Validation/Exemption Exams may be taken only once, and only if you’ve never registered for the corresponding course in a previous semester. They are typically offered the Thursday and Friday prior to the start of each fall and spring semester. The exams will not be administered at any other times besides those officially scheduled (see Exam Schedule below). In summer, exams are administered only for the courses offered during that summer session.
The Department of Music Theory offers validation/exemption exams (“V/E exams”) in the core undergraduate music theory courses listed below. These exams are intended for students who come to the Jacobs School of Music already in possession of some substantial knowledge of music theory and mastery of aural skills, usually as a result of having taken comparable courses at other institutions. The exams provide a way for these students to demonstrate their mastery of the material, thereby being exempted from the requirement of having to take the courses. In some cases students may also receive course credit by passing the exam; questions about credit should be directed to the Music Undergraduate Office.
A student may take the V/E exam for any course only once. Students who have previously taken any V/E exam or who have been enrolled in the course in question beyond the first week of classes in any previous semester, are not eligible to take the exam.
See below for further information about the V/E exam in each course. Note that some of the exams are in multiple parts (written and listening components for written theory and literature courses; dictation, sight-singing hearings, and keyboard hearings for aural skills courses). In general, a composite grade of 72.5%, corresponding to a grade of C, is required to pass each exam. A composite grade of 92.5% or higher will pass with a grade of A.
In some courses, as noted in the descriptions, in addition to passing the V/E exam, students must complete an additional assignment, such as a short composition or an analytical paper, in order to be exempted from the course. In such cases the student will receive a grade of “Conditional Pass” on the exam. The Conditional Pass will convert to “Pass” if the additional assignment is completed satisfactorily within the allotted time. If it is not, the Conditional Pass will convert to a failing grade on the exam, and the student will be required to take the course in a later semester. If a student registers for a subsequent class (for which the class being validated is a prerequisite), the student must complete all Conditional Pass requirements by Monday of the third week of the semester in order to remain registered.
Validation for a course cannot be given unless the student has also completed all prerequisites for that course (either by taking the prerequisite courses or by passing the corresponding V/E exams). If a student passes the V/E exam for a course without having completed all the prerequisites, the exam grade will be recorded as Conditional Pass until the prerequisites have been completed. In particular:
- As a prerequisite for T151 Music Theory and Literature I, students must complete either Music Fundamentals Online or T109 Rudiments of Music (more details here). A student who passes the V/E exam for T151 without having completed either MFO or T109 will be given a Conditional Pass for T151.
- T151 Music Theory and Literature I is a prerequisite for T132 Musical Skills I, and therefore for all subsequent aural skills classes. A student who passes the V/E exam for any aural skills class without having completed T151 will be given a Conditional Pass for the aural skills class.
Follow this link for information about Music Fundamentals at IU.
Aural skills courses
T132: Musical Skills I
T132 is the first aural skills course at IU; it covers diatonic pitch materials, and the validation/exemption exam involves both a written portion and a hearing.
The V/E exam includes identification of ascending, descending and harmonic intervals within an octave, and sonorities in inversion including major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads as well as major-minor seventh chords. Root-position fully-diminished and half-diminished seventh chords are also tested. Students are asked to complete several dictation examples, including a pitch pattern, rhythm, melody, harmonic progression, and two simultaneous melodies (two-part counterpoint). Simple and compound meters are covered, as well as different forms of minor scales including harmonic and melodic. Harmonies are all diatonic; in harmonic progressions, students are asked to notate the soprano and bass voices in a four-voice texture and provide a Roman-numeral harmonic analysis.
Students scoring at least 72.5 percent on the written portion of the exam are eligible to complete a hearing with the instructor. This hearing involves both sight-singing and keyboard skills. Students should be able to sing a harmonic or melodic minor scale, read a rhythm at sight (syncopation and ties are minimal), and sight read a diatonic melody in alto or tenor clef. Individual keyboard sonorities given the root and inversion will be tested, as well as reading a straightforward diatonic harmonic progression (from Roman numerals only) with proper voice leading. The written and hearing grades are averaged, and a minimum grade of 72.5% is required to validate T132.
Students who wish to practice for this exam are encouraged to obtain a copy of the course packet from university bookstores; the Unit 4 exercises represent the highest level of difficulty that might be encountered on the V/E exam.
T231: Musical Skills II
T231 continues to develop skills with diatonic pitch materials and expands upon them by introducing chromaticism in the context of applied chords and modulation to closely related keys. The validation/exemption exam covers all of the content studied in this course as described below.
