Undergraduate Placement Exam Information

Bachelor of Music

The Bachelor of Music is an intensive curriculum for students wishing to study music for specific professional purposes or for students seeking professional levels of attainment in music.

Bachelor of Arts in Music

The 50-unit Bachelor of Arts in Music is a liberal arts degree with music as the major area of study. Auditions for the B.A. degree are optional. 

Minor in Music

The 21-unit Minor in Music provides a foundation for a lifelong enjoyment and appreciation of music.

Specific Exam Information

All incoming B.M students must take music theory, piano and ear training placement exams, regardless of previous studies in high school or college. The theory exam only assesses students’ knowledge of music theory in order to place them in the correct class. Incoming B.A. Students may opt to enroll in MUS 130 (Music Fundamentals) in lieu of taking placement exams. Students may not retake these tests once beginning studies in the SF State music program.

The exam is divided into four sections:

Basic Skills: to be exempted from MUS 130 (Music Fundamentals)

Everyone must complete this section.

  • Treble & Bass Clef notation
  • Basic knowledge of the Alto Clef (where the middle line is middle C)
  • Simple and Compound Meters
  • Equating notes on the Bass clef in the Treble Clef, and vice versa
  • Accidentals (Sharp, Flat, Natural signs)
  • Note Value Equivalencies (and how Dotted Values work)
  • Scales: Major, Minor (Natural, Harmonic & Melodic), Chromatic, Modes
  • Key Signatures for Major & Minor Keys
  • Intervals: Numbers and Qualities for Simple and Compound Intervals (analyzing and notating)
  • Triads: Major, Minor, Augmented, Diminished
  • Transposition

Counterpoint: to be exempted from MUS 231 (Species Counterpoint) and/or MUS 405 (Tonal Counterpoint)

Students who pass a portion of the theory placement exam, and are not required to take one or both of the harmony courses (MUS 232 and MUS 233), still must take counterpoint (MUS 231) before advancing in our theory sequence. This should not be interpreted as a step backwards, but merely a rounding-out of SF State’s music degree requirements. Students who have not studied counterpoint may attempt this section, but it is ok to skip that part of the exam and just plan on taking MUS 231.

(Picking one of the following two)

  • Writing 2-part, 5th Species Counterpoint and including labeled examples of Passing Tones, Neighbor Tones, Nota Cambiatas and Ornamented Suspensions
  • Writing Tonal (Baroque) 2-part Counterpoint (in the style of a Bach Invention) and including labeled examples of Passing Tones, Neighbor Tones, Appoggiaturas and Suspensions – if a student can answer this question, they can skip the species counterpoint question (passing this portion will allow exemption from both MUS 231 & MUS 405)

Students majoring in the Jazz or Creative Music B.A. (who may instead take MUS 234, MUS 235 and MUS 231) do not have to complete the remaining sections of the exam, but are strongly encouraged to do so, and are welcomed in the following courses.

Diatonic Harmony: to be exempted from MUS 232 (Chromatic Analysis & Synthesis)

Many transfer students have prior studies in harmony and voice leading. It is still essential that they demonstrate a strong command of these skills in order to pass out of this class.

  • Harmonization and Roman Numeral Analysis of a Bass Line in 4-parts (incorporating inversions) and including labeled examples of Passing Tones, Neighbor Tones, Appoggiaturas, Suspensions and Escape Tones
  • Analysis (with Roman Numerals) of a Modulating Passage, including Nonchord Tones and Cadences

Chromatic Harmony: to be exempted from MUS 233 (Chromatic Analysis & Synthesis)

Like the diatonic harmony portion of this exam, some transfer students have prior studies in harmony and voice leading. It is still essential that they demonstrate a strong command of these skills in order to pass out of this class.

  • Analysis and Voice Leading of Various 4-Part Chromatic Chord Progressions
  • Analyzing and Harmonizing/Realizing a Chromatic Figured Bass in 2-parts (bass & soprano)
  • Identifying/Organizing the Components of Medium and Large Formal Structures (i.e. Binary, Ternary, Rondo, Sonata, etc.)

Ear Training Placement Exam

To be exempted from MUS 221 

Musicianship and Ear Training I, students will demonstrate the following skills:

  • Simple rhythm dictation (quarter, eighth, sixteenth note and syncopation)
  • Interval recognition within an octave
  • Simple melodic dictation (no chromaticism)

To be exempted from MUS 222

Musicianship and Ear Training II, students must demonstrate the following skills:

  • Concepts listed above in MUS 221 and
  • Melodic/rhythmic dictation with patterns that include larger leaps and triadic motion
  • 2-Part melodic dictation
  • Harmonic dictation in the form of a Bach Chorale: triads, write in four voices, write Roman numerals

To be exempted from MUS 223

Musicianship and Ear Training III, students must demonstrate the following skills:

  • Concepts listed above in MUS 221 and MUS 222
  • Melodic/rhythmic dictation that includes leaps within the V7 chord, chromaticism and modulation
  • Harmonic dictation in the form of a Bach Chorale, recognition of seventh chords and secondary dominants
  • B.M. and M.M. voice and composition majors who are required to remediate in ear training must complete through MUS 224