College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Department of Music and Performing Arts

MPA Theory Placement Exam

The MPA theory sequence spans four classes:

MPA 100: Introduction to Music

MPA 101: Musicianship and Theory I

MPA 102: Musicianship and Theory II

MPA 103: Musicianship and Theory III

All majors must complete MPA 101 and 102 to graduate, and students without substantial previous theory experience begin with MPA 100. Students, especially those in the Contemporary Music concentration, are encouraged to take 103 to expand their theory knowledge and musicianship skills.

Students intending to enter the theory sequence at a level above MPA 100 must take a theory placement exam. The results of this exam direct students to the appropriate level in the sequence. It is a diagnostic tool and not an assignment that factors into the course grade.

The exam will be given on the first day of class in all theory courses. In the Fall Semester, students are encouraged to begin the semester enrolled in MPA 100 to take the placement exam. In the Spring Semester, students should enroll initially in MPA 101. The results will be shared with students by the end of the first week of classes to allow students to change their enrollments accordingly.

In the exam -- which will include short answer/notation, tonal analysis, and listening tasks -- students must demonstrate fluency up to and including a particular course’s skills to gain a recommendation to place out that course. The placement test will assess skills across the entire theory sequence in order of ascending difficulty, and only students who expect to place into MPA103 should be able to complete the entire exam.

Expectations for each level of theory are below:

MPA 100

  • Written Skills:
    • notation of pitch and rhythm
    • simple and compound meters
    • intervals
    • key signatures
    • diatonic major and minor scales
    • diatonic triads with elemental harmonization of a melody
    • introduction to the dominant 7th chord
    • basic phrase and cadence structure (authentic, half, deceptive)
  • Melodic and Harmonic Aural Skills:
    • all major and minor diatonic intervals
    • melodic dictation using scalar, diatonic materials
  • Rhythmic Aural Skills:
    • rhythmic dictation in simple and compound meters

MPA 101

  • Written Skills:
    • figured bass theory and realization in 4 parts
    • Roman numeral and chord function theory
    • complete cadential formulae and period phrase structure
    • non-harmonic tones
    • four-part chorale writing principles
  • Melodic and Harmonic Aural Skills:
    • major and minor melodies including leaps within the primary triads
    • common melodic patterns (arpeggios, passing tones, neighbors, etc.)
    • simple phrase structure within simple melodic forms
    • tendency tones and hearing melodies within a harmonic context
    • identification and singing of intervals through the octave
    • identification of triad and V7th-chord qualities and inversions
    • harmonic progressions with primary chords with inversions
  • Rhythmic Aural Skills:
    • variety of simple and compound meter signatures and tempos (common signatures)
    • common rhythmic patterns using division of the beat
    • common dotted patterns within the division of the beat

MPA 102

  • Written Skills:
    • two-voice contrapuntal principles
    • non-dominant 7th chords
    • secondary/applied chords
    • modulation (closely-related keys, foreign keys; pivot [common chord] and alternate techniques)
    • small forms: binary and ternary
  • Melodic and Harmonic Aural Skills:
    • major and minor keys including leaps within all diatonic triads and the V7
    • expanded phrase structure within simple melodic forms
    • common diatonic chord progressions with inversions
  • Rhythmic Aural Skills:
    • common rhythmic patterns using the subdivision of the beat
    • common dotted patterns up to the subdivision of the beat
    • triplets at the division level

MPA 103

  • Written Skills:
    • overview of larger forms
    • borrowed chords/modal mixture
    • Neapolitan and augmented-sixth chords chromatic mediants
    • 9th, 11th, and 13th chords
    • altered chords: cto7, sub 6 V, V+
  • Melodic and Harmonic Aural Skills:
    • melodic chromaticism
    • secondary/applied chords
    • modulation to closely related keys
    • all inversions possible
  • Rhythmic Aural Skills:
    • triplets at the subdivision and beat level
    • duplets and quartolets at the beat level in compound meter
    • more advanced syncopation, including at the subdivision level