Music Theory Testing

At the Sunderman Conservatory of Music we offer extensive training in music theory and musicianship. We highly encourage entering students to take advantage of the period between their acceptance and enrollment to improve their musicianship skills and broaden their music theory knowledge as much as possible.

Most students have already taken the Music Theory placement exam on the day of their on-campus audition and will not need to take any further action in order to register for Music Theory I.

If you have not yet taken the placement exam, or if you have been asked to re-take all of or a portion of this exam, you will do so on Thursday afternoon, August 22, beginning at 3:00 p.m. in Schmucker Hall, Rm. 215.

A successful performance on both the written and aural skills portions of the exam are required in order to enroll in Music Theory I. For students not ready to enroll in Music Theory I, we offer a Theory Fundamentals course to help you prepare for the music theory sequence.

Entering students with a significant theory background who are interested in bypassing the first and second semesters of music theory will have the opportunity to take another placement exam at this time. While you may have gained a great deal of experience in AP Music Theory, your credits from that exam will not transfer. If you plan to take this second placement exam and attempt to bypass Music Theory 1 and 2, contact Dr. William O’Hara at

The regular music theory placement test will assess your ability to:

  1. Quickly name pitches on the staff in both treble and bass clef.
  2. Write given notes on a staff and match those pitches to the same pitches on a keyboard.
  3. Determine the meter (time signature) of a musical excerpt.
  4. Beam rhythms correctly in order to display common meters (2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8).
  5. Add bar lines given a meter signature in order to display a common meter.
  6. Identify and write major key signatures in treble and bass clef.
  7. Match a pitch that is played on the piano with your voice.
  8. Perform a short rhythmic excerpt from sight.
  9. Sing a short melody from sight after establishing the starting pitch on the keyboard.

Here are a few practice problems:

Regarding meter and beaming:

Beam together notes in order to best display the meter indicated.

Music Theory 1

Music Theory 2


Music Theory 3

Music Theory 4

Provide the best possible meter signature for the following unmetered passages.

Music Theory 5

Answer: 6/8

Music Theory 5

Answer: 4/4

Resources for Summer Theory Study

An excellent resource for your preparation is the textbook, Elements of Music by Joseph Strauss available as ebook on Amazon.

You can access the following online tutorials to help you:

Eastman School of Music eTheory: Music Fundamentals in 4 weeks (Note: this is an online course that teaches Music Theory fundamentals and is not a free resource.)

To improve skills reading bass or treble clef:

To improve identifying keys based on key signature:

Keyboard harmony is a major component of theory studies. If you do not have a background in piano or keyboard instruments, we encourage you to work with a piano instructor over the summer.