All incoming undergraduate transfers, and graduate students must take the Theory Placement Exam (TPE) prior to their first semester of matriculation in the Departments of Music. The TPE is always offered on the Saturday before classes start in a given semester. Please contact the main music office for testing location and time prior to the start of a given semester. 

The purpose of the TPE is to determine the prior theory background of incoming students to determine their placement in the appropriate theory course. Depending upon the situation of the particular student, a variety of placement results is possible through the TPE: incoming undergraduate transfers may be placed anywhere within the undergraduate theory curriculum, and incoming graduate students may need to enroll in Graduate Harmony and/or Aural Skills Review. 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 consisting of two parts. Each part is one hour in duration. The TPE is given at specified times and dates: the examination time will be announced by the Departments of Music prior to each term. 

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.

Part I (one hour) of the TPE is an aural skills dictation examination, which may include, but is not necessarily limited to, the following skills:

  1. Intervals - Simple and/or compound melodic and/or harmonic intervals are played, ascending and descending. Given the first pitch (or bottom pitch, if a harmonic interval), the student writes the second pitch (if a melodic interval) or the top pitch (if a harmonic interval) and names the interval.
  2. Scales and Modes - Various types of scales (major, minor, whole tone, chromatic) and modes (Dorian, Phrygian, etc.) are played. In the case of minor scales, the scale must be further identified as natural, harmonic, or melodic.
  3. Chord Quality Identification - The following chord types are played: (a) Triads: major, minor, augmented, diminished; and (b) Seventh chords: M7, m7, Mm7, mM7, ½d7 (i.e., diminished triad plus minor 7th), and d7 (i.e., diminished triad plus diminished 7th). Chords may be played in inversions, and the student may be asked to identify the inversion of the triad or 7thchord played.
  4. 4. Melodic Dictation - A melody is played, which may contain a modulation or other types of chromaticism. Given some or all of the following - clef, starting pitch, key and meter signatures - the student writes correct pitches and rhythms.Melodies may modulate.Knowledge of treble, bass, alto and/or tenor clef may be expected.
  5. Error Detection - A correctly notated melody is played with errors which the student must identify.
  6. Rhythmic Dictation - A melody or rhythm is played, which the student must correctly dictate.Rhythms may be in simple or compound meter, and may include ties, syncopations, triplets or other tuplets, and be in asymmetrical meters.
  7. Harmonic Dictation - A short four-part chorale-style example is played, which may or may not contain a modulation, secondary dominants, and/or altered chords. Given the clefs, the key signature, the first soprano and bass pitches, the student writes the soprano and bass melodies and provides Roman numerals to indicate the harmonies implied.

Part II (one hour) of the TPE is a written harmony exam which may include, but is not necessarily limited to, the following skills:

  1. Writing and/or identification of pitches in the treble clef and bass clef, including ledger lines
  2. Writing and/or identification of major and minor key signatures in the treble clef and bass clef
  3. Writing of major and minor scales and modes in the treble clef and bass clef (NB: knowledge of alto and tenor clef may also be required)
  4. Writing of simple and compound intervals above and below given pitches
  5. Writing of triads (major, minor, augmented, diminished), given the root of the triad
  6. Writing of seventh chords (M7, Mm7, m7, ½d7, d7), given the root of the chord
  7. 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
  8. Identification of cadences, phrases, and periods
  9. Identification of non-harmonic tones
  10. 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
  11. 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.
  12. Scales and Modes - The student will be asked to demonstrate knowledge of scales (major, natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, chromatic, whole tone, octatonic, or other synthetic scales) and modes without a key signature, adding accidentals as necessary, through writing or identification
  13. 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.
  14. Analysis of Form
    a.) 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.

b.) The student names the form exhibited by example (a), and makes a diagram of the form, including measure numbers and thematic and key structure.

  1. c) 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