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Department of Fine Arts » Music Program » Music Theory Placement Exam

Music Theory Placement Exam

Music Theory Placement Test for First-Year Music Majors

Exam date: TBD

All incoming first-year music majors are required to take a music theory placement exam. The theory placement exam allows students to place out of Introduction Music Theory (700:125) and into Music Theory I (700:225).

Upon admission to the college, students are asked to contact the Fine Arts Department to register for the placement exam at 856.225.6176.

Written Music Theory Placement Test

Our diagnostic examination checks students’ knowledge of musical fundamentals. All students who receive a high score on the test can test out of our basic music theory class (called “Introduction to Music Theory” 700:125). The Theory Placement Test consists of:

  • Pitches in treble and bass clefs 
  • Simple note and rest values (up to thirty-second notes/rests) 
  • Meters and time signatures (simple, e.g. 2/4, and compound, e.g., 6/8) 
  • All major scales and their key signatures 
  • All minor scales (in all three types: natural, harmonic and melodic) and minor key signatures 
  • The size and quality of all simple intervals (e.g., major thirds, augmented fourths) 
  • All types of triads (major, minor, augmented and diminished)

Prospective students are encouraged to review these skills before entering the program. Almost any basic harmony or music appreciation textbook will have introductory chapters that students may consult for preparation.

Here are some suggestions on how to prepare for the written music theory placement examt:

  1. Use on-line resources to study any of the above topics. Click here to view a list of on-line resources. 
  2. Buy a book on essential musicianship / introductory music theory, e.g. J. T. Kolosick / A. H. Simon: Explorations. A New Approach to Music Fundamentals (2nd edition; Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing, 1998), J. Clough / J. Conley / C. Boge: Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm, and Meter (3rd edition, New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), or William Duckworth: A Creative Approach to Music Fundamentals (with CD-ROM) 10th Edition, Wadsworth, 2007. The latter book (by Duckworth) is the one currently used in our Introduction to Music Theory course. However, in our Theory I through III courses, we are using the latest edition of S. Kostka / Dorothy Payne: Tonal Harmony (5th edition, Boston: McGraw Hill, 2004); all topics on the diagnostic test are also covered in chapters 1 through 4 of Tonal Harmony. 
  3. Hire a tutor. Any college-trained musician should be able to help you with essential musicianship.

Some additional suggestions for the study of music theory in general:

  1. If you are not playing piano already, start taking piano lessons, regardless of the instrument you are playing. Playing the piano supports the study of music theory; in addition, you can already work towards the piano proficiency which is required of all music majors at Rutgers-Camden. 
  2. If you are not a singer, start singing on a regular basis. You do not need to take voice lessons, but you should be able to sing in tune and match pitches. In Basic Musicianship classes, you train your abilities to sing at sight, etc. 
  3. In Basic Musicianship classes, you will also train your ear, especially with writing down what you hear. You can get a head-start by using some on-line resources for aural learning or by buying ear-training software. (The ear-training books & software we are currently using in our Aural Learning classes are Music For Sight Singing, 6th ed. by Robert W. Ottman, Studying Rhythm, 3rd ed. by Anne Carothers Hall, and Auralia Ear-training Software by Sibelius).

If you have questions about the music curriculum at Rutgers-Camden, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Joe Schiavo at schiavo@rutgers.edu .

Diagnostic Examination – Sample Exam (To view the exam, you’ll have to download a musical font plugin from Sibelius.com).
Diagnostic Examination – Answer Key