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School of Music


Graduate Music Diagnostic Examination

Theory Diagnostic Exam

The Music Graduate Diagnostic Examination (MGDE) in Theory is a 2-hour placement examination for incoming graduate students that is offered in May, August and January. Email Traci Hair or call 803-777-4208 in the graduate music office to find out when this exam is offered.

What the exam covers

The exam covers tonal theory and post-tonal theory. The tonal theory part of the exam covers aural comprehension (intervals, pitch patterns, melodic dictation, two-voice error detection and 4-part harmonic dictation), part writing (four-part chorale texture) and analysis (roman numeral analysis of a passage that modulates). The post-tonal part covers the materials and techniques of 20th-century music (scales, chord structures, rhythm and meter), basic atonal theory and twelve-tone serialism.

MUSC 523

Students who do not pass the tonal theory portion of the exam must take MUSC 523 Applications of Music Theory, an intensive-directed study in written theory and aural skills. MUSC 523 is only offered every fall term and does count toward the theory requirements of your degree.

Students who do not pass the post-tonal theory part of the exam will be required to take one of the following 20th-century music courses:

20th-century theory courses

MUSC 724 Contemporary Styles I (Summer I 2008 and Spring 2009) 
MUSC 725 Contemporary Styles II: Music Since 1945(Summer II 2009) 
MUSC 525 Post-Tonal Theory (Fall 2008)

Preparing for the GMDE Theory

The following materials are highly recommended for students who want to prepare for the GMDE in Theory.

Part I: Aural Comprehension

MacGamut Software - Review the Intervals, Chords, Melodic Dictation and Harmonic Dictation modules.

Part II: Written Theory

Option 1:

Stefan Kostka and Dorothy Payne, "Tonal Harmony: With An Introduction to Twentieth-Century Music," 6th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008).

Tonal Theory: Review Chapters 6-23

Post-Tonal Theory: Review Chapters 28-29 

Option 2:

If you're looking for a more concise presentation, the theory faculty recommends:

Thomas Benjamin, Michael Horvit and Robert Nelson, "Techniques and Materials of Music" (Belmont, CA: Thomson Schirmer, 2008).

Tonal Theory: Review Parts I, II, III, and V

Post-Tonal Theory: Review Part IV "Twentieth-Century Materials"