The Listening Paper consists of 4 questions for Standard Level candidates and 5 questions Higher Level candidates, to be answered in 2 hours and 2 hours 30 minutes respectively. It is divided into section A and section B, with an additional section C for Higher Level candidates. All questions are worth 20 marks each. Candidates will have to bring in unmarked scores of the prescribed works, but will be provided with a CD with unidentified tracks.
Section A (Standard and Higher Level)
This section has recently been reformed for the May 2015 examination session. Candidates can take unmarked scores of the prescribed works into the examination room. No listening tracks will be provided. The first two questions are each based on one of the two prescribed works, and both the Standard and Higher Level candidates have a choice between the two. It was previously two compulsory questions on the two set pieces. The third question is one in which a comparison between the two prescribed works is required for higher level students only. As a result of this, standard level students can study only one of the set works, significantly increasing the knowledge base for one piece.
The prescribed works for the 2011 and 2012 examinations are "El Salón México" by Aaron Copland and "Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K.551 ("Jupiter")" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The prescribed works for the 2013 and 2014 examinations are "Yellow River Piano Concerto" by Yin Chengzong and Yu Wanghua (based on Xian Xinghai's "Yellow River Cantata") and "Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25 ("Classical Symphony")" by Sergei Prokofiev.
The prescribed works for the 2015 and 2016 examinations are "Petite Messe solennelle" by Gioachino Rossini and "An American in Paris" by George Gershwin.
The prescribed works for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 examinations are "Brandenburg Concerto, No. 2 in F Major(BMV 1047)" by Johann Sebastian Bach and "Dances of Galanta" by Zoltan Kodaly.
The prescribed works for the 2020 examinations are "Symphony No. 94 "Surprise"" by Franz Joseph Haydn and "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" by Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff.
Section B (Standard and Higher Level)
The four questions in this section are based on extracts on an accompanying CD provided during the examinations. These can be from any time period, genre or culture. Questions are usually along the following lines: 'Describe what you hear in this extract, relating to appropriate issues concerning musical, structural and contextual characteristics.' Standard Level candidates have a choice between question 3 and 4 (3 has a score with it and 4 does not), but must additionally answer questions 5 and 6 (based on jazz, pop and/or world music). Higher Level candidates must do the same but the question numbers with be 4 and 5, and 6 and 7 respectively.