T231 builds on the sonorities learned in T132 by adding new types of seventh chords and their inversions: minor-minor and major-major seventh chords are added to the previously covered major-minor (“dominant”), half-diminished, and fully-diminished seventh chords. All seventh chords are studied in various inversions. Melodic, two-part, and harmonic dictations are designed to test familiarity with these essential harmonic concepts. Students sing and dictate melodies and chord progressions involving secondary dominants, secondary diminished seventh chords, and chromatic non-chord tones.
The rhythmic content of the course includes increasingly complex rhythms in simple and compound meters, eventually including various regular and irregular subdivisions of the beat (duplets, triplets, quintuplets, etc.). Rhythm is emphasized through singing, performance, and rhythmic dictation exercises.
The course also includes a keyboard component, in which students reinforce their knowledge of the above materials by learning to play them at the keyboard. Students play given chord progressions in four voices, in addition to composing their own progressions. Short three-chord progressions involving secondary dominants and diminished-sevenths are expanded and combined into longer tonal progressions, eventually including simple modulations. In the V/E exam hearing, students are given modulating progressions written out in Roman numerals, which they are to realize in four parts at the keyboard.
As the course emphasizes in equal parts the hearing and singing of these tonal materials, the V/E exam includes both a dictation portion and an individual hearing that tests sight-singing and keyboard skills. The dictation portion includes melodic, two-part, harmonic, and rhythmic dictations testing the skills mentioned above. Students who earn at least 72.5% on the dictation portion are eligible for the hearing, which includes performance at sight of course-appropriate melodies, rhythms, and keyboard progressions. To prepare for the hearing, students may find it helpful to practice exercises from chapters 6–10 of Rhythm Reading by Daniel Kazez and chapters 11–16 of Music for Sight Singing (9th ed.) by Nancy Rogers and Robert Ottman. The dictation and hearing grades are averaged, and a minimum grade of 72.5% is required to validate T231.
T232: Musical Skills III
The focus in T232 is on skills involving chromatic harmony. The validation/exemption exam has two parts: dictation and a hearing.
The dictation portion includes identification of intervals (up to a M14), sonorities (seventh chords and extended tertian chords), and modes (e.g., Dorian). It also involves writing down the notes and rhythms of short passages played on the piano. These exercises include pitch patterns, melodic dictation, harmonic dictation, modulating dictation, and rhythmic dictation. The pitch patterns may be tonal, or may include juxtapositions of functionally unrelated triads. The melodic, two-part, and harmonic dictations may include explicit or implied secondary dominant and seventh chords, Neapolitans, augmented sixth chords, extended tertian chords, and mode mixture. For modulating dictations, students will need to write the bass line and identify the new key and the type of modulation. Possible modulation types include modulation to a closely related key by common pivot chord, modulation to a key a half step away by enharmonic reinterpretation of V7 and Ger+6, and chromatic mediant modulation. Rhythmic dictation may include ties, syncopation, polyrhythms, and asymmetrical meters.
Students who earn higher than 72.5% on the written portion of the V/E exam will be eligible to complete a hearing to perform singing, rhythmic, and keyboard exercises. Sight-singing may include chromaticism and modulation. Rhythm reading may include polyrhythms, syncopation, asymmetrical meters, and two independent voices. Keyboard skills may include playing chord progressions from Roman numerals or figured bass realization, with a focus on secondary chords, Neapolitan, augmented sixth chords, extended tertian chords, and mode mixture. Correct voice leading is expected. Assessment of skills will be based on fluency, accuracy, and the ability to keep a steady tempo. Students may find it helpful to practice exercises from chapters 11-16 of Rhythm Reading by Daniel Kazez, and chapters 14-20 of Music for Sight Singing (7th ed.) by Robert Ottman and Nancy Rogers.
Familiarity with treble, bass, alto, and tenor clefs is expected for both the written and hearing portions of the exam. The written and hearing grades are averaged, and a minimum grade of 72.5% is required to validate T232.
T331: Musical Skills IV
T331 deals with musical skills in the context of music since 1900. The validation/exemption exam for T331 has two components: an aural exam and a hearing. The pitch materials that students should expect to encounter include extended tertian, quartal, and quintal sonorities; well-known sonorities (Tristan, Elektra, Petrushka, and Prometheus); modal, pentatonic, whole-tone, octatonic, acoustic, and augmented scale patterns; trichords and all-interval tetrachords; melodic transformations (transposition, inversion, retrograde, and retrograde inversion); and melodies without a specific tonal center. The exam involves both contextual and acontextual identification of these elements. Rhythmic materials include polyrhythms; non-traditional beat divisions; changing meters; metric modulation; and asymmetrical meters (e.g. 5/4, 7/8). The exam includes melodic and rhythmic dictations as well as error-detection exercises.
