Theory Placement Assessment

The Music Theory Placement Assessment is required of all students hoping to place into Music Theory courses above Music Theory Fundamentals (MUS 100), with the exception of students who received a 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement Music Theory Assessment.

Music Majors and Minors: Please note that, should you exempt MUS 200, MUS 250, or MUS 300, you are required to enroll in a substitute course or courses approved by the Music Department Chair.

  • If you have very little or no experience in Music Theory and will be taking MUS 100, you do NOT need to take this assessment.
  • Students who received a score of 4 on the AP Music Theory Exam will automatically place out of Music Theory Fundamentals and into Theory I.
  • Students who received a 5 on the AP Music Theory Exam will place into Music Theory I and may also be eligible to place into more advanced levels. Students hoping to exempt Music Theory I should contact Music Theory Coordinator Michael Johanson at

If you perform particularly well on the placement assessment, further testing in a proctored environment may be necessary to determine the level that is appropriate for you.  

Before beginning the assessment, please take a moment to examine the Frequently Asked Questions below, where you will find information such as what is on the assessment, how to study for it, and policies for AP/IB test scores and transfer credit. 

Accessing the Assessment

  • The  assessment is available online during the summer and advising periods.
  • You MUST use Chrome Internet Browser to access the assessment. If you do not have Chrome on your computer, download it for free here. If you already have Chrome installed, be sure it is completely up-to-date.
  • There is a listening component on this assessment. Be sure that your computer is equipped with Quick Time and that your computer’s speaker volume is turned up.
  • The assessment is in our course management system, Moodle. You will log in to Moodle using your Lewis & Clark username and password.                         
    • Your username is the first part of your LC email address up to the @. If you don’t have an LC email yet, create it by going to Account Management and selecting Create LC Account.
    • If you don’t know your password, you can reset it by going to Account Management and selecting Reset Password.
    • Questions about your LC account? Call the IT Service Desk at 503-768-7225 or e-mail
  • After you log in to Moodle, you will be asked if you wish to enroll in this course. Click “Yes.”
  • Read the additional information and click on the Attempt Quiz Now button at the bottom. The same page of instructions will show up again because it is important that you read all the instructions before taking the assessment!


Go to the Music Theory Placement Assessment


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should I take the Online Placement Assessment?

All students who might major or minor in music or who plan to take Music Theory I (MUS 150) should take the assessment during the summer prior to their first year, unless they have no experience in Music Theory (see question 2).

2. I have very little (or no) experience in Music Theory.  Do I need to take the assessment?

You do NOT need to take the placement assessment if you have very little or no experience in Music Theory and would like to register for Music Theory Fundamentals (MUS 100).  In order to help you determine whether you should take the assessment, please read through the list of learning outcomes for Music Theory Fundamentals shown in #3 below. Proficiency in these areas is required for enrollment in Music Theory I (MUS 150). For more information on the L&C Music Theory Curriculum, scroll down to “Music Theory Curriculum Overview.”

3. What is on the assessment?

In order to help you determine whether you should take the assessment, please read through the following list of learning outcomes for Music Theory Fundamentals (MUS 100). Proficiency in these areas will be tested on the placement assessment and is required for enrollment in Music Theory I (MUS 150):

  • Identify pitches on the treble and bass clef, identifying them on the piano, and notating them on the grand staff.
  • Be able to apply sharps, flats, naturals, double sharps, and double flats, both in a score and in theoretical examples.
  • Understand simple meters including beats of whole, half, quarter, eighth, and sixteenths.
  • Be able to explain beat division, subdivision, and syncopation and to apply your knowledge of these concepts in musical analysis.
  • Understand compound meter, mixed meters, and asymmetrical meter.
  • Be able to spell all major scales, all forms of minor scales, and know all major/minor key signatures and their relationships.
  • Know how to construct all simple intervals, as well as identify them by ear, both ascending and descending.
  • Know how to construct and play all of the following chords: major, minor, augmented, diminished, MM7, Mm7, mm7, half dim7 , fully dim7, in all inversions.
  • Have a fundamental understanding of simple Roman Numeral Analysis with figured bass.
  • Identify the following cadences in four part writing: Authentic, Plagal, Deceptive, and Half.

