Placement and Qualifying Exams

Placement Exams

All new students in the Classical, Orchestral Performance and Jazz programs are required to take placement tests during new student orientation.  Placement examinations are used to determine the level of each student’s abilities in music history, music theory, aural skills and other subjects related to specific majors.  A new student can place out of remedial courses and/or required courses by excelling in these exams.  Placing out of a course will allow greater flexibility in his/her coursework.  Poor performance on these tests can extend study and/or require more credits to graduate. 

Classical and Orchestral Program Students

The theory curriculum at the school stresses the interdependence of theoretical skills and performance.  Based on this premise, placement examinations determine that student’s levels of skill in harmony, counterpoint, form and analysis, dictation, and sight-singing.  These examinations are to be taken only once. 

Based on the results of the placement exams, undergraduate students who do not meet college-level standards at Manhattan School of Music may be placed in remedial classes.

For graduate students whose placement exams indicate some deficiencies but a reasonable knowledge of undergraduate theory and aural skills, the department offers various courses which complete the these requirements at Manhattan School of Music.  These courses do not count toward the cumulative credit needed to graduate with the master’s degree.

The Music History placement examinations are designed to allow the student to show a basic understanding of the historic styles and traditions of Western art music.  The test covers the period from Gregorian chant until the present.  These exams may be taken more than once.

All Piano majors take a keyboard skills exam, which includes sight-reading at the keyboard.  Non-piano majors are required to take a piano exam which includes reading at sight and the demonstration of the following skills: major and minor scales, chord progressions, triads and inversions, harmonization, transposition, and sight-reading.

The English Language Placement Examination is administered during orientation to all students for whom English is not their first language. The only exceptions are doctoral students.

Jazz Program Students

All new Jazz department students are required to take placement exams which measure a student's ability in Theory, Ear-Training, Jazz Music History, and Jazz Piano Skills.  Additionally, all Jazz students take a placement exam in Improvisation.

Deficiency Courses

Students are required to complete all deficiency (remedial) courses successfully before registering for classes prescribed in their course sequence plans. Deficiency courses become part of a student’s degree or diploma program. They may not be used to fulfill requirements (with the exception of JC2201-2202, TH2882 and MH1001-1004). The length of a degree or diploma program may be extended for students who are required to take deficiency courses. Students required to take English Language courses should be aware that this will cause their program to be extended for one additional year or more.

Qualifying Examinations

If a current student is already capable of meeting the requirements for a particular course after having taken the placement exams, he or she may demonstrate this proficiency through a qualifying examination. Qualifying examinations are offered in Aural Skills, Keyboard Skills (Piano, Organ, and Accompanying majors only), Music History, Required Piano (non-keyboard and non-guitar majors only), Sight-Singing, and Theory. With the exception of Theory and Aural Skills exams, a student may take a qualifying exam more than once.  Applications for these examinations are available in the Office of the Registrar, or from the student website. A fee is charged for Aural Skills, Sight-Singing, Theory, Required Piano, and Keyboard Skills examinations.