Preparing for the Undergraduate Music Theory Exams

You will find a practice version of the Fundamentals Exam here, along with explanations of how to take each section of the test. You will find a separate PDF document for each section of the test:

  • ear training
  • written
  • fluency
  • keyboard (remember that not all students will be required to take this)

We recommend that you print out these practice versions and try taking them; that will give you a good idea regarding what to expect on the actual exams that you will be taking on August 30. If you do not have access to a computer, or if your computer cannot read the PDF files, you may request hard copies of the exams from the Student Services Office.

For those of you who would like additional practice for the Fundamentals placement exam, we recommend the following materials.

  1. Tonal Harmony by Stefan Kostka and Dorothy Payne (published by McGraw-Hill). The first section of the book includes exercises in musical fundamentals, with answers in the back of the book.
  2. John Clough, Joyce Conley, and Claire Boge, Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm, and Meter (published by W.W. Norton & Company). This programmed text gives you brief explanations of all the topics listed in the title, and includes drills to help you to learn the material. The text includes a CD that gives you some ear training practice as well.
  3. For ear training, we strongly recommend MacGamut, a computer program that is considered one of the best on the market. This program, which drills both aural and written skills, comes in a cross-platform format that allows you use it on either a PC or a Mac. You can purchase MacGamut at
    MacGamut also includes “Written Drill” exercises that enable you to practice writing scales, intervals, and chords without having to identify anything by ear.

If you would like to prepare for the Solfege diagnostic exam, any book that helps you practice your sight singing will be valuable. One text we recommend in particular is Modus Vetus, by Lars Edlund (Edition Wilhelm Hansen, Stockholm).

If you expect to take the Tonal Practice placement exam, you may want to take a look at Tonal Harmony by Kostka and Payne (mentioned earlier); that text is especially suitable for self-study since it includes exercises for each chapter with solutions provided in the back of the book. Another good possibility is Tonal Harmony and Voice Leading by Carl Schachter and Edward Aldwell (published by Schirmer).

Finally, we realize that incoming students will have had varying degrees of experience with music theory and sight singing. Whatever your background, our goal is to help you to develop your musical skills to the fullest possible extent during your time here at NEC.