Skip to main content

Search NYU Steinhardt

NYU Steinhardt Musicians

Graduate Theory and History Placement Exam Information

Basic competence in music history and theory is a prerequisite for all graduate degree programs in music. Entering graduate students are required to take advisory exams in both areas prior to arrival; placements will be determined by interpreting the exam results in light of a student's educational background and the degree program for which she or he is enrolled. Remedial courses cannot be used to meet degree requirements within any of the graduate programs. It is the responsibility of the student to see that deficiencies are remedied swiftly so as not to impede their progress toward the degree.

About the Advisory Exams:

Who must take them?

Graduate Music Theory and History Placement Exams are required for all music graduate students enrolling in PhD or Advanced Certificate programs in the following areas:

  • Instrumental Performance (Classical) & Instrumental Performance (Jazz)
  • Music Composition (Concert Music) & Music Composition (Songwriting)
  • Music Education
  • Music Technology
  • Music Therapy
  • Piano Studies

Students enrolling in the following graduate programs are required to take the Music Theory Placement exam, but are exempt from the Music History Exam:

  • Music Composition (Screen Scoring)
  • Vocal Performance

Any students who have completed a previous music degree (undergraduate or graduate) within our department in the last five years are exempt from both exams.

When are they given?

Students are generally required to take both exams prior to their first semester of study. Postponement of the history exam by one semester will be granted and is recommended for all international students who have not yet passed their English Proficiency Test. Other postponements may be granted in extraordinary circumstances by the Theory Director upon the recommendation of a student's Program Director. The theory and history exams are administered online and available year-round.

What is the format and content of the exams?

In music theory and aural skills, students must demonstrate mastery of fundamentals as well as proficiency in part writing, directed analysis of tonal music, and various kinds of dictation (melodic, rhythmic, harmonic). In music history, students must demonstrate knowledge of the major historical periods, styles, composers and genres throughout the history of Western art music as well as a familiarity with the broad spectrum of music in the twentieth (and twenty-first) century.

More Information:

Detailed information about how to access the exam, prepare and study, and check exam results is available on the NYU Music Theory Placement Exam website. To access the site, please log in with your NYU email address and click the link above.

If you have any questions please contact the NYU Steinhardt Music Theory Program at