Music Graduate Entrance Exam (MGEE)

About the MGEEs

All incoming graduate and undergraduate transfer students to the USC Thornton School of Music are required to complete the Music Graduate Entrance Exams (MGEE) to determine appropriate placement in classes. This site is designed to help you prepare by allowing you to determine which exams you will need to take, and in the case of Music Theory/Analysis, Aural Skills, and Orchestration, actually take practice versions of the exams. Although these are not the actual exams you will take, they are quite similar and should give you a good idea of how you will do taking the exams. Please note: successful completion of these online exams is not a guarantee of success in the actual MGEEs. As you complete each of the practice exams on this site, not only will you receive a score of how well you did, you will also be given further information on areas of study related to the questions you missed. We strongly encourage you to follow those suggestions for reading and study before taking the actual exams.

Each degree has a different set of exam requirements. See below to determine which exams you are required to take, and then refer to the schedule for the in-person exam times and locations.

Which Exams Will You Take (see the Graduate Exam Schedule, the Undergraduate Transfer Exam Schedule, and Exam Descriptions below)

Incoming Graduate Students

Doctor of Musical Arts students must take all of the exams listed on the schedule prior to registering for classes (Exceptions: only piano majors are required to take the piano literature examination; only composition majors are required to take the counterpoint examination). PhD students must take the same examinations as Masters candidates in Musicology (see below). Students who hold an undergraduate or graduate degree from the Thornton School of Music are exempt from any examinations in fields in which they have taken comparable coursework.

Master’s degree students: required examinations for particular majors are listed below. Students who hold a Bachelor of Music or a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Thornton School of Music are exempt from any examinations in which they have taken comparable coursework.

    • Classical Guitar majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, and Orchestration exams, and either the Choral or Instrumental Conducting exam.
    • Choral Music majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, Orchestration, and Instrumental Conducting exams.
    • Composition majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, Choral Conducting, Counterpoint, Instrumental Conducting, and Orchestration exams.
    • Early Music majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, and Orchestration exams, and either the Choral or Instrumental Conducting exam.
    • Jazz Studies majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis and Classical Aural Skills exams.
    • Keyboard Collaborative Arts majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, and Orchestration exams, and either the Choral or Instrumental Conducting exam .
    • Music Education majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, Choral Conducting, Instrumental Conducting, and Orchestration exams.
    • Musicology majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, and Orchestration exams. Students who wish to enroll in Choral Conducting II (MUCD 441) must also take the Choral Conducting exam. Students who wish to enroll in Instrumental Conducting II (MUCD 443) must also take the Instrumental Conducting exam.
    • Organ majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, Choral Conducting, Instrumental Conducting, and Orchestration exams.
    • Piano majors (Classical) must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, Orchestration, and Piano Literature exams, and either the Choral or the Instrumental Conducting exam.
    • Strings majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, Instrumental Conducting, and Orchestration exams.
    • Studio/Jazz Guitar majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, and Orchestration exams.
    • Vocal Arts majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, and Choral Conducting exams.
    • Winds and Percussion majors must take the Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Aural Skills, Instrumental Conducting, and Orchestration exams.

Spring 2014 Incoming Graduate Examination Schedule—Wednesday, January 8
Time
Location
Orchestration 9:00am-10:00am
UUC-B2
Classical Aural Skills 10:00am-10:30am
UUC-B2
Classical Music Theory and Analytical Techniques 10:30am-12:00pm
UUC-B2
Counterpoint (comp majors only)* 1:00pm-3:00pm*
UUC-B2
Piano Literature (piano majors only) 1:00pm-2:30pm
MUS-213
Instrumental Conducting** 2:00pm-4:00pm**
MUS-307
Choral Conducting*** 2:00pm-5:00pm***
MUS-105

* This is a two-part exam with one portion being advanced orchestration. For that portion, students must orchestrate a short piano excerpt.
** For this exam please be prepared to conduct the following excerpt: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, Movement IV (beginning through to the downbeat of m. 164; resume at m. 226 through to the end.) A copy of the score is available here.
Conducting with a baton is preferred, but not required. A sign-up sheet will be posted outside of MUS 308 by January 7, 2014. Please be sure to sign up for a time that will not conflict with other required exams.
***A sign-up sheet will be posted outside of MUS 416 by January 7, 2014. Please be sure to sign up for a time that will not conflict with other required exams.

Incoming Undergraduate Transfer Students

Most transfer students will need to take one or more placement exams on the Wednesday before classes (January 8). This page explains why this is necessary and which exam areas are relevant to each major as well as listing the exam schedule.