NOTE: It is advisable that students planning on enrolling in any theory course above Music Theory Fundamentals have a minimum of 1-2 years of instrumental/vocal training and are capable of fluently reading music notated in both treble and bass clefs.

4. How should I study for the assessment?

Studying Concepts: While almost any good theory textbook will do, L&C uses Tonal Harmony 7e by Stefan Kostka, Dorothy Payne, and Byron Almén, and it may be worth your while to pick up a used copy. If you enroll in music theory classes above Music Theory Fundamentals , purchasing the text will eventually be a necessity, as it is required for all written theory courses above Music Theory Fundamentals . There are also numerous online resources that may be very useful. Both Musictheory and Teoria are free sites that offer comprehensive coverage of basic music-theoretical concepts.

Studying Aural Skills: The acquisition of aural skills demands patient and consistent practice with the appropriate tools. Two of the software programs we recommend for aural skills practice are MacGamut and Auralia. There are numerous online resources that may be very useful to students. Musictheory and Teoria both offer online skills practice in addition to coverage of concepts. For a list of recommended sites for aural skills practice, see “Aural Skills Resources Online” below.

5. What do the results of the assessment determine?

The results of the assessment are used to help place students in either Music Theory Fundamentals (MUS 100) or Music Theory I (MUS 150) or determines whether further assessment in concepts and skills is necessary. For information on the Theory Curriculum at L&C, scroll down to “Music Theory Curriculum Overview.”

6. How long is the assessment?

You will have 45 minutes to complete the assessment. Once you have started, You may NOT stop work and return to the assessment at a later time. Note that placement into levels beyond Theory I involves additional assessment during NSO which includes individual assessments of aural and keyboard skills.  You will be notified if additional assessment is required.

7. I haven’t yet activated my Lewis & Clark e-mail address or account yet.  What should I do?

You should activate your account as soon as possible through going to Account Management.

8. I’m an incoming freshman but I don’t plan to take any courses until next fall.  Should I take the assessment now?

Yes.  We strongly encourage you to take the assessment as early as possible.  Knowing your current level early will help you with registration planning. While your placement will expire after one year, if you take the assessment during the summer, it will still be valid during the registration period in the following spring, so you will be allowed to register for fall classes at that time.

9. When is the Online Placement Assessment offered?

The online placement assessment is available in the summer and during advising periods.

10. Can I retake the assessment to change my placement?

No. The assessment can be taken only once per academic year.  If you have been placed in a course that feels inappropriate for you, please notify your instructor.

11. What should I do if I have taken the AP or IB tests or have transfer credit in Music Theory/Aural Skills courses?

All AP and IB scores should be sent to the registrar. If you have an IB test score of 5 or higher, please notify Theory Coordinator Michael Johanson ( as soon as possible. 

  • Students who received a score of 4 on the AP Music Theory Exam will automatically place out of Music Theory Fundamentals and into Theory I.
  • Students who received a 5 on the AP Music Theory Exam will place into Music Theory I and may also be eligible to place into more advanced levels. Students hoping to exempt Music Theory I should contact Music Theory Coordinator Michael Johanson at


Aural Skills Resources Online

(a few of many available; all of the below are free)

As discussed, this is a great site for ear training drills involving intervals, chords, key signatures, scales and more (there’s even an application for use with the iphone).

Note that has sections on scales ear training, rhythmic dictation, note dictation, interval ear training, melodic dictation, triad ear training, triad and seventh chord ear training, seventh chord ear training, all of which are very useful to us in MUS 111.

This is a very user-friendly site that allows for practice in chord type recognition, harmonic dictation, absolute pitch training, interval recognition, and melodic dictation.

This site allows you to practice a plethora of melodic and rhythmic dictations.  Answers are provided, so you can check your work.  You should know that the rhythmic dictations are played by a snare drum sound, and rests are not included (i.e., only attack points are given).  For practice of rhythmic dictations which incorporate rests, you can certainly use the melodic dictations as rhythmic dictations.  There are “first step,” Beginner, and Beginner+, Beginner++ and Intermediate levels.  MUS 111 students should start with the “first step” examples and move on from there only when ready.

