (more on this below!) into written English for the examiner.

Evaluate - Remember when we were thinking about analysing something as breaking it down and examining each part? Well, we can think of evaluating as putting the pieces together again and concluding what we found. Let’s go back to the roast dinner example; in your analysis you looked at each item on your plate and how it tasted/smelled/looked/felt - using that evidence, you need to explain how that contributed to making it a really yummy meal.

Dance performance

Be Ready for Anything

The beauty of the AQA Dance specification is that you are given the knowledge, understanding and skills for performance and choreography and you can use any combination of those to answer questions in Section A, B and C. Firstly, make sure you know the definition of every one of the terms and can give at least one example. Flash cards are great for this, whether you like to make yourself hand-written ones to test yourself or you prefer using tools like Quizlet. Secondly, use a big piece of paper to create a grid with all six professional dance works in the anthology going across the top (these will be your columns), and all the different elements you could be asked about down the left hand side (these will be your rows). Filling in the squares with the relevant terminology and examples will be the ultimate revision activity and provide you with the best revision tool. Using the questions from mocks as a template, you can create for yourself all the combinations of questions that may come and write as many practice answers as possible. Be sure to look at the mark scheme to check you’re ticking those boxes for the examination.

There is only so much you can prepare for the unseen stimuli - but you can put together some broad ideas for choreography. You can create a selection of spider diagrams for things such as love/hatred, war/peace, injustice/equality and come up with some ideas of possible related choreographic intentions and ways to communicate them (mood, meaning, theme, style), ideas for groups and solos, appropriate aural settings, action, dynamic and spatial content, choreographic processes and choreographic and structuring devices.

Street dancer

Give a Lecture!

A great way to consolidate your revision for Sections B and C of the exam is to create a thorough presentation about your own choreographed piece and for each of the 6 professional pieces included in the anthology. You can get together with a group of classmates and split the workload, taking one or two pieces from the anthology each and sharing with the rest of the group. Revision activities generally focus on a lot of reading and writing so taking the role of “teacher”, verbalising your knowledge and hearing the ideas of others is a really effective way of clarifying your thoughts. It’s widely regarded as a top revision strategy!

If you still find you need some expert guidance in elevating your GCSE Dance grade, you might be surprised to know Titanium Tutors even have Dance tutors ready to extend a hand, partner up and help you execute your examination to the best of your ability (Dance terminology: if you know, you know, am I right?)

Contact us here for more information, and check out our blog for more handy hints to maximise your marks in your GCSEs this year! We wish you every success!


Blog Post Crafted by Jenny

Jenny is a Deputy Company Manager, co-managing our Admin Team.

She studied Theatre Studies at Rose Bruford College and got a First Class BA Hons from University of Manchester, before going on to teach Drama in schools.

She loves chilli con carne and a cup of tea, but not together, and is quite confident she could beat you at scrabble.


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