Music Theory Placement Exam and Study Guide

Theory Placement Test

Students will take a Music Theory Placement Exam at the time of their entrance audition. The exam is given to determine placement regarding the appropriate theory class for the student’s level of knowledge. Results from the exam are generally used for theory course placements only. When musical and academic indicators reveal questions of a student's preparation, the music theory score is considered as an additional indicator. The written music theory test will cover music fundamentals, including note identification, basic clef reading and notation, scale and interval construction/recognition, and musical terms. A sample test and theory worksheets are available in PDF format.

If a student places into Basic Musicianship, this course must be completed before Music Theory 1 can be taken. Since both courses are offered in the fall, this typically adds 1 year onto a student's coursework.

Here is a list of suggested music fundamentals textbooks to assist with preparation for the written theory test. These are just a few of the many textbooks that cover music fundamentals. Choose one that works best for you.

  • Elements of Music (second edition) by Joseph N. Straus. Published by Prentice Hall, 2008. ISBN 0-13-034341. To order call: (800) 223-1360
  • Fundamentals of Music (fourth edition) by Earl Henry. Published by Prentice Hall, 2004. ISBN 0-13-061904-3 (with CD). ISBN 0-13-3372-88-X (text only). To order call: (800) 223-1360
  • Musical Palette by Jamie Henke. Published by Atomic Dog, 2003. ISBN 1-59260-028-X.
  • Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm, and Meter (third edition) by John Clough and Joyce Conley. Published by W.W. Norton & Co., 1999. ISBN 0-393-95189-8. To order call: (800) 233-4830

Suggested theory fundamental course Web sites:

Music theory software available for purchase