Proficiency Examinations

All new graduate degree students, including graduates of Indiana University, are required to take a number of examinations that serve as proficiency tests or prerequisites for entrance to certain graduate courses. These examinations include music history and literature, music theory, and keyboard proficiencies. Visiting students, as well as students in M.S. degrees (except M.S. in Music Education) and diploma programs, are not subject to these proficiency examinations. Students whose major field is not music performance also take a music performance proficiency examination.

Music Theory Entrance Proficiency and Music History and Literature Entrance Proficiency

The music theory and music history and literature proficiencies may be satisfied in the following ways:

  1. Students may take and pass the graduate entrance exams. Students must take the exams at the beginning of their first semester of enrollment; they may take them for a second time in their second semester. They may not take them again, nor may they take them after their second semester of enrollment. (Note that this includes summer terms in which students are enrolled.) Exams are ordinarily given in the week before classes begin each semester.
  2. Students may enroll in and pass the graduate review courses, as listed in the following section.
Music Theory

These examinations assume that each candidate has had at least two years of training in music theory at the undergraduate level. There are three examinations. The first examination covers written work and analysis, the second covers dictation and aural analysis, and the third covers sight singing. Details are available in the Music Theory Office and at

The following High Pass degrees have different standards for passing the examinations and the proficiency courses: M.M. in composition, computer music composition, conducting (choral and orchestral), and music theory; D.M. in composition, conducting (choral and orchestral); and Ph.D. in music theory.

The sight-singing exam is graded on a 5-point scale; a score of 4 or higher is required to pass. A grade of C or higher (B or higher for High Pass degrees) is required to pass the written theory and aural theory examinations.

Students who do not achieve a passing grade (or High Pass, where required) in their two permitted attempts, or who do not take the examinations, must complete the appropriate proficiency course(s): T508 Written Music Theory Review for Graduate Students (minimum grade C, or B for High Pass degrees), T509 Sight-Singing Review for Graduate Students (minimum grade C), and T511 Aural Music Theory Review for Graduate Students (minimum grade B for High Pass degrees, C for M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in musicology and for M.M. and D.M. degrees in wind conducting, D for all other degrees).

Music History and Literature

This examination covers music history and literature from antiquity to the present. Questions deal with historical fact, identification of literature, and style recognition. Details are available at Students who fail to meet minimum requirements on the examination are required to enroll in M541 Music History Review for Graduate Students I and/or M542 Music History Review for Graduate Students II and earn a grade of C or higher in the course.

Keyboard Proficiency Examination

All music graduate students, including those whose principal or proficiency instrument is piano, must pass a keyboard proficiency examination or its equivalent. M.S. candidates (except M.S. in Music Education) do not need to take the exam. Most students will take the examination on piano. Early music majors may take the examination on the harpsichord or lute, guitar majors on the guitar, organ majors on the organ, and harp majors on the harp. Jazz studies majors take a departmentally administered exam. A portion of the keyboard proficiency exam for music theory majors is administered by the department.

The keyboard proficiency requirement is designed to ensure the student’s ability to use the keyboard as a tool within the framework of professional activities, and the requirements vary according to level and area of music study. Entering students must play a keyboard placement hearing during the orientation period. Students who achieve a superior level at this hearing will satisfy the proficiency requirement. Keyboard proficiency examinations are normally offered in the latter part of each semester and in the summer term. For details, see the secondary piano coordinator or the departmental chairpersons (for early music, guitar, harp, jazz studies, music theory, and organ). Information is also available at

When keyboard proficiency requirements are identical for two degrees, a student seeking both degrees need not repeat the keyboard proficiency examination if it has been passed for one of the degrees within the time limits for each degree. Students who fail the keyboard proficiency examination may register, with the advice of the secondary piano coordinator or the chairperson, for appropriate courses to assist in developing the required skills.

Students who are candidates for music graduate degrees for areas other than performance and whose performance proficiency instrument (see “Music Performance Proficiency” below) is piano must also complete the keyboard proficiency requirement.

Music Performance Proficiency

All candidates for music graduate degrees in areas other than music performance (composition, conducting, music education, music theory, and musicology) are required to demonstrate a minimum level of music performance ability equivalent to the end of the second year for elective undergraduate students in that area. Students should consult the appropriate performance department chair for detailed information on the required level.

Proficiency may be demonstrated in any of three ways:

  1. in person before a faculty auditioning committee, one voting member of which shall at the student's request be a faculty member in the student’s major area;
  2. by completion of performance study as a graduate outside area or minor; or
  3. by two semesters of performance study as a graduate elective. The grade in each semester of performance study must be B or higher.

Option no. 1 (auditioning before a faculty committee) may be used only during the first two semesters of enrollment.

The performance area must ordinarily be one in which instruction is offered at the 700 (elective) level in the Jacobs School of Music. With the support of the departmental chair of their major area, students may petition the director of graduate studies to be allowed to demonstrate this proficiency in another performance area. If the petition is approved, the director of graduate studies will appoint an examination committee of three members of the Jacobs School of Music faculty qualified to judge the student’s performance, including at least one member of a performance department and one member of the student’s major area.

Academic Bulletins

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Previous Bulletins

Students are ordinarily subject to the curricular requirements outlined in the Bulletin in effect at the start of their current degree. See below for links to previous Bulletins.