This information is curated specifically for graduate students preparing for the 2020–21 school year.

Diagnostic Exams for Incoming Students

Theory and History Diagnostic exams are postponed until January. In other words, you will not be taking the general Theory and History diagnostic exams prior to Fall 2020. Students will be required to complete them at a later date (TBA), likely in January, prior to the 2021 Spring Semester. One exception: Jazz students will be contacted individually by a member of the Jazz faculty for a specialized diagnostic exam that will be taken this Fall, August 17-20.

Doctoral Common Comprehensive Exams


  • You must either be in your final semester of coursework or have completed all of your coursework (excluding dissertation and/or treatise/nontreatise hours)
  • You must be registered during the semester you plan to take comprehensives – this includes for any retakes

Sign Up

In order to sign up for the common comps, DMA students will need to send a course outline to Marina Martinez (instructions for which can be found under ‘Forms’ on the website) for approval by the GSC chair. These need to be submitted by 5pm on Friday, October 16 in order for you to be eligible to take exams. MM Musicology students are not required to submit a course outline or have any divisional approval, and may sign up for the Score ID exam as soon as they feel ready.

Music History

Monday, November 2
3 hour exam: 9am – 12pm

  • Jazz Emphasis students (performance and comp) only need to answer one questions, even on a first attempt, but only have 1.5 hours to do so. The exam will end at 10:30am for Jazz students.

Relevant material is covered by MUS 380 courses (Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, 18th Century, 19th Century, and 20th Century). You can prepare for this portion of the exam by reviewing lecture notes, assigned readings, and repertory covered in your MUS 380 Advances Studies in the History of Music Courses.

Students are provided with 7 essay questions, one from each of the six historical periods; there may also be a question dealing with non-canonical repertoires. Students will be expected to answer 2 of the 7 questions. The questions will be general enough so that anyone who has successfully completed the corresponding MUS 380 courses and has retained the information should be able to answer the questions.

Score Identification

Wednesday, November 4
3 hour exam: 9am – 12pm

  • Jazz Emphasis majors are exempt from taking Score ID
  • MM Musicology majors must answer at least 7 excerpts

A walkthrough of what to include in your answers, as well as a grading rubric for the score ID portion, can be found in the graduate handbook (‘How to Prepare for the Common Portion of the Doctoral Comprehensive Examinations’).

Students are given 8 excerpts representing various historical periods, media, and genres and must identify 6 of the excerpts correctly. Students may submit answers for all 8 of the excerpts, but must answer at least 6 correctly. For each excerpt, students should suggest a likely composer or school of composition, the genre, and approximate date of composition and then defend these with a brief, written discussion of the salient stylistic features of the excerpt.

Grading and Procedure

The common comprehensive exam is graded by members of the musicology/ethnomusicology faculty.

Results are reported to the graduate coordinator, who then sends out individual results.

If this is your first attempt at the common comps, you must take both the history and score ID components.

Failure to attempt a section will result in failure of that section.

If you fail one or both portions of the exam on the first try, you must retake the failed portion of the exam. If you fail a portion of the exam twice, you have two options. You can either:

  1. Take one or more graduate courses as determined by the musicology faculty. This will require a grade of B or higher in the specified courses to complete the requirement and pass the history and/or score ID portion of your exam, or
  2. Take the relevant portion(s) of the exam a third time, with the understanding that a third failure will result in termination of your degree program.

You must pass all portions of both the common comp and your specialized comprehensive examinations in order to be admitted to doctoral candidacy.