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Music Theory Diagnostic Exam Study Topics

The following topics are covered on the Theory Diagnostic Exam. To assist in preparation, students may use a variety of study aids, including websites (,,, textbooks (Tonal Harmony by Kostka/Payne, Scales, Intervals, Keys, Traids, Rhythm, and Meter by Clough/Conley), and mobile apps.

Aural Skills

  • Identify time signature of a listening excerpt.
  • Distinguish ascending and descending listening excerpts.
  • Distinguish between major and minor mode.
  • Distinguish between melodic steps and leaps.
  • Melodic dictation of a mostly stepwise, major-mode melody.

Written Skills (necessary for MUS 120: Music Theory I)

  • Identify pitches on staff with treble or bass clefs.
  • Supply a time signature for a written excerpt
  • Provide rhythmic counts
  • Provide notation for basic rhythmic units: whole, half, quarter, eighth, and sixteenth note values.
  • Write major and minor scales and key signatures.

Intermediate and Advanced Written Skills (recommended only for students with extensive practice with music theory)

  • Intervals
  • Figured bass realization
  • Identify cadence types
  • Describe phrase structures
  • Resolve dominant seventh chords in four-part texture
  • Roman numeral analysis, including identification of embellishing tones

Undergraduate Music Theory Diagnostic Exam Registration Form