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Music Theory Exam

Students in all graduate degree programs in music, with the exception of Music Therapy students, must take MUS:5200 Basic Analytical Techniques along with one elective music theory course for the Masters degree and two electives for the Doctoral degree. Music Theory electives are listed under “Graduate Programs: Master of Arts” in the University of Iowa General Catalog.

The Graduate Advisory Examination in Music Theory permits students with excellent skills in analysis to be exempted from MUS:5200, and to substitute a 3 s.h. theory elective for that course. (See the General Catalog or below for these substitutions.)

What the Exam Covers

  • Part I — Fundamentals: intervals, chords, rhythm, scales, meter, instrumental transpositions
  • Part II — Harmony, form, tonal analysis
  • Part III — 20th-century analysis


No preparation is officially required of the student who has satisfactorily completed an undergraduate course sequence in music theory. However, students wishing to review may study any standard harmony text, such as Kostka & Payne, Tonal Harmony.

What Happens after the Exam

Students who score above 70% on the Graduate Advisory Examination in Music Theory may substitute one of the following 3 s.h. “required elective” theory courses for MUS:5200 Basic Analytical Techniques:

  • MUS:4200 Counterpoint Before 1600 
  • MUS:4201 Counterpoint After 1600 
  • MUS:5235 Analysis of Post-tonal Music
  • MUS:5236 Analysis of Tonal Music
  • MUS:5250 Special Topics in Theory and Analysis 

All other students must take MUS:5200 Basic Analytical Techniques, offered each fall semester, before attempting elective courses in music theory.

Graduate students who do not pass the Graduate Advisory Examination in Music Theory must pass MUS:5200 Basic Analytical Techniques before registering for graduate music theory electives. Students with deficiencies on Parts I and II are urged to undertake remedial work before taking MUS:5200 Basic Analytical Techniques.