Music Theory Placement Exam | Pepperdine University | Seaver College

Music Theory Placement Exam

All students who audition for the music program should take the Music Theory Placement Exam (MTPE) on the day of their live audition. If the student does not audition in person and is accepted to the university and music program, then the exam must be taken in the fall during New Student Orientation before the semester begins.

Students of any declared major who are interested in adding Music Theory I to their schedule must also take the MTPE before they are allowed to register for the class. The MTPE assesses three areas of music learning: written theory, aural skills and keyboard skills. A cumulative score of 70% must be made on the exam before a student can enroll in Music Theory I (MUS 111) and its co-requisite course, Aural Skills I (MUS 113). A student who earns less than 70% on the examination will be required to enroll in Fundamentals of Music (MUS 101). A grade of ‘C-’ or better in Fundamentals of Music is required before the student can continue on to Music Theory I.

The written theory portion of the MTPE assesses the student's knowledge of basic elements pertaining to rhythm and meter, pitch and intervals, key signatures, scales and chords. A short melodic dictation exercise is included in the timed portion of the exam.

After the written portion of the exam is completed, each student will meet personally with a music faculty member to demonstrate his or her ability to sight sing a melody and perform some basic tasks at the piano keyboard.

It is highly recommended that students prepare to take the MTPE. If you are unsure of your preparedness for the exam, we suggest that you take the assessment at your live audition and see how you do. Performance on the MTPE does not affect a student's prospect of acceptance to the music program. If you are accepted to the university and music program, and still need to pass the MTPE, you will have the opportunity to retake it during the week of New Student Orientation before the fall semester begins. An excellent online preparation course for music fundamentals is eTheory from Eastman School of Music- http://www.esm.rochester.edu/theory/etheory/  It is a four-week, guided course that you can take from home. For self-study, a good text to aid your review is William Duckworth's A Creative Approach to Music Fundamentals. Following the lessons and performing the exercises contained in this text is an excellent way to prepare for the upcoming assessment. The first twenty lessons of Ricci Adam's Musictheory.net is also a good source of review. If you have not already done so, we recommend prospective and incoming students to take private piano lessons before entering the music program.

Policy on AP Music Theory

Incoming music majors and minors who have taken AP Music Theory may be considered for advance placement in the written theory and aural skills curricula.

  1. A subscore of 4 for written theory (nonaural) on the AP exam would be the equivalent of MUS 111.  
  2. A subscore of 4 for aural skills on the AP exam would be the equivalent of MUS 113.
  3. A subscore of 5 for written theory (nonaural) on the AP exam would be the equivalent of MUS 115.
  4. A subscore of 5 for aural skills on the AP exam would be the equivalent of MUS 117.

The Music Department does not accept an AP Music Theory score lower than 4.  Students who have taken AP Music Theory are still required to take the Music Theory Placement Exam on the day of their audition, or during New Student Orientation in the Fall if they were not able to come to the campus for and audition.

For specific questions about the MTPE and AP Music Theory, students may contact:

N. Lincoln Hanks, Associate Professor of Music at lincoln.hanks@pepperdine.edu