Very intuitive, user friendly site with modules on solfège ear training (one-note, three-note), one-note piano ear trainer, melodic and harmonic interval ear training, and more.  Great for beginning levels, but also includes an atonal trichord trainer which is great for practice of material covered in MUS 314.

This a site created by David Loberg Code at Western Michigan University.  There are a limited number of melodies and rhythms, but the level is appropriate to MUS 111 and answers are given. - InTactus is [a downloadable] “rhythmic training program for measuring performance of one- and two-part rhythms.”

“Diktus is a [downloadable] program for practicing one- or two-part rhythmic dictation and sight reading.”

Drills in intervals, chords, scales, and more.  Easy to use.


Music Theory Curriculum Overview


Music Theory Fundamentals (MUS 100): 

Written: Intervals, Clefs, Chord Qualities, Scales, Key Signatures, Tonic and Dominant Harmony

Aural Skills: Melodic Dictation in Major and Minor keys, Scale Degrees 1-8. Chord Identification, Interval Identification.

Theory I (MUS 150): Diatonic Harmony and Voice Leading.

Written: 4-voice diatonic chorale writing in all major and minor keys. Realization of figured bass, harmonization of diatonic melodies. Writing and identification of cadence types.  Corresponds with parts I-III of the Kostka-Payne text.

Aural Skills: Diatonic chord progressions, Rhythmic Dictation in Simple and Compound Meters. Complex and longer melodic dictation exercises.

Theory II (MUS 200): Chromatic Harmony and Voice Leading.

Written: 4-voice chromatic, modulating chorale writing in all major and minor keys. Harmonization of chromatic melodies. Analysis of binary and ternary forms, basic phrase structures.

Aural Skills: Simple chromatic chord progressions. Rhythmic Dictation with syncopation at faster tempi in simple and Compound Meters. Chromatic melodic dictation exercises.

Theory III (MUS 250): Advanced Chromatic Harmony, Form and Analysis.

Written: Romantic-era chromatic harmonic analysis with Linear (non-functional) Progressions, foreign-key modulations. Formal analysis of sonata, rondo, sonata-rondo and other forms, including unusual periodic, sentence and phrase-group structures.

Aural Skills: Sophisticated chromatic chord progressions. Rhythmic Dictation with hemiola, metric shifting, and polyrhythm. Chromatic and modulating melodic dictations of greater length and complexity.

Theory IV (MUS 300): Twentieth-and Twenty-first century musical practices.

Written: Music theory and compositional practice from late chromatic harmony to free atonality, polytonality, expanded and varied scalar and harmonic structures, neoclassicism, serialism, indeterminacy, expanded tone colors, minimalism, new formal organizations.

Aural Skills: brief chord successions with extended tertian constructions, rhythmic dictation with mixed meter and asymmetric meters, metric modulation; melodic dictations featuring modality, free chromaticism and atonality

Coverage of topics in text in the Theory sequence

Lewis and Clark uses Tonal Harmony 7e by Stefan Kostka, Dorothy Payne, and Byron Almén. Please see below for an outline of coverage of this text within our sequence:

Music Theory Fundamentals (MUS 100) covers the material found in Part I (“Fundamentals”).

Music Theory I (MUS 150) covers the material found in Parts II and III (“Diatonic Triads and Diatonic Seventh Chords”)

Music Theory II (MUS 200) covers the material in Part IV (“Chromaticism I”).

Music Theory III (MUS 250) covers the material in Part V (“Chromaticism II”). 

Music Theory IV (MUS 300) covers the material in Part VI (“Late Romanticism and the Twentieth-Century”).