Most undergraduate transfer students have already taken music courses at another institution. While these courses may transfer as elective credit, they generally will not count directly for specific requirements. Thus, new transfer students in the Thornton School who have completed music courses in areas that are required for their USC degree must take placement exams in these areas. How students perform on these exams will determine placement in required courses. For example, students who have taken music theory or music history elsewhere must also pass the USC music theory or music history exams to gain subject credit for their theory or history requirements; transfer course credit is not sufficient without the appropriate tests. Each major has a unique set of music course requirements. For any required area for your major, you should take a placement exam only if you have had college-level coursework in that area. See below for requirements for each major.

        • Classical Guitar: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Orchestration, Classical Music History, and either Choral Conducting or Instrumental Conducting.
        • Composition: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Choral Conducting, Counterpoint, Classical Music History, Instrumental Conducting, and Orchestration.
        • Jazz Studies [not studio guitar]: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, and Classical Music History. Students with advanced skills in jazz theory/arranging may ask to be tested in this area on an individual basis.
        • Music Industry Bachelor of Music–jazz track*: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, and Classical Music History. Students who have taken college coursework in Music Industry or Recording Arts may be able to test in these areas as well. Discuss this with your academic advisor; these exams will be scheduled as needed and will not be held on January 8, 2014.
        • Music Industry Bachelor of Music–traditional track*: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Music History, and either Instrumental or Choral Conducting. Students who have taken college coursework in Music Industry or Recording Arts may be able to test in these areas as well. Discuss this with your academic advisor; these exams will be scheduled as needed and will not be held on January 8, 2014.
        • Music Industry Bachelor of Science: students with college coursework in Music Industry and/or Recording Arts may be able to test in these areas. Discuss this with your academic advisor; these exams will be scheduled as needed and will not be held on January 8, 2014.
        • Organ: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Music History, Choral and Instrumental Conducting, and Orchestration.
        • Piano Majors (Classical): Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Music History, Orchestration, Piano Literature, and either Choral Conducting or Instrumental Conducting.
        • Strings majors: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Music History, Instrumental Conducting, and Orchestration.
        • Studio/Jazz Guitar majors — jazz emphasis: : Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Orchestration, & Classical Music History. Students with advanced skills in jazz theory/arranging may ask to be tested in this area on an individual basis.
        • Studio/Jazz Guitar majors — traditional emphasis: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Orchestration, and Classical Music History.
        • Vocal Arts: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Music History, and Choral Conducting.
        • Winds and Percussion majors: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Music History, Instrumental Conducting, and Orchestration.
        • Bachelor of Arts in Music students: jazz and traditional tracks: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Music History, and Orchestration.
        • Bachelor of Arts in Music students: choral music track: Classical Aural Skills, Classical Theory/Analysis, Classical Music History, Orchestration, and Choral and/or Instrumental Conducting.

*Note: These jazz-based programs require one year of classical theory and aural skills and a year of advanced jazz theory. However, we only require that students take placement exams in classical theory and aural skills. Students with advanced skills in jazz theory/arranging may ask to be tested in this area on an individual basis.

Spring 2014 Undergraduate Transfer Examination Schedule—Wednesday, January 8
Time
Location
Orchestration 9:00am-10:00am
UUC-B2
Classical Aural Skills 10:00am-10:30am
MUS-303
Classical Music Theory and Analytical Techniques 10:30am-12:00pm
MUS-303
Counterpoint (comp majors only) 1:00pm-3:00pm
UUC-B2
Piano Literature (piano majors only) 1:00pm-2:30pm
MUS-213
Instrumental Conducting 2:00pm-4:00pm*
MUS-307
Choral Conducting 2:00pm-4:00pm**
MUS-105
Classical Music History 3:00pm-5:00pm
MUS-319

*For this exam please be prepared to conduct the following excerpt: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, Movement IV (beginning through to the downbeat of m. 164; resume at m. 226 through to the end.) A copy of the score is available here.
Conducting with a baton is preferred, but not required. A sign-up sheet will be posted outside of MUS 308 by January 7, 2014. Please be sure to sign up for a time that will not conflict with other required exams.
**A sign-up sheet will be posted outside of MUS 416 by January 7, 2014. Please be sure to sign up for a time that will not conflict with other required exams.

The Examinations (Brief Descriptions and Suggestions for Review)

Choral Conducting: based on materials covered in Choral Conducting I (MUCD 340) at the USC Thornton School of Music. The exam tests familiarity with standard conducting patterns (1-12, simple, compound, and mixed meters) and ability to conduct from choral scores in four parts in modern clefs. Review Suggestions: Green, Modern Conductor; McElheran, Conducting Techniques for Beginners and Professionals; and Willetts, Upbeat Downbeat: Basic Conducting Patterns and Techniques.

