Music Theory Placement Exam Information

All entering freshmen music majors must take the Music Theory Placement Exam. Students who receive a satisfactory score on the exam will be placed in MUS 1001 Music Theory I and MUS 1007 Aural Skills I or MUS 1003 Contemporary Musicianship (depending on degree program requirements). Music students who do not take the exam or receive an unsatisfactory score will be placed in MUS 0900 Elements of Music Theory, a remedial course that offers students the opportunity to attain the skills required to be successful in the music theory program.

The exam consists of 9 required sections of questions regarding written elements of music theory, followed by 3 optional sections of questions regarding music theory aptitude, student confidence, and standardized test scores.  The optional sections are for research purposes, while the required sections are used for music theory course placement.  The required sections assess knowledge in the following areas:

  • Rhythm Notation
  • Scales
  • Intervals
  • Triads
  • Key Signatures
  • Musical Pattern Completion

The online exam can be accessed here:

***If you have technical issues accessing or completing the test, please contact Dr. Greg McCandless in the Hayes School of Music at  or 828-262-7844.

If you have little or no music theory background, we recommend that you consult an introductory music text before taking the test. Appalachian currently uses the following textbooks:

For Music Education, Music Performance, and Music Therapy major tracks:

A Concise Introduction to Tonal Harmony by L. Poundie Burstein and Joseph Straus 

For the Music Industry Studies track:

The Craft of Contemporary Commercial Music by Greg McCandless and Daniel McIntyre

Contemporary Musicianship by Jennifer Snodgrass


The following websites may be useful for reviewing theory fundamentals and practicing aural skills:

Aural Skills


Students who have received a score of 4 or higher on the Music Theory Advanced Placement Test are not required to take the theory placement test. See ASU Admissions for details regarding acceptance of AP credit. Transfer students are placed on an individual basis, according to proficiency with music theory and aural skills.