Music Theory Placement Test

The Music Department has two main entry points in our music theory curriculum.  

  • MUS 102, which is offered in both fall and spring semesters, is a music fundamentals course that assumes students will have had little or no previous training in written theory, ear training, or keyboard skills.  MUS 102 emphasizes learning staff notation and covers the basic structures of tonal music (steps, scales, intervals, triads, keys), building up to the basic concepts of harmony and voice leading.   
  • MUS 103, offered in the fall semester, assumes students have a solid understanding of theory fundamentals (scales, intervals, triads, keys), have reading comfort in at least one clef (and ideally grand staff), and have some experience with ear training.  MUS 103 begins by exploring the basic concepts of diatonic harmony, voice leading, and counterpoint, building up to topics in form, modulation, and sevenths and extended chords, which are developed through emulation and analysis assignments.

Both MUS 102 and MUS 103 have associated aural skills labs to develop sight-singing and dictation skills.  MUS 103 also has an associated keyboard skills lab.

MUS 102 has no pre-requisites, and prepares students to continue in MUS 103.  Students who enter Williams with no previous training in theory, or reading music, should plan to start in MUS 102.

Students who have taken the Music Theory AP exam in high school and scored a 4 or 5 (as well as non-first-years who have already taken MUS 102) automatically receive placement into MUS 103.  

Students who have some theory background, self-taught or otherwise, can take a short, online Music Theory Placement exam to receive placement into MUS 103.  The exam asks questions about intervals, triads, notation, and basic aural skills.  

Incoming students should take the placement exam BEFORE July 31 in order to receive a placement recommendation before pre-registration.

If you are uncertain about whether placement into MUS 102 or MUS 103 is more appropriate, plan to take the placement exam, or send an e-mail to the instructor of either course.  

For students who enter Williams with an extensive background or advanced private study in theory, reach out to the instructor of MUS 103 to see if placement into MUS 104 is appropriate.  An exam to place into MUS 104 can be arranged on an individual basis.

The Music Theory Placement exam can be found at the following link: