Graduate Entrance Evaluation

Graduate Entrance Placement Evaluations

All entering graduate students must take the Graduate Entrance Evaluation, which measures the incoming student’s knowledge of music theory and history at an undergraduate level. The goal of the evaluation is to ensure that all entering students can demonstrate prior achievement of baccalaureate-level competence in undergraduate music history and theory, thereby indicating readiness to undertake graduate studies. The evaluation is an important assessment tool that enables the faculty to help you succeed in your graduate work at SJSU.

Students who pass all sections of the evaluation will be granted “Graduate Classified” standing, and are considered ready for all graduate-level seminars.

Students who fail sections of the evaluation will be required to take coursework to address their deficiencies. Students will remain at “Conditionally Classified” status, and may not take graduate-level seminars beyond Music 200 until finishing their remediation.

Students who fail all parts of the evaluation may not be admitted to the program.

Music History Examination

All students are required to take all sections of the Music History Entrance Evaluation. The examination is three hours long and evaluates knowledge in the following three broad historical areas:

  • The Middle Ages and Renaissance
  • Baroque and Classical eras
  • Romantic and Modern periods

Each section consists of 25 multiple-choice questions, and a choice of two essay prompts. The multiple choice questions test your knowledge of basic facts, while the essay questions are designed to let you demonstrate your broader knowledge and synthesis of music history. You will be expected to know composers’ names, important dates, significant compositions, the kinds of pieces written during each period, different styles, genre, and forms of music, influences, and other pertinent topics.

Music History Review Materials [pdf]

Music Systems/Theory Evaluation

Please email Dr. Gordon Haramaki, the Music Graduate Coordinator, for more information about completing the Music Theory Entrance Evaluation.

The Music Theory Entrance Evaluation consists of Dictation and Written Analysis and is 3 hours long, and consists of the following areas:

Section I: Dictation (1 hour)

Accurately notate music performed at the piano by exam proctor:

  • Isolated chords (SATB, with bass given)
  • Tonal melodies (with chromatic alterations)
  • Modal melodies (diatonic)
  • Tonal duets (with chromatic alterations)
  • Tonal SATB harmony (four voices plus complete harmonic analysis)

Section II: Written Analysis (2 hours)

Part 1: Harmonic Analysis

Analyze score excerpts:

  • Tonal (Roman numerals, inversions, nonharmonic tones, cadences)
  • Modal (identify diatonic mode, cadence areas, and relevant techniques such as planing)
  • 12-tone serial analysis (with matrix provided)

Depending on the concentration of your master’s degree, the following theory areas are also evaluated.

Area Form and Analysis Orchestration Counterpoint





Instrumental Performance

Jazz Studies

Piano Performance


Vocal Performance

Part 2: Form and Analysis

Analyze large-scale form on score examples provided:

  • Identify historical period
  • Identify overall formal plan, citing supporting evidence
  • Identify primary sections (formal divisions [A B A’], key areas, major cadences)

Part 3: Instrumentation and Orchestration

  • Identify ranges and transpositions of standard orchestral instruments and choral voices
  • Define standard score expressions and terms
  • Transpose excerpt from score into concert pitch

Part 4: Counterpoint

Complete score example (choose one of two provided):

  • 16th-century modal canon phrase with cadence
  • 18th-century imitative trio sonata phrase with cadence

Music Theory Review Materials [pdf]