Graduate Division

Proficiency Examinations

All new graduate degree students 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 theory, music history and literature, and keyboard proficiencies. Students whose major field is not music performance must also satisfy a music performance proficiency requirement. 

Students who completed an undergraduate degree at the Jacobs School of Music in the current calendar year or in the three preceding calendar years are exempt from the Graduate Entrance Exams in music theory and music history and literature if they have received grades in corresponding courses as listed below:

  • T508 Written Music Theory Review for Graduate Students: B+ or higher in both T251 Music Theory and Literature III (or T261 Music Theory and Literature III) and T252 Music Theory and Literature IV (or T262 Music Theory and Literature IV). A grade of A or higher in both classes meets the “high pass” requirement.
  • T509 Sight-Singing Review for Graduate Students: A or higher in both T231 Musical Skills II and T232 Musical Skills III.
  • T511 Aural Music Theory Review for Graduate Students: B+ or higher in both T231 Musical Skills II and T232 Musical Skills III. A grade of A or higher in both classes meets the “high pass” requirement.
  • M501 Proseminar in Music History and Literature: B+ or higher in both M401 History and Literature of Music I and M402 History and Literature of Music II

A grade of A on Validation/Exemption exams for any undergraduate music theory course listed above will be considered equivalent to an A in the course for the purposes of exemption from the Graduate Entrance Exams.

Visiting students and students in diploma and certificate programs are not subject to these proficiency examinations.

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 proficiency courses as listed in the following sections.
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: MM in composition, computer music composition, conducting (choral and orchestral), and music theory; DM in composition, conducting (choral and orchestral); and PhD 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 C, or B for High Pass degrees).

Music History and Literature

This examination covers music history and literature from antiquity to the present (particularly the understanding of musical style) and skills in critical reading and musical research. Details are available at Students who do not pass the examination must enroll in MUS-M 501 Proseminar in Music History and Literature 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. Most students will take the examination on piano, coordinated by the secondary piano program. The collaborative piano, early music, guitar, harp, jazz, music theory, and organ departments administer their own exams on appropriate instruments.

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 whose proficiency examination is heard through the secondary piano program must play a keyboard placement hearing during the orientation period. Students who demonstrate a superior level of playing at this hearing will satisfy the proficiency requirement.

The keyboard proficiency requirement may also be satisfied by passing the examination at any of the times it is offered or by receiving a grade of B or higher in P715 Keyboard Review for Graduate Students. The option of P715 is not available to majors in collaborative piano, early music, guitar, harp, jazz, music theory, organ, piano, or MS Music Education students. To avoid a delay in degree completion, students who are beginning their last semester of coursework and have not yet satisfied the keyboard proficiency requirement are strongly advised to enroll in P715.

Keyboard proficiency examinations are normally offered in the latter part of each semester and in the summer term. Organ majors fulfill the keyboard proficiency by passing C504 Keyboard Skills Review and/or C510 Service Playing Review, if necessary. For details, see the secondary piano coordinator or the departmental chairpersons (for collaborative piano, early music, guitar, harp, jazz, 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 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 who successfully completed a senior or graduate recital as part of a Bachelor of Music or Master of Music degree in a performance area as defined below no more than three years prior to the date of matriculation will be considered to have met this requirement. 

For other students, 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. Students should consult the appropriate performance department chair for detailed information on the required level.

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.