Note: This post was edited on August 28, 2019 to fix/replace broken links.
Alternate title: acing those placement exams.
Congratulations! You made it past auditions, and now you get to be a fancy masters or doctoral student and live out all your fantasies of striding down the halls of the music building while wee undergrads swivel their heads in awe! Not so fast, though: there’s just one more hurdle to leap over. (As if those applications, pre-screenings, and auditions weren’t enough. But come on, if you wanted life to be easy, you wouldn’t be a musician.)
The theory and history placement exams nearly all incoming graduate students will have to take are just preliminary assessments to see where your theory/history level is at. So theoretically, you don’t have to study at all, particularly if (a) you’re a theory/history BAMF and could practically teach a class yourself, or (b) you’re happy to wither away, wasting hours of your life in remedial classes while your peers are practicing, performing, etc.
Neither of those options are for me! So, let’s study together! Yay! Here are some resources for your summer reviewing pleasure.
- A History of Western Music (7th edition) chapter outlines – Suuuuuuper useful and thorough. I went through these before practically every placement/entrance exam I’ve taken. (Edit 8/28/19: you now have to register to view these, so I would recommend this free resource for the 4th edition of A Concise History of Western Music.)
- BGSU music history exam study guide
- SFCM sample music history exam (scroll down for scores)
- University of Houston score ID practice exam
- Yale DMA/MMA sample extrance exam one and sample entrance exam two – these are probably more difficult than your average entrance exam, but it’s good to look at to get your brain working.
- USC theory and analysis sample exam and study suggestions
- IU sample theory exam
- KSU sample exam answer key – many placement exams will ask for Roman numeral analysis of Bach chorales and/or a portion of a Classical sonata movement, but this answer key is helpful if you’re reviewing Roman numeral analysis for more complex Romantic music. I suggest printing out the Chopin prelude (No. 20, page 37 in this IMSLP file) featured in the answer key and attempting your own analysis before examining the (albeit sometimes subjective) answer.
Musicianship (sight-singing and dictation):
- Teoria’s online exercises are an amazing resource for ear-training.
- Eyes and Ears by Benjamin Crowell is a free PDF with hundreds of pages of sight-singing exercises.