Classical Theory/Analysis/Aural Skills: based on materials covered in four semesters of undergraduate Music Theory (MUCO 133ab, 233ab) and four semesters of Aural Skills (MUCO 132ab, 232ab) at the USC Thornton School of Music. Includes harmony (including chromatic harmonies and possibly modulations) and voice leading, realizing a figured bass with Roman numerals, form and analysis, and 20th century techniques; melodic and harmonic dictation (diatonic and chromatic possibly with modulation), and dictation of atonal fragments. Review Suggestions: Kostka & Payne, Tonal Harmony; Kostka, Materials and Techniques of 20th Century Music; Green, Form in Tonal Music; Benjamin, Horvit & Nelson, Music for Sight Singing; and Horvit, Music for Ear TrainingSample Theory/Analysis ExamSample Aural Skills Exam

Counterpoint: based on material covered in three semesters of Counterpoint for composition majors (MUCO 135, 235, 435) at the USC Thornton School of Music and included identification and writing of such contrapuntal forms as motet, canon, invention, chorale-variation, and fugue. Review Suggestions: Kennan, Counterpoint; and Benjamin, Craft of Modal Counterpoint.

Orchestration: This exam is based on material covered in one semester of Orchestration (MUCO 338x) at the USC Thornton School of Music and includes questions on ranges, clefs and transpositions of orchestral instruments, score comprehension and literacy, and short arranging problems. Review Suggestions: Kennan, The Technique of Orchestration; Blatter, Instrumentation/Orchestration; and Adler, The Study of OrchestrationSample Orchestration Exam

Classical Music History and Literature: The exam covers material from three semesters of undergraduate Music History and Literature (MUHL 231, 232 and 233) at the Thornton School, which covers Western music from antiquity to the present. The exam is multiple-choice format, with some questions in each part involving listening examples and scores (listening examples do not necessarily correspond to score excerpts on the exam). Review Suggestions: Grout and Palisca, A History of Western Music; Weiss and Taruskin, Music in the Western World; and Simms and Wright, Music in Western Civilization.

Instrumental Conducting: The instrumental conducting examination is designed to place students in either Instrumental Conducting I or Instrumental Conducting II. (Most undergraduate programs only require Instrumental Conducting I.) The examination is based on material covered in Instrumental Conducting (MUCD 343), and tests familiarity with standard conducting patterns, including sub-divided meters. Students must be prepared to conduct Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, Movement IV (beginning through to the downbeat of m. 164; resume at m. 226 through to the end.) and have a working knowledge of basic orchestral transpositions and clefs. They will also be asked to ‘sight-conduct’ a short rhythmic excerpt which may include execution of fermatas. Review Suggestions: Green, Modern Conductor; McElheran, Conducting Techniques for Beginners and Professionals; and Willetts, Upbeat Downbeat: Basic Conducting Patterns and Techniques.

Piano Literature: The piano literature examination is based on material ordinarily covered in a two-semester, upper-division undergraduate keyboard literature course (MPKS 472ab in the Thornton School of Music section of the USC catalogue). Although such courses cover the entire history of this literature, special emphasis is placed on the solo literature of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries that frequently appears on piano recitals. Textbooks that cover this material are: Review Suggestions: Gillespie, Five Centuries of Keyboard Music; Gordon, A History of Keyboard Literature; and Kirby,Music for Piano: a Short History.

Music Industry: based on materials covered in Introduction to the Music Industry (270) at the USC Thornton School of Music. The exam tests familiarity of the music business with emphasis on distribution of recorded music, music publishing, performance rights societies, record companies, agents, personal managers and contracts. Review Suggestions: Donald S. Passman, All You Need to Know About the Music Business, Fifth Edition and David Baskerville Music Business Handbook and Career Guide.

Recording Arts: based on materials covered in Recording Arts Workshop (MUIN 275a) at the Thornton School. Tests familiarity of principles, techniques, and aesthetic possibilities of the recording studio chain and its application to various media. Review Suggestions: Bartlett and Bartlett, Practical Recording Techniques, Third Edition and Huber and Runstein, Modern Recording Techniques.

Technical Requirements

This site is designed to work on any modern Windows PC or Macintosh computer. For the audio examples, you will need some sort of mp3 player software (RealPlayerWindows Media PlayerQuicktime, iTunes, etc.) and the free Adobe Reader software for the pdf format printed examples. Clicking the “Reveal Answer” button in each of the exams creates a new window. If these fail to open, turn off the Pop-Up Window Blocker function in your web browser.