Music - Graduate - Music Theory & Aural Skills Examination

Music Theory and Aural Skills Examination

A theory and aural skills examination, which will be given on the day of the interview, is intended to evaluate your knowledge of basic undergraduate theory and aural skills. These skills are deemed important for any practicing musician, and represent the basic skills learned in any accredited music program found nationally. While this examination is primarily a placement examination, a low score could influence the decision about the applicant’s acceptance.

The theory exam will presume the ability to handle tasks such as these:

  •  Spelling chords, chromatic or diatonic, in any standard clef including the C clefs.

  •  Part-writing in four voice choral style from a figured bass.  This also includes the ability to read a figured bass.

  •  Basic skills in harmonic analysis and elements of form. 


The aural skills exam will presume the ability to handle the following:

  • Interval dictation, i.e., pitches played as a series, which have no diatonic connection with one another.  A typical example would be a hexachord played in a slow tempo in half-note or quarter-note rhythm.

  • Melodic dictation of examples of usually four measures in length. This would be primarily diatonic with the potential for some decorative or functional chromaticism. 

  • Harmonic dictation--as a progression is played, you need to be able to notate the soprano and bass lines and provide Roman numeral functions with inversion symbols. These progressions may include chromatic harmony.

In preparing for these exams, and that preparation is highly recommended, one may use any standard harmony text, such as Tonal Harmony by Stefan Kostka and Dorothy Payne, which reads easily, and also the practice of solfeggio to sharpen aural acuity of a tonal sort. For dictation practice, additionally, one may use a source such as MacGamut. 

Any inquiries may be directed to Dr. Brian Kershner,