All incoming graduate students must take the Theory Placement Exam (TPE) prior to their first semester of matriculation in the Departments of Music. The TPE is a written harmony exam (see list of potential topics below) administered via Blackboard, our online course management system at CUA. You need to have your CUA email set up to take the tests. If you are an incoming music grad student reading this and have not received information on taking online music grad placement tests, please contact Dept Chair Dr. Stephen Gorbos ( for more information.  

Starting fall 2020, all incoming transfer undergraduate music students will no longer take the TPE: transfer undergraduate music students should contact the music office. 

The purpose of the TPE is to determine the prior theory background of incoming graduate students. The theory-composition faculty determines the placement of each student according to their performance on the TPE. All placement decisions made by the theory-composition faculty are final.

The TPE is a two-hour examination that, starting in fall 2020, will now be given online. 

The TPE may be taken only once by new students, and may not be repeated.

Please note: Bachelor of Music graduates of the Departments of Music who enter a graduate music degree program must take the TPE. Continuing graduate students (for example, students who earned a master's degree from the Departments of Music and are beginning a doctorate) are not required to take the TPE.

The TPE is a written harmony exam which may include, but is not necessarily limited to, the following skills: 

  1. Identification of diatonic triads and seventh chords in root position and inversions, using Roman numeral/figured bass symbols: knowledge of popular (commercial) chord symbols may also be included
  2. Identification of cadences, phrases, and periods
  3. Identification of non-harmonic tones
  4. Writing of a part-writing example in S.A.T.B. chorale style, providing a Roman numeral analysis, either given a soprano and bass line and figure, short patterns, or progressions with only a bass line given
  5. Figured Bass Realization - Given a figured bass line (containing triads, seventh chords, altered chords, suspensions, etc.), the student writes the soprano, alto, and tenor parts using correct part-writing procedures and provides a Roman numeral analysis of the harmonies implied.
  6. Harmonic Analysis- Given an excerpt from a composition for piano, the student provides a Roman numeral analysis. The example may contain modulations, secondary dominants, altered chords, and/or nonfunctional harmony.Knowledge of extended tertian chords may also be included.
  7. Analysis of Form - Given a musical example (usually an excerpt from a work for piano), the student identifies a period within a work, indicating clearly the beginning and ending of the period, its constituent phrases, and the type of cadence that ends each phrase. The student names the form exhibited by example (a), and makes a diagram of the form, including measure numbers and thematic and key structure.
  8. The student makes a diagram of one or more of the following forms, as requested: (1) five-part classical rondo form, (2) seven-part classical rondo form, (3) classical sonata form