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Music History Exam

Students in all graduate degree programs in music, with the exception of Music Therapy, must take the music history advisory examination, which determines eligibility to enroll in Advanced History and Literature of Music I (MUS:5301) and Advanced History and Literature of Music II (MUS:5302).

These two courses offer a survey of Western art music that spans from antiquity through the Baroque (MUS:5301) and the Classical era through the present (MUS:5302). The courses are modelled on the undergraduate core curriculum but include more coursework.

What the Exam Covers

The exam is multiple choice and covers Western music history from the medieval era through the 20th-century, with emphasis on musical style, composers, and forms.


No preparation is officially required, but students may wish to review textbooks that survey Western art music, including, A History of Western Music (Burkholder, Grout, Palisca, published by Norton) and Ideas and Styles in the Western Musical Tradition (Seaton, published by Oxford University Press). 

What Happens after the Exam

Students with passing scores on the exam may elect musicology and ethnomusicology seminars to meet their degree requirements. The M.A. requires 6 s.h. in musicology/ethnomusicology. D.M.A. or Ph.D. students must take at least 9 s.h. in musicology/ethnomusicology. 

Graduate students who do not pass the advisory examination are strongly encouraged to enroll in MUS:5301 and/or MUS:5302 during their degree program. In consultation with their advisors, however, students may opt to enroll in musicology/ethnomusicology seminars in place of these courses.

Musicology and ethnomusicology seminars are listed under “Graduate Programs: Master of Arts” in the University of Iowa General Catalog.