Music Theory Placement Exam Information

Who should take the exam?

All entering freshman music majors must take the Music Theory Placement Exam. This exam only determines placement into the theory curriculum and is not a deciding factor on admission into the Hayes School of Music, but assists with placement in the appropriate courses and sections.

Students who received a score of 4 or higher on the Music Theory AP Test are not required to take the Music Theory Placement Exam. See Appalachian State's 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 as indicated in a meeting with the Theory Coordinator (

When should the exam be taken?

All students must take the Music Theory Placement Exam as a part of the audition process on the same day they audition. Rooms and computers will be provided for students to take the exam. Students are encouraged to bring their own computer for the exam.

Music majors who fail to take the placement exam will be enrolled in Elements of Music Theory (MUS 1000). MUS 1000 must be successfully completed before enrollment in Music Theory 1 (MUS 1001) and Aural Skills 1 (MUS 1005) or Contemporary Musicianship (MUS 1003) during a subsequent semester.

Take the exam

About the exam

The exam consists of 9 required sections of questions regarding written elements of music theory that assesses knowledge in the following areas:

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

This placement exam was originally developed by researchers at Florida State University and has been used to optimize theory placement exams nationwide. It contains both standard music theory questions and non-standard pattern recognition questions, all of which have been shown to identify aptitudes in core theory coursework.

Since Music Theory is a major component of every degree in the Hayes School of Music, placement in the correct theory section is critical to your success as a student. Our Hayes School of Music Associate Professor of Music (Music Theory/Composition) Dr. Greg McCandless collaborated with the original researchers at Florida State University to create this test for you. It is designed to measure your aptitude as well as your knowledge of music theory.

How to prepare for the exam?

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

For Music Education, Music Performance, and Music Therapy majors:
Musician's Guide to Theory and Analysis 4th edition by Jane Piper Clendinning and Elizabeth West Marvin

For the Music Industry Studies majors:
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


Additional Information

Please contact the Theory Coordinator, Dr. Andy Hannon if you have any questions, would like additional information, or would like to discuss testing accommodations before taking the exam.