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Doctoral Entrance Examination

Doctoral Entrance Examinations are required for DMA in Performance, PhD in Music, and PhD in Music Education only. Examinations are to be taken over a period of two consecutive days and may not be split between different administration dates. The exam schedule can be found here.

Doctoral students must take these examinations prior to or during the first semester of doctoral matriculation. To maintain registration, all entrance examinations must be passed by the completion of 24 credits toward the degree. Students will not be permitted to register beyond the second semester until the examinations have been passed.

Doctoral students in Performance, Composition, and Music Education take the following written examinations: Harmony (1 hour), Counterpoint (2 hours), Form and Analysis (2 hours), and Music History (2 hours).

Music Therapy majors take examinations in Functional Music and Writing Proficiency. Music Therapy students must also present evidence of previous studies in music history and theory. Music Therapy students should contact Dr. Darlene Brooks for further information.

Additional Requirements

DMA Performance Majors must take an additional 2-hour examination in the literature and pedagogy of their instrument (Major Field Exam). By arrangement with the department chair, they must also perform a one-hour diagnostic admission recital before a faculty jury at the conclusion of the first term of study. This recital consists of a full program and may include the performance of a new composition, selected by the department and given to the student 48 hours before the recital.

PhD Music Education Majors will be asked to demonstrate performance proficiency on their primary instrument as well as basic keyboard and vocal skills. Music Education majors should refer to the online Graduate Bulletin for further details.

DMA Composition Majors must take an additional 2-hour examination in analysis/score reduction, and history/stylistic analysis (Major Field Exam). They must also pass a performance examination and/or a skill evaluation in electronic/computer synthesis. Composition majors should refer to the online Graduate Bulletin for further details.

Harmony Examination

This is a one-hour examination. You will be given a melody and be asked to harmonize it in four-voice chorale style and to figure out the harmonies. Chromatic and altered chords may be necessary where the melody suggests.

Major Field Examination

This is a two-hour examination covering topics in your major field within the doctoral program. You should consult the music section of the Graduate School Bulletin and also check with your department chair for  any review sheets that may be available to study.

Counterpoint Examination

This is a two-hour examination.

Part I: Fugal Exposition (writing)

You are given the bass voice of a fugal exposition in 3 voices. Complete the other 2 voices of the exposition, leading to a cadence. Be careful in choosing a Tonal or a Real answer.

Part II: Contrapuntal Techniques (analysis)

State or summarize the contrapuntal technique(s) present in four excerpts.

Part III: Canon (writing)

Complete the lower voice of a two-part canon, continuing the pattern set by that voice. (The top voice and first measure of the lower voice are given)

Recommended text to review for exam: Kent Kennan's Counterpoint, especially chapters:

  • 3-6 (2-voice writing)
  • 8 (canon and special devices)
  • 9 (invertible counterpoint)
  • 10 (motivic development)
  • 11 (3-voice writing)
  • 13 (writing answers/tonal vs. real)
  • 15 (fugal expositions)


Music History Examination

Part I: Essays on composers (30 minutes)

General survey of their musical styles and contributions, with references to specific works. Major composers from Palestrina to Stravinsky.

Part II: Three essays on musical styles and genres (50 minutes) 

From the middle ages to the Contemporary period.

1.  Describe the characteristics of specific styles, such as classic.
2. Discuss a style within a period, such as expressionism.
3. Discuss a specific genre, such as 17th century opera, 19th century keyboard music and 16th century sacred music.

Part III: Short Answers (20 minutes) 

Definitions or descriptions of six musical forms, terms or instruments. Examples:

1.   Musica ficta
2.  Medieval motet
3.  Baroque keyboard suite
4.  Viola da gamba
5.  Dodecaphony

Part IV: Identification for ten of the following (10 minutes) 

Name the composer of a specific work or the author of a famous treatise. Though many of the works are more obscure than those normally selected for this part of the test, the index in Grout’s A History of Western Music can be helpful.

1.  “Haffner” Symphony
2.  Ionisation
3.  Gradus ad Parnassum

Form and Analysis Examination

You will be provided with the full score of a work that is complete in itself (e.g. overture) or a movement of a work (e.g. symphony, concerto). This work will be chosen from the symphonic literature of the 18th and 19th centuries, specifically Haydn through Brahms. Recommended works for study include the “London” symphonies of Haydn, the last six symphonies and piano concerti of Mozart, Mozart overtures, the Beethoven piano concertos, the first five Beethoven symphonies, and the fifth and eighth symphonies of Schubert. Along with a full score, you will be given a series of questions about the work to answer on the material provided (i.e. the score and the answer sheet). You will have two hours to study the work and answer the questions.

After studying the work you are given, you will be asked to identify the overall form (e.g. binary, ternary, sonata-allegro, rondo, sonata-rondo, variations) and answer particular questions about aspects of the form. For example, you should be able to name particular parts of the form (e.g. rondo, theme, exposition, development, transition, variation #1, etc.) and answer specific questions such as:

1.  What keys and tonalities occur in the development section?
2.  How many distinct sections can be perceived in the development section, and what melodic material(s) from the exposition is used, and in what way(s)?
3.  Where are there transitions in this form?
4.  What differences occur between the exposition and recapitulation in this particular piece?
5.  What is the form of the rondo theme itself?
6.  How is the theme treated in the first two variations of the form?

You should be prepared to present your answers in as succinct a format as possible. Often a diagrammatic presentation is the clearest, most direct way to answer. For example, the overall form of a work (with its supporting keys) could be shown as follows:

Ternary form:

Meas. 1-36
C Major

Meas. 37-55
G Major, E minor, A minor

A with coda
Meas. 55-100
C Major

Other important information (the form of the A section, particular parts of the B section) could even be arranged beneath each area should they be requested.

You will also be expected to analyze a given section of music harmonically, measure by measure, i.e. to indicate the key(s) and the chords (in Roman numerals with figured bass symbols). This question is most likely to be asked about a section in which the harmony is in flux (transition, development, etc).

Recommended Study Texts

Fontaine, Paul Basic Formal Structures in Music (1967)
An uncomplicated, direct presentation of basic phrase structures and forms (Binary, Ternary, Sonata, Allegro, Rondo, Variations, etc). Will be available in most libraries.

Green, Douglas Form in Tonal Music (1965)
A more detailed study of the common formal structures in music; works well as a follow-up to the Fontaine. Will be available in most libraries.

Computer Materials

You may find it helpful to investigate the following CD-ROM materials in the listening library.

  • Schubert: The “Trout” Quintet
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 9