Diagnostic Examination

All entering students must take the Diagnostic Examination just before classes begin in the fall semester. The purpose of the exam is to identify any weaknesses in the student's knowledge of basic theory, repertory and musicianship and to prepare students adequately for careers in teaching and research. Passing the entire exam is required for the master's degree and for entry into the Ph.D. program. Students must pass the exam before taking the qualifying exam, which is normally taken at the beginning of the fourth semester.


The Diagnostic Exam will be offered at the beginning of each semester. Each portion of the exam will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis. You may pass one or more parts but be asked to re-take others. Once you pass a portion of the test, you will not be required to take it again.

All seven parts of the exam must be passed before the Qualifying Exam can be taken. Some of you will already be well prepared for the Diagnostic Exam and will find it quite elementary; others may want to do some preparatory work for the exam during the summer. 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.

Diagnostic Exam Parts

Exam Section

Suggested Study Reference

1. Harmonization of a simple melody (e.g., a chorale tune).

Students may check their work at the keyboard during the exam.

Aldwell and Schachter, Harmony and Voice Leading
2. Realization at the keyboard of either a relatively simple, short figured bass or a recitative, or of a jazz-standard lead sheet; example to be sung and played.
Five minutes of preparation time at the keyboard is permitted prior to performing before the examiners.
Aldwell and Schachter, Harmony and Voice Leading and Levine, The Jazz Theory Book.

3. Score reading at the keyboard; relatively easy passages will be selected, such as the slow movement of a string quartet or symphony.

Five minutes of preparation time at the keyboard is permitted prior to performing before the examiners.

Morris and Ferguson, Preparatory Exercises in Score Reading
4. Aural identification of intervals and chords, melodic and rhythmic dictation; composers may be asked to do more.  
5. Sight singing; students will be asked to sight sing at a level of difficulty expected in an advanced undergraduate class. Consult Ottman, Music for Sightsinging,  Chapter 13 forward.

6. Identification and historical placement of 10 score excerpts, by prose commentary.

Demonstrate your understanding of the piece in its historical context, based on discussion of style and other features of the score. Include suggestions about the identity of the composer, the type of composition, and an approximate date.

Fuller, The European Musical Heritage: 800-1750; Burkholder, Norton Anthology of Western Music; Morgan, Anthology of Twentieth Century Music, Martin and Wat
ers, Jazz: The First 100 Years

7. Analysis of a common-practice tonal piece given to you in advance.

Stein, ed., Engaging Music, chapters 8, 14, 15, 17, 19