The aural exam takes about 60 minutes. Students who pass the aural exam are eligible to take a hearing in order to complete their exemption from T331. The hearing involves sight-singing melodies and performing rhythms that involve the concepts detailed above, as well as performing these elements acontextually (singing various scales/collections, trichords, melodic transformations, etc).
The T331 course packet summarizes all of the topics above in greater detail and provides examples of exercises one might encounter while taking the course. This packet is available at university bookstores.
Written theory and literature courses
T151: Music Theory and Literature I
The validation/exemption exam for T151 is a 90-minute exam focusing on diatonic harmony. The exam includes brief part-writing exercises (to be completed in four voices, observing principles of good voice leading) as well as short musical excerpts for analysis and other short theoretical questions. Students will be required to write and/or identify common diatonic triads and seventh chords, identifying root, quality, inversion, Roman numeral, and/or harmonic function as appropriate. Students should be also be able to write and/or identify the common types of six-four chords, cadences, and non-chord tones. The analytical portions could also include questions about rhythmic/metric structure, basic phrase structure, and melodic/motivic structure in the given excerpts. There may also be questions about more fundamental concepts such as scales, intervals, key signatures, and spelling of triads and seventh chords.
T151 covers approximately the first 14 chapters of the textbook The Complete Musician, 3rd edition, by Steven G. Laitz, or the first eight chapters of Graduate Review of Tonal Theory by Steven G. Laitz and Christopher Bartlette. Students preparing to take the exam may find it useful to review relevant chapters from either textbook.
T152: Music Theory and Literature II
The T152 validation/exemption exam is 90 minutes long. It assumes all the concepts covered in T151, and extends them further to include chromatic harmony. Central topics include tonicization (the use of secondary or applied chords), modulation, modal mixture (“borrowed” chords), Neapolitan harmony, and augmented sixth chords. In addition, T152 covers topics such as phrase construction (cadence types, period construction), small forms (e.g., binary form), and harmonic sequences. On the exam, students will be expected to demonstrate knowledge of these concepts through (a) fluent four-part writing, which might include harmonizing a melody or realizing a bass (figured or unfigured); and (b) the analysis of short musical excerpts. A central component of this analytical enterprise is harmonic or “Roman numeral” analysis.
T152 covers approximately chapters 15–24 of the textbook The Complete Musician, 3rd edition, by Steven Laitz, or Chapters 9–14 of Graduate Review of Tonal Theory by Steven G. Laitz and Christopher Bartlette. Students preparing to take the exam may find it useful to review relevant chapters from either textbook. (Laitz’s terminology, especially with respect to sequences, can be idiosyncratic; the exam does not insist on adherence to the terms or notations of any particular text.)
T251: Music Theory and Literature III
The validation/exemption exam for T251 includes both listening and written components, covering music from the very early Baroque through the Classical period, approximately the years 1600-1800. The listening exam consists of a few excerpts about which students could be asked general stylistic questions (possible composer, approximate date), and possibly questions about genre, form, and other technical aspects of the style. The questions are designed so that students with a good grasp of the music of the full breadth of these periods should be able to answer them even if they are not familiar with the specific excerpts.
The written part of the exam will provide some scores from which more detailed analytical questions are posed; these questions ask about harmony and counterpoint as well as larger formal prototypes in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music. Finally, students will also be expected to complete various part-writing exercises such as the realization of a figured bass and modulatory harmonizations. Portions of texts such as The Complete Musician, 2nd edition, by Steven Laitz and Harmony in Context by Miguel A. Roig-Francolí cover some of this material well and might be useful to students preparing for this exam.
The listening and written exams together take about 90 minutes. To exempt T251, a student must earn a Conditional Pass on the exam and complete one additional requirement, a compositional assignment, usually a two-part invention in the style of J.S. Bach, to be completed during the semester in which the exam is taken. Students who pass the exam will receive additional information about the composition assignment.
T252: Music Theory and Literature IV
The validation/exemption exam for T252 includes both listening and written components, covering music written in the “Romantic era,” roughly the years 1800-1910. The pieces in the Beethoven-to Debussy portion of Charles Burkhart’s Anthology for Musical Analysis are representative of the period, and students preparing for the exam might find it helpful to review them, although familiarity with any specific pieces is not assumed.
