Music Theory Placement Exam Information

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.

*Students who have received a score of 4 or higher on the Music Theory Advanced Placement Test are not required to take the Music Theory Placement Exam. 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 as indicated in a meeting with the Theory Coordinator.

All students should take the Music Theory Placement Exam on the same day they audition. Those auditioning in-person will take the exam as part of the audition day process. Rooms will be provided where students will be able to take the exam. Those auditioning virtually will need to take the exam before the end of the day they audition. Please contact the Theory Coordinator for any questions related to taking the placement exam.

 Students who do not earn a satisfactory score on the placement exam will be enrolled into MUS 1000 (Elements of Music Theory), which must be successfully completed prior to enrollment in MUS 1001/1005 or MUS 1003 during a subsequent semester.

The Music Theory Placement Exam: 

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:

Musician's Guide to Theory and Analysis 4th edition by Jane Piper Clendinning and Elizabeth West Marvin

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