New graduate students, with the exception of M.A. Music Therapy and Ph.D. Music Education students, are required to take placement exams in Music History and Music Theory. Each Advisory Examination lasts two hours. Students should take both exams during the day or days immediately preceding the start of classes in the fall semester. Students will receive information regarding the exams in mid-June.

Exam locations are determined each year. They are held at the following times:

  • Music Theory: 9:00-11:00
  • Music History: Noon-2:00

Note: Contact the Academic Office at if you will not be able to take the advisory exams during the scheduled time. If you do not email prior to the scheduled exam time, we will not be able to make alternative arrangements for the exam.

The music theory examination allows entering graduate students with excellent preparation to take graduate elective courses without having to pass the remedial course MUS:5200. The musicicology orientation helps guide students to take courses that are geared toward their specific interests. Students may elect to register for musicology courses before attending the musicology orientation. 


Music Theory and History electives are listed under "Graduate Programs: Master of Arts" in The University of Iowa General Catalog.

Exam Results

Students and faculty advisors will be notified of examination results by e-mail.

Music History and Music Theory Exams

Students in all graduate degree programs in music, with the exception of Music Therapy, must attend the musicology advisory exam and orientation session.

The exam is self-reflective. Students will write about past research experiences and their use of musicological skills beyond the classroom, including potential future projects. During the following orientation, students will discuss issues raised by the exam that will guide their course selections. The orientation will also introduce the three different course types offered by the musicology area. From discussion of the exam and the curricular options, students will be prepared to select courses that address deficiencies and expedite progress toward a degree capstone project.

No advanced preparation is required for the exam.

Students in all graduate degree programs in music, with the exception of M.A. Music Therapy and Ph.D. Music Education students, must take two elective music theory courses for the Master's degree and three elective theory courses for the Doctoral degree. Music Theory electives are listed under “Graduate Programs: Master of Arts” in the University of Iowa General Catalog.

All incoming graduate students must take the Graduate Advisory Examination in Music Theory.  Students who fail to pass the examination must take MUS:5200 Review of Undergraduate Music Theory before taking the required number of electives. Note: MUS:5200 does not count toward Music Theory degree requirements. 

The exam covers fundamentals (intervals, chords, rhythm, scales, meter, instrumental transpositions), harmony, form, and tonal 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 undergraduate harmony text, such as Kostka & Payne, Tonal Harmony.

What Happens after the Exam
Should a student not pass the graduate theory advisory exam, they must schedule an advisory meeting with a member of the theory area. The student must then remediate their music theory knowledge before taking any graduate-level music theory courses for credit. They may complete this remediation requirement by either:

a) Taking and passing the course MUS:5200 Review of Undergraduate Music Theory, or

b) Studying on their own and retaking the graduate theory entrance exam the following semester. 

During the advisory meeting, the faculty member and student may decide together that the student is ready to take one of the 5000-level music analysis classes while studying to retake the exam. If the student does not pass the exam a second time, they will be required to take and pass MUS:5200 Review of Undergraduate Music Theory.