Diagnostic Exams

Diagnostic examinations in music theory and music history are required of all incoming graduate students, except those who received a Master’s degree from the LSU School of Music within the preceding four years and are entering a doctoral program.

The purpose of diagnostic examinations is to determine whether students are equipped to undertake history and theory courses at the graduate level.

Students who do not take these exams will be automatically enrolled in the remedial courses in music history and music theory.

The degree of accomplishment expected is equivalent to that of LSU’s graduating seniors. On the basis of these examinations, the undergraduate courses MUS 3703, MUS 3704, and/or MUS 3710 may be required as prerequisites for graduate level courses in music history and music theory.

These examinations are critically important. Diligent preparation and review can significantly improve your performance on them. If you are required to take remedial courses, they will provide a valuable opportunity to enhance your knowledge and sharpen your skills.

For additional information regarding Diagnostic Exams, contact Andreas Giger for music history and Jeffrey Perry for music theory. For general questions about graduate admissions, contact cmdagradstudies@lsu.edu

Diagnostic exams may be administered online, or delivered as in-person experiences, depending on the semester. Current information for dates and times of exams can always be found on this page.

Upcoming Diagnostic Exam Sessions

August 16, 2023

  • History diagnostic exam, starting at 8:00 a.m.

August 17, 2023
School of Music Building, Room 115

  • Theory diagnostic exam, starting at 1:00 p.m.


Music Theory

In this diagnostic exam, students are tested on their knowledge of music theory and aural skills. Below are suggestions and guidelines on what to prepare for.

Review Theory Concepts

  • Choral-style (SATB) part writing: realizing figured bass; adding missing parts to a given four-art chorale
  • Roman-numeral analysis
  • The analysis of non-chord tones
  • Chromaticism: secondary (applied) dominants,
  • Neapolitan and Augmented Sixth chords, fully diminished
    sevenths, modal mixture
  • Modulation: methods of moving to closely and more distantly related keys

Identify Musical Scores

  • Phrases: similar and contrasting; sentence structures
  • Cadences: perfect and imperfect authentic, half, deceptive, plagal
  • Periods: parallel and contrasting

Diagram Common Musical Forms

  • Binary: rounded and simple
  • Ternary
  • Rondo: five- and seven-part
  • Fugue: be able to identify subject and countersubject entries
  • Sonata form: the parts of an exposition and their usual harmonic relationships; the usual harmonic profile of developments and recapitulations

Your exam results will be analyzed by the theory faculty.

Based on the number of questions that you failed to answer correctly, you may be recommended to take the summer music theory module.

If you were recommended to take the summer module, more information will be sent to you pertaining to its length, layout, and exams.


Music History

In this diagnostic exam, students are tested on their knowledge of music history, with a focus on Western art music from the Middle Ages to the present). The exam may be given in any of three formats:

Multiple Choice Version (in class)

This exam consists of approximately 110 questions. In Part A, students will answer a series of questions regarding an unknown musical example being played. In Part B, students will answer a wide range of questions regarding style and context (social, cultural, political, and historical); this part will also include some score identifications. Some sample questions are below:

For Part A:
The example represents the repertory of the

  • a. St. Martial School
  • b. Notre Dame School
  • c. Trecento
  • d. Burgundian School

For Part B:
To which of the following genres did Giuseppe Verdi NOT contribute:

  • a. requiem
  • b. opera
  • c. oratorio
  • d. string quartet

Multiple Choice Version (online)

This exam randomly assigns 32 questions from a much larger pool of questions. Some of the questions pertain to an embedded musical example, others to an embedded score example, and yet others stand on their own. The exam is open for one hour, allowing nearly two minutes per question on average. The questions are similar to those of the in-class version.

Short-Answer Version (in class)

This exam consists of approximately 50 questions. The samples below are typical questions, and their given answers would be considered acceptable in length and substance:

  • Q: Identify the “Dies irae” and explain its significance in the history of music.
    • A: The Dies irae is a Gregorian chant, part of the Requiem Mass, the melody of which was quoted as a symbol of death or the diabolical by many composers of the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Q: Who wrote Tristan und Isolde and what is its significance in the history of music?
    • A: Richard Wagner; the opera’s chromaticism greatly influenced composers of the late 19th-century.

You will be notified about the result by the end of the day following the exam.

If you pass the exam, you can register for 7000-level music history courses. If you do not pass the exam and have taken it for the first time, you can retake it at the beginning of the next semester.

If you fail the exam for a second time, you will have to register for MUS 3710, which is offered during the spring semester.