Diagnostic Examination

Diagnostic Examination Composition & Musicology

The Diagnostic Examination is administered to all entering students once a year during exam week at the end of the fall semester. This exam is intended to ascertain the entering student’s level of musicianship skills, and identify areas in need of practice. This information helps the faculty to prepare students adequately for careers in teaching and research. All students must take the entire exam once. Each portion of the exam will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis. Those students who fail any part of the exam will have the option to retake the failed sections the following year. Depending on the result, the student may be advised on a course of action that will remedy these weaknesses, e.g., in case of serious deficiencies, no-credit participation in an undergraduate course or private tutoring. Retakes are strongly encouraged but not mandatory.

The Diagnostic Exam consists of seven parts, described as follows (with suggested textbooks that you may wish to consult):


1. Realization at the keyboard of figured bass, recitatives, and jazz-standard lead sheets.

2. Scorereading at the keyboard; typical passages include the slow movements of string quartets and symphonies.

3. Singing; students are encouraged, but not required, to use solfège.

For parts 1, 2, and 3 (keyboard, score reading, and singing): At the beginning of the semester (semester 1), the student receives ten exercises for each category, to be prepared for the exam. During the exam, the student chooses one exercise from each category, the committee chooses one from each category, and the committee reserves the option to have the student sight read an exercise from each category.

4. Analysis of a common-practice tonal piece given to you one week in advance. (Consult chapters 8, 14, 15, 17, 19 in Stein, ed., Engaging Music; William Caplin, Classical Form; Burstein and Straus, A Concise Introduction to Tonal Music.) Students will discuss the piece with the members of the exam committee on the day of the exam. Topics to prepare for discussion include formal design, harmonic function and syntax, and dissonance treatment.  
5. Aural identification of intervals and chords; melodic and rhythmic dictation. The dictation portion is given the day of the exam.  

6. Harmonization of a simple melody (e.g., a chorale tune; consult Aldwell and Schachter, Harmony and Voice Leading; Salzer and Schachter, Counterpoint in Composition, Chapter 8). Students may check their work at the keyboard during the exam.


7. Identification and historical placement by prose commentary of 10 score and recording excerpts. Demonstrate your understanding of the piece in its historical context, based on discussion of style and other features of the score or recording. Include suggestions about the identity of the composer, the type of composition, and an approximate date. (Consult, for example, Fuller, The European Musical Heritage: 800-1750; Burkholder, Norton Anthology of Western Music; Morgan, Anthology of Twentieth Century Music, Martin and Waters, Jazz: The First 100 Years; Covach and Flory, What’s That Sound: An Introduction to Rock and Its History.)

For parts 6 and 7 (chorale harmonization and identification of score and recording excerpts): The melody and the ten excerpts are given the morning of the exam. The harmonized melody and the prose commentary on the excerpts are to be turned in to the DGSA by 5:00 pm on the day of the exam.




Diagnostic Examination Ethnomusicology

The Diagnostic Exam, administered during exam week at the end of the fall semester, consists of six parts:

  • For incoming students with majors other than music: a short proficient performance on any instrument in any style.
  • Identification of sounds of production (recording and processing) from recorded examples.
  • Aural identification of intervals and chords.
  • Sight singing at a level of difficulty expected in an advanced undergraduate class.
  • Identification and discussion of 8 out of 10 excerpts of “iconic” styles from around the world, by prose commentary, demonstrating an understanding of the style in its historical, geopolitical, social, or generic context, based on discussion of stylistic features of the track.
  • Transcription of a short piece given to the student in advance.

With the exception of those requirements above that are shared with other tracks, the examination will be administered by Ethnomusicology track faculty.