Test Score Guidelines

Undergraduate Applicants:

SAT/ACT

Read about USC’s admission standards.

AP exam results

Freshman applicants who have taken Advanced Placement (AP) examinations are encouraged to provide those results with their USC Undergraduate application.

English Language Proficiency for Undergraduate Applicants

All international applicants (first-year and transfer) whose native language is not English must submit scores from either the TOEFL, IELTS or PTE. Exams must have been taken within two years of the USC application date. Some applicants may qualify for an exception. Please refer to the complete English Proficiency Criteria here.

Graduate Applicants:

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Applicants to the following programs are required to submit scores from the GRE general test. The music subject test is not required.

  • PHD in Musicology
  • DMA in Choral Music
  • MM in Community Music
  • MM in Contemporary Teaching Practice
  • DMA in Early Music
  • DMA in Music Teaching and Learning
  • DMA in Sacred Music
  • MA in Early Music
  • MM in Music Teaching and Learning

Admission to the USC Thornton School of Music is determined from a comprehensive application review process involving a number of review criteria. Submission of GRE scores meeting the general score guidelines described below shall not be construed as a guarantee of admission to any Thornton program. Scores not meeting these guidelines may still be considered with an otherwise stellar application.

Qualified PhD applicants will generally have scored 162 or higher on the verbal section of the GRE.

Qualified DMA applicants in Choral Music and Sacred Music will generally have scored 150 or higher on the verbal section, 145 or higher on the quantitative section, and 3.5 or higher on the writing section of the GRE.

Qualified DMA and MA applicants in Early Music will generally have scored 155 on the verbal section, and 148 on the quantitative section of the GRE.

Qualified DMA and MM applicants in Music Teaching and Learning will generally have scored 155 or higher on the verbal section, and 148 or higher on the quantitative section of the GRE.

Notes:

  • Applicants to programs not specifically listed above are NOT required to submit GRE scores
  • Applicants must carefully note that the application deadline for all required application materials does apply to GRE scores. Scores must be received by the appropriate deadline in order to be given full consideration for admission.
  • USC’s ETS school code is 4852.

DMA Written Examination

All DMA applicants who perform a live audition and who are applying to programs for which the GRE is not required must take a written examination on the weekend of their live audition. Additional details regarding the DMA Written Examination can be found here: http://music.usc.edu/admission/auditions/

English Language Test Requirement – TOEFL / IELTS

In addition to all other application and audition requirements, international applicants to all MA, MM, DMA, PhD programs, as well as those to the MS and Graduate Certificate programs in Arts Leadership must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Official scores must be sent to USC directly from the testing service and must be received by the appropriate deadline. Scores are considered valid only if earned within two years of your intended first term at USC. (For example, no earlier than August 1st two years prior if applying for the fall term.)

NOTE: PTE scores are not accepted by USC Thornton for graduate admission purposes.

Minimum TOEFL scores required for admission are as follows:

MM, MA, ARTL, Screen Scoring – iBT total score of 90, with no less than 20 on any one section of the test
DMA, PHD – iBT total score of 100, with no less than 20 on any one section of the test

Minimum IELTS scores required for admission are as follows:

MM, MA, Screen Scoring, ARTL – IELTS score of 6.5 with no less than 6 on each band score
DMA, PHD – IELTS score of 7 with no less than 6 on each band score

Admission to the USC Thornton School of Music is determined as a result of a comprehensive file review process involving a number of review criteria. Submission of TOEFL or IELTS scores that meet the minimum requirement shall not be construed as a guarantee of admission to any Thornton School program. However, scores not meeting this minimum may still be considered with an otherwise stellar application.
Permanent residents and citizens of the US are not required to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores.

Applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university located in the United States or in another country in which English is both the language of instruction and the only official language of the country MAY be exempt from the language proficiency requirement. The entire undergraduate degree must have been completed in the qualifying country. If you earned a bachelor’s degree in the US, but there are transferred courses from an international college or university listed on your bachelor’s transcript, you are required to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Please note: a graduate degree (MM, DMA, Graduate Certificate, Performance Diploma) from an Anglophone college or university does not exempt applicants from the language test requirement. We encourage you to contact the Thornton Admission office to ask, rather than assume you are exempt from the Language Test requirement.

USC’s ETS institution code for USC is 4852 (no department code is required).To submit your IELTS results to USC, please select the “University of Southern California” from the list of available institutions when you register to take the IELTS test. Do not enter the name, contact information or mailing address of USC or the Thornton Admission office on your IELTS registration. You may also request that your IELTS results be sent to USC after you receive your scores by contacting the test center where you took the test and request that your results be sent to the University of Southern California electronically, not by postal mail. You can search for contact details for all IELTS test centers at www.ielts.org/testcentres. USC will only accept IELTS scores sent electronically from the IELTS test center where you took the test. Paper test report forms received by postal mail or email are not accepted.

English Language Proficiency

Even in cases where TOEFL or IELTS scores are not required as part of the admission process, non-native English speakers, regardless of educational or immigration background, may be required to demonstrate English language proficiency by taking the International Student English (ISE) exam, administered by the USC American Language Institute.

Further details about USC’s English language proficiency requirement can be found here.