Music Theory Placement

Theory placement test

Each prospective music student must take a written diagnostic exam to determine his or her placement within the music theory course offerings. Students must also complete a short aural and rhythmic skill evaluation that determines the student’s overall musicianship. This evaluative process takes about 30 minutes to complete and is usually scheduled around the student’s audition time.


Students are placed into a specific course based on the evaluation of their written and aural skills made at the time of the audition into the Department of Music. Students must begin the theory cycle with this course and proceed through the remaining courses to complete the music theory degree requirement.

Credit by Examination

Credit by Examination is a separate evaluation offered to students who have been placed into a theory course beyond MHIS 145. This written and aural skill evaluation would allow students to receive music theory credit for the courses they are placed above. Upon successfully completing the exam(s), students have two options. Students can either pay the current university rate per credit hour and receive credit toward their degree, or use the credits made available toward their degree program by electing to take upper level music theory or literature courses (MHIS) that are not required for their degree program to replace the credits.

For example, if upon entering the department, a student is placed into MHIS 245, that student may take the Credit by Examination and, upon passing, receive credit for MHIS 145 and MHIS 146, or receive a waiver for MHIS 145 and 146 and elect to take 8 credits of upper-level music electives.

All Credit by Examination evaluations are done by appointment by contacting Taylor Barnett at barnettt@vcu.edu and must by completed within the first 15 days of each semester.