Music Graduate Entrance Exam (MGEE)

Please be aware that all dates listed below and on related pages are subject to change. As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, and the University solidifies plans for fall 2020, adjustments to our scheduled programs may become necessary. Any changes to dates and events will be posted on this website and emailed to incoming students. Please keep a close eye on this website, especially after July 1, for the most up-to-date information.

About the MGEEs

All incoming graduate 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.

Exceptions: Graduate Students in Music Industry, Arts Leadership, and Screen Scoring do not need to take the MGEEs. Graduate students who have previously completed a degree at USC Thornton are exempt from any exam covering a subject area in which they previously completed coursework at USC Thornton or previously passed a MGEE at USC Thornton.

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.

REQUIRED EXAMS FOR INCOMING GRADUATE STUDENTS

Click on the image of the chart (PDF) below to see the exams required for your degree program.
MGEE Exam Chart

Graduate Entrance Exams Retake Policy/Review Courses

MGEEs are administered during the week prior to the first week of classes each fall and spring semester. Entering students must take all required exams at the scheduled exam time prior to the beginning of their first semester in the program. If any given exam is not passed on the first attempt, that exam can be retaken at the scheduled exam time prior to the beginning of the second semester in that program. If the exam is not passed on the second attempt, the corresponding review course must be successfully completed with a grade of B-minus or better before the beginning of the third semester in the program, regardless of whether the exam has previously been attempted. If students complete any MGEE after their second semester in the program, the score earned on said exam will be invalid. Failure to fulfill all MGEE requirements by the beginning of the third semester-either through exams or review courses-may delay permission to fulfill degree requirements such as recitals, qualifying examinations, thesis projects, and dissertations, and could have a negative effect on financial aid eligibility.

Fall 2020 Incoming Graduate Examination Schedule — Tuesday, August 18
Time
Location
Orchestration 9:00am-10:00am
TBA
Classical Aural Skills 10:00am-10:30am
TBA
Classical Music Theory and Analytical Techniques 10:30am-12:00pm
TBA
Counterpoint (comp majors only)* 1:00pm-3:00pm*
TBA
Piano Literature (piano majors only) 1:00pm-2:30pm
TBA
Choral Conducting** 2:00pm-5:00pm**
TBA
Instrumental Conducting*** 1:00-4:00pm**
TBA

* This is a two-part exam with one portion being advanced orchestration. For that portion, students must orchestrate a short piano excerpt.
** A sign-up sheet will be posted outside of MUS 416 by Monday, August 17, 2020. Please be sure to sign up for a time that will not conflict with other required exams.
*** For this exam please be prepared to conduct the following excerpt: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, Movement IV (beginning to letter B; resume at m. 226 to letter F). Students must bring their own copy of the score to the exam. Scores will not be provided for examinees. Students may bring either a printed copy of the score excerpt or have it displayed on a personal digital device (excerpt available here). Conducting with a baton is preferred, but not required. A sign-up sheet will be posted outside of MUS 308 by Monday, August 17, 2020. 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. Left hand independence is expected. You will be asked to conduct a short chorale, which will 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.

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: Benjamin, The Craft of Tonal Counterpoint, textbook for both modal and tonal 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

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 the following excerpt: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, Movement IV (beginning to letter B; resume at m. 226 to letter F). Students must 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. Review Suggestions: Gillespie, Five Centuries of Keyboard Music; Gordon, A History of Keyboard Literature; and Kirby,Music for Piano: a Short History.

Technical Requirements

The sample exams (Theory and Analysis, Aural Skills, and Orchestration) are 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.