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Graduate Music Theory & History Entrance Requirements

Basic competence in music theory and history is a prerequisite for all graduate students in the NYU Steinhardt Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions. The music theory and history requirements outlined here apply to all students enrolling in Masters, PhD, DMA, or Advanced Certificate programs in the following areas: 

  • Instrumental Performance (Western Concert Music & Jazz)
  • Music Composition (Concert Music, Songwriting, and Screen Scoring)
  • Music Education
  • Music Technology
  • Piano Studies
  • Vocal Performance
  • Music Therapy

Music Theory Diagnostic Exam

Graduate students in music must complete a music theory diagnostic exam before registering for the first semester of coursework. DMA applicants are required to complete the exam as part of the application process, no later than the first week of December for Fall enrollment. Other students may take the exam at any point before registering for coursework. 

The diagnostic exam gauges students’  knowledge of written theory, aural theory, and sight-singing. Students who do not pass the exam (or portions thereof) will be required to complete a maximum of four points from the courses listed below, assigned in accordance with their results: 

  • Music Fundamentals (2 credits)

  • Graduate Review of Music Theory (1 credit)

  • Graduate Review of Aural Skills (1 credit)

Students applying to the Masters, PhD, or Advanced Certificate programs who have completed a music degree in the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at NYU Steinhardt within the last five years are exempt from the music theory and history entrance requirements. This exemption is granted based on 1) passing scores on prior MPAP music theory and history entrance exams, or 2) successful completion of prior remedial coursework required by former placement exam scores. All DMA applicants are required to take the exam regardless of prior degrees from the department.

The Music Theory Entrance Exam website includes information on how to access and submit the online exam, a detailed breakdown of the content included in each section, study materials, and directions for how to check results and register for remedial coursework. Questions about the exam may be directed to the Music Theory and History Program at

Music History Requirement

Students who have completed a minimum of two music history courses (equivalent to two 2-credit history courses at NYU) as part of their undergraduate or graduate degrees prior to arrival are exempt from supplemental coursework in music history. 

Evaluation of course equivalence will be completed by the student’s program of study based on student transcripts. History courses must have been completed within the last five years for Masters and Advanced Certificate programs and within the last 7 years for doctoral programs.  

Students missing this foundational coursework must complete up to two 2-credit music history courses offered through the Music and Performing Arts Department. Students should consult with their advisors on the most appropriate music history courses for their degree program. 

Additional Information

Courses taken to satisfy a proficiency requirement are supplemental to those required by any graduate degree program. Remedial courses cannot be used to meet degree requirements

Students should begin supplemental coursework in the first semester of study so as not to impede progress toward the degree. 

Questions about the music theory entrance exam or supplemental music theory or history requirements may be directed to the NYU Steinhardt Music Theory & History Program at