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Theory and Piano Placement

All entering undergraduate music majors must take the Theory Placement and Piano Placement exams prior to initial enrollment (all music minors must take the Theory exam only). The Theory Placement exam may be taken only once. The results of this exam will determine whether the entering student will begin the theory sequence in any of the lower-division courses or in the upper division. More information on the various test levels is below.

Upcoming Tests

The next dates for the Theory and Piano Placement exams will be June 13, July 18, July 22, and August 20, 2019. Meet times are typically 1:00 p.m. in Capistrano Hall 223; signs will be posted in the building for any location changes. The tests conclude by 6pm.

Sign Up For A Test Date

Music Theory/Musicianship I

Students who pass this exam will be placed in MUSC 11A, Theory I and MUSC 12A, Musicianship I. This placement exam includes a written and an aural component. Students must pass both components to enroll in the course. Students who do not pass the exam will be placed in MUSC 4, Elements of Music.

Students who pass the written portion of the exam will have demonstrated that they can:

  • Identify the names of notes written on the treble and bass staves
  • Write notes on the treble and bass staves given a note name (e.g., write an F-sharp on the bass staff)
  • Notate rhythms in various meter signatures
  • Identify and spell major and minor key signatures
  • Write major and minor (harmonic, melodic, and natural) scales on a staff
  • Spell and identify triads on a staff

Students who pass the aural portion of the exam will have demonstrated that they can:

  • Identify the meter of pieces by ear
  • Notate by ear the rhythms of simple-meter melodies (e.g., write down the rhythm of a melody) with divisions (e.g., a melody in 3/4 meter containing eighth notes)
  • Echo short melodies vocally (e.g., sing back the melody they hear) while clapping the beat

Sample Level I Theory Test

Sample Level I Aural Test

Music Theory/Musicianship II

Students who pass this exam will be placed in MUSC 11B, Theory II and MUSC 12B, Musicianship II. Students who do not pass the exam will be placed in either MUSC 11A/12A (Theory/Musicianship I) or MUSC 4 (Elements of Music).

Students who pass this written portion of this exam will have demonstrated that they can:

  • Identify the specific interval between two notes on a staff
  • Write the note a specific interval above or below a given note on a staff
  • Identify triads and seventh chords by their root, quality, and figures (e.g., Ao65)
  • Write triads and seventh chords on a staff, given a root, quality, and figures
  • Write chords given a lead sheet symbol (e.g., Amb9/C)
  • Write chords given a Roman numeral and a key
  • Identify chords by writing a Roman numeral given a chord and a key
  • Write a passing tone, neighbor tone, or suspension above two bass notes

Students who pass the aural portion of the exam will have demonstrated that they can:

  • Write down melodies by ear. The melodies may be in major or minor mode, treble or bass clef, simple or compound meter, and with subdivisions of the beat. Students will be given a tonic note and the denominator of a meter signaure. They must provide a key signature and complete the meter signature
  • Write down by ear a simple, two-part passage of music in the style of a tonal counterpoint exercise. The bass line will be in quarter notes and the treble line will be in eighth notes
  • Sing at sight rhythms in simple or compound meter with subdivisions and/or triplets or duplets
  • Sing at sight diatonic melodies emphasizing tonic and dominant harmonies and including dotted figures and subdivisions of the beat

Sample Level II Written Test

Sample Level II Aural Test

Music Theory/Musicianship III

Students who pass this exam will be placed in MUSC 11C, Theory III and MUSC 12C, Musicianship III. Students who do not pass the exam will be placed in either MUSC 11B/12B (Theory/Musicianship II) or MUSC 11A/12A (Theory/Musicianship I).

Students who pass this written portion of this exam will have demonstrated that they can:

  • Analyze a score from the perspective of harmony (diatonic chords and secondary dominants), counterpoint (dissonance and sequence types), motives, cadences, and form (phrase types, phrase pairs, and small forms)
  • Compose chorales with diatonic harmonies, secondary dominants, harmonic prolongations, and appropriate dissonances
  • Use basic Schenkerian techniques to reduce passages or pieces to their underlying structures

Students who pass the aural portion of the exam will have demonstrated that they can:

  • Write down melodies by ear. The melodies may be in: major, minor, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, or Aeolian mode; treble, alto, or bass clef; and simple, compound, or mixed meter. Students will be given a tonic note and the denominator of a meter signaure. They must provide a key signature and complete the meter signature
  • Write down duets by ear. The music may be in major or minor mode, treble and/or bass clef, simple or compound meter, and with subdivisions of the beat. Students will be given a tonic note and the denominator of a meter signaure. They must provide a key signature and complete the meter signature
  • Write down the outer voices of homophonic chorales with chromatic pitches and harmonies
  • Sing at sight chromatic and modal melodies in a variety of changing and mixed meters
  • Improvise melodies over a given chord progression
  • Improvise the consequent phrase of a parallel period

Sample Level III Written Test


Sample Level III Aural Test

Upper Division Test

Students who pass this exam will be placed into the upper-division sequence. The upper-division placement exam includes a written and an aural component. Students must pass both components to place into the upper division. Students who do not pass the exam will be placed in one or two lower-division courses.

Students who pass the upper-division placement exam will have demonstrated that they can:

  • Analyze a score from the perspective of harmony (chromatic, Neapolitan, and augmented-sixth chords), counterpoint (dissonance and sequence types), motives, cadences, key areas (the piece may modulate), and form (phrase types, phrase pairs, and small forms)
  • Compose modulating chorales with chromatic, Neapolitan, and augmented-sixth harmonies
  • Write down chromatic and modulating melodies by ear. The melodies may be in treble, alto, tenor, or bass clef; and simple, compound, or mixed meter. Students will be given a tonic note and the denominator of a meter signaure. They must provide a key signature and complete the meter signature
  • Write down duets by ear. The music may be in major or minor mode, treble and/or bass clef, simple or compound meter, and with subdivisions of the beat. Students will be given a tonic note and the denominator of a meter signaure. They must provide a key signature and complete the meter signature
  • Write down the outer voices of modulating homophonic chorales with chromatic pitches and harmonies
  • Sing at sight chromatic and modal melodies in a variety of changing and mixed meters
Sample Upper Division Test

Piano Placement Information

In addition to the Theory Placement Exam, all entering undergraduate music majors must take a Piano Placement Exam. Both exams are offered together on the same day and time. You will be placed in a class piano level based on a careful assessment of your current ability level. 

In your placement evaluation we will assess your current knowledge of and ability to do the following:
  • Major and minor scales
  • Chord progressions
  • Melodic transposition
  • Sight reading

If you wish, you may prepare a piece of your choice. Students who pass the exit exam for 14D will not be required to take class piano. If you find that you have an unavoidable conflict with your assigned class time, it is your responsibility to discuss this conflict with your teacher within the first week of classes. If, within the first 3 weeks of class, you feel that you have been placed in an inappropriate level, please feel free to discuss this with your teacher

All music majors must continue to enroll in class piano until the 14D exit exam has been passed. (or 14C for BA students)