Undergraduate Music Theory and Aural Skills Placement and Exemption Exams

We are looking forward to your attending George Mason University. We have an outstanding faculty which is dedicated to providing you with challenging, comprehensive, and rewarding educational experiences. Our goal is to assist you in developing your musical and academic skills to their highest potential.

All new students are asked to complete the theory and aural skills placement exams, whether they have taken theory before or not.

Theory Placement Exam

Taking the test

The Music Theory Placement Test can be taken at any time but should be completed before the beginning of the semester.

Follow this link to go to the test. You will need to sign up for an account with uTheory in order to take the test.

Test contents

This test will assess your mastery of music fundamentals such as notation, scales, key signatures, intervals, and triads. If the test shows areas that need improvement, you’ll be given the opportunity to complete online lessons & practice in these areas.

Each section of the test is timed. The test takes about one hour to complete.

Studying and retaking the test

If the test shows areas that need improvement, you’ll be given the opportunity to complete online lessons & practice in these areas. It’s a good idea to take the test first so that you know precisely where your weaknesses are—the test will point you toward the appropriate lessons for you. You can do this with a free account, or you may choose to purchase a monthly unlimited pass to uTheory for $6 USD per month.

This test may be taken up to 10 times. Your highest scoring attempt will replace any other attempts.

We recommend that students self-study and retake the test until they reach a passing score, rather than taking extra coursework.

Placement

Your highest test score is the only score considered in placing you.

Placement outcomes for various grades are as follows. For course details and section numbers, set up an appointment to see the Academic Programs Manager.

  • D–F (<70%): Failed exam. Students are strongly encouraged to take MUSI 100 (3 credits) or MUSI 280 (0 credits) before MUSI 115 (Intro to Music Theory), or self-study and retake the placement test until earning a better grade.*
  • C (70–79%): Placement into Intro to Music Theory: First Edition. This course is a special section of MUSI 115 that meets for additional time each week. When enrolling, look for a yellow banner that says that this section “is for students with limited Theory background.”
  • B (80–89%): Placement into Intro to Music Theory (MUSI 115).
  • A (90–100%): Opportunity to take the MUSI 115 Exemption Exam.

* In many cases, it’s better for the student to self-study and retake the test until they reach a passing score, rather than taking extra coursework. Intro to Music Theory (MUSI 115) does cover all the topics on the placement test, so you will have an opportunity to learn/review them within MUSI 115. However, these lessons move at a quick pace, and the focus of the course is on building speed and fluency with these topics, so it helps to know a bit about the topics in advance.

Theory Exemption Exam

Transfer students and new students who get an A on the placement test may take further exams to receive credit for certain theory courses at Mason. These exams are administered on Blackboard and mimic final exams in each of the relevant courses.

Aural Skills Exemption Exam

The aural skills exemption exams ask students to complete transcriptions of short duets within an hour.

There are three separate exams, one corresponding to each level of aural skills (I, II, and III).

You can take as many or as few of the exams as you like. You will be given credit for the course you pass and all lower-level courses. (For example, a student who only takes the Aural Skills III exam will get credit for Aural Skills I, II, and III as long as they pass that one exam.)

If you do not pass an exam, there are three possible outcomes: 1) you do not receive any credit by exam, 2) you may be given credit for lower-level courses, or 3) you may be asked to take a lower-level exam to evaluate your abilities further. Which outcome is most suitable for your scenario is determined by the exam proctor.

If you decide you’d like to take more than one exam, you may do so at any time before the deadline. There is no penalty for taking more exams.

Advising

For more details on these classes and the theory curriculum, set up an appointment to see the Academic Programs Manager.