The listening exam consists of a few excerpts about which students could be asked general stylistic questions (possible composer, approximate date), and possibly questions about instrumentation, texture, genre, form, etc. The questions are designed so that students with a good general grasp of the music of this period should be able to answer them even if they are not familiar with the specific excerpts. Part of the written exam is similar, but based on written score excerpts rather than on recorded excerpts. This format allows for more detailed analytical questions such as harmonic analysis, as well as possible score-reading questions (involving transposing instruments, for example). The written exam also includes a list of representative pieces (for example, Winterreise) and asks students to identify the composer (Schubert), genre (song cycle), and approximate date (from a multiple-choice list; e.g., 1820-1840) for about half of them-so students can pick the ones they know, but they must know some. Finally, there are some theoretical exercises, involving some part-writing with chromatic harmony and possibly modulations.
Theoretical topics potentially covered in the T252 exam include chromatic harmony; mode mixture and “borrowed chords”; chromatic key relationships; uses of diminished seventh, augmented sixth, and Neapolitan chords (including some less common types such as common-tone diminished sevenths and unusual inversions); nonfunctional linear progressions; extended tertian and added-note chords; tonal structure and organization; formal designs; motivic development; rhythmic devices; and considerations of orchestration, texture, and text setting. The more advanced portions of texts such as The Complete Musician, 2nd edition, by Steven Laitz and Harmony in Context by Miguel A. Roig-Francolí cover much of this material well and might be useful to students preparing for this exam.
The listening and written exams together take about 90 minutes. To exempt T252, a student must earn a Conditional Pass on the exam and complete one additional requirement, a written analysis paper to be completed during the semester in which the exam is taken. Students who pass the exam will receive additional information about the paper assignment.
T351: Music Theory and Literature V
V/E exams are not offered in T351, as students very rarely attempt to exempt this course. Students who wish to do so are expected to provide evidence of previous work in analysis of twentieth-century music, and to complete one or more additional assignments, a process that is likely to require several weeks to complete. This process may not be attempted by a student who is simultaneously enrolled in T351, or who has been enrolled in T351 in any previous semester. Interested students should contact the department chair for further information.
The Spring 2023 Validation/Exemption Exams will be offered in-person. The exams may be taken only once, and only if you’ve never registered for the corresponding course in a previous semester. In addition to the times listed in the schedule below, please see the additional opportunity for testing out of Aural Skills (T132, T231, T232, and T331).
Exams will take place in MC036 in the Musical Arts Center, unless otherwise noted.
All dates/times follow U.S. Eastern Standard Time.
Thursday, January 5
- 8:00-9:00 AM — T132*
- 9:00-10:00 AM — T231*
- 10:00-11:00 AM — T232*
- 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM — T331*
- 2:00-3:30 PM — T151
- 3:30-5:00 PM — T152
* There will be additional individual sight-singing and keyboard hearings on Friday for those who pass the dictation exam. You will be notified by email of your exam result and (if appropriate) the details for your hearing.
Friday, January 6
- 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM — Hearings for aural skills V/E exams (scheduled individually, instructor will confirm time and location)
- 2:00-3:30 PM — T251
- 3:30-5:00 PM — T252
Alternate Method for Aural Skills
As an alternative to taking the V/E exams, this section describes another method for validating aural skills classes (T132, T231, T232, T331).
- A student may validate any of the four aural skills classes listed above by passing the comprehensive exam for that class at the end of any fall or spring semester (typically the semester preceding the semester in which the student might otherwise take the class or the validation/exemption exam).
- To sign up for a comprehensive exam, write to the current instructor of the class to be validated. Your request must be submitted no later than the beginning of week 14 of the semester. Be sure that you obtain written confirmation from the instructor that you are authorized to take the exam, and verify the time and place of the exam.
- The comprehensive exam must be taken at the time offered by the instructor. No additional exam times will be offered because of this policy. If you are unavailable at the designated time, you should instead take the validation/exemption exam at the beginning of the following semester. If you wish to validate more than one aural skills class through comprehensive exams, and if those exams conflict, you should take the comprehensive exam for the lower-numbered class, and then take the validation exam for the higher-numbered class at the beginning of the following semester.
- You must bring a photo ID to the exam. No exceptions will be made for students who forget to bring proper identification.
- Validation requires a hearing component in addition to the written exam. If you pass the written exam, you will be contacted by the instructor to schedule the hearing.
- You may take any form of a validation exam only once. If you take the comprehensive exam and do not receive the minimum grade required for validation, you may not take a validation/exemption exam for the same course in any subsequent semester.
- This option is not available during the summer session.