Placement & Qualifying Exams

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All new students in Classical, Orchestral Performance, and Jazz programs are required to take placement exams.

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 deficiency courses and/or required courses by excelling in these exams.  Placing out of a course will allow greater flexibility in their coursework.
  • 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.

Undergraduate students

  • 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 deficiency classes.

Graduate students

  • 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 requirements at Manhattan School of Music.  These courses do not count toward the cumulative credit needed to graduate with the master’s degree.

Piano and non-piano majors

  • 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.

Current and returning students

  • Current and returning students should review the catalog for additional information on courses available for qualifying exams and associated fees.  Students should also review the qualifying exam schedule available in the student portal under Exam Information.



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