An outline of the content of Tonal Harmony, 6th ed. is given below:

Topical Overview of TONAL HARMONY by Stefan Kostka, Dorothy Payne, and Byron Almén
Part I: Fundamentals

Chapter 1: Elements of Pitch

The Keyboard and Octave Registers; Notation of the Staff; The Major Scale; The Major Key Signatures; Minor Scale; Minor Key Signatures; Scale Degree Names; Intervals; Perfect, Major, and Minor Intervals; Augmented and Diminished Intervals; Inversion of Intervals; Consonant and Dissonant Intervals

Chapter 2: Elements of Rhythm

Rhythm; Durational Symbols; Beat and Tempo; Meter; Division of the Beat; Simple Time Signatures; Compound Time Signatures; Time Signatures Summarized; More on Durational Symbols

Chapter 3: Introduction to Triads and Seventh Chords

Introduction; Triads; Seventh Chords; Inversions of Chords; Inversion Symbols and Figured Bass; Lead Sheet Symbols; Recognizing Chords in Various Textures

Chapter 4: Diatonic Chords in Major and Minor Keys

Introduction; Diatonic Triads in Major; The Minor Scale; Diatonic Triads in Minor; Diatonic Seventh Chords in Major; Diatonic Seventh Chords in Minor


Part II: Diatonic Triads

Chapter 5: Principles of Voice Leading

Introduction; The Melodic Line; Notating Chords; Voicing a Single Triad; Parallel Motion

Chapter 6: Root Position Part Writing

Introduction; Root Position Part Writing with Repeated Roots; Root Position Part Writing with Roots a 4th (5th) Apart; Root Position Part Writing with Roots a 3rd (6th) Apart; Root Position Part Writing with Roots a 2nd (7th) Apart; Instrumental Ranges and Transpositions

Chapter 7: Harmonic Progression

Introduction; Sequences and the Circle of Fifths; The I and V Chords; The II Chord; The VI Chord; The III Chord; The VII Chord; The IV Chord; Common Exceptions; Differences in the Minor Mode; Progressions Involving Seventh Chords; More About Harmonic Sequences; Harmonizing a Simple Melody; Conclusion

Chapter 8: Triads in First Inversion

Introduction; Bass Arpeggiation; Substituted First Inversion Triads; Inversions in Lead Sheets; Parallel Sixth Chords; Part Writing First Inversion Triads; Soprano-Bass Counterpoint

Chapter 9: Triads in Second Inversion

Introduction; Bass Arpeggiation and the Melodic Bass; The Cadential Six-Four; The Passing Six-Four; The Pedal Six-Four; Part Writing for Second Inversion Triads

Chapter 10: Cadences, Phrases, Periods, and Sentences

Musical Form; Cadences; Cadences and Harmonic Rhythm; Motives and Phrases; Mozart: “An die Freude”; Period Forms; The Sentence

Chapter 11: Non Chord Tones 1

Introduction; Classification of Non-Chord Tones; Passing Tones; Neighboring Tones; Suspensions and Retardations; Embellishing a Simple Texture; Figured Bass and Lead Sheet Symbols

Chapter 12: Non-Chord Tones 2

Appoggiaturas; Escape Tones; The Neighbor Group; Anticipations; The Pedal Point; Special Problems in the Analysis of Non-Chord Tones


Part III: Diatonic Seventh Chords

Chapter 13: The V7 Chord

Introduction; General Voice-Leading Considerations; The Approach to the 7th; The V7 in Root Position; The V7 in Three Parts; Other Resolutions of the V7; The Inverted V7 Chord; The V6/5 Chord; The V4/3 Chord; The V4/2 Chord

Chapter 14: The II7 and VII7 Chords

Introduction; The II7 Chord; The VII7 Chord in Major; The VII7 Chord in Minor

Chapter 15: Other Diatonic Seventh Chords

The IV7 Chord; The VI7 Chord; The I7 Chord; The III7 Chord; Seventh Chords and the Circle-of -Fifths Progression


Part IV: Chromaticism 1

Chapter 16: Secondary Functions 1

Chromaticism and Altered Chords; Secondary Functions and Tonicization; Secondary Dominant Chords; Spelling Secondary Dominants; Recognizing Secondary Dominants; Secondary Dominants in Context

Chapter 17: Secondary Functions 2

Secondary Leading-Tone Chords; Spelling Secondary Leading-Tone Chords; Recognizing Secondary Leading-Tone Chords; Secondary Leading-Tone Chords in Context; Sequences Involving Secondary Functions; Deceptive Resolutions of Secondary Functions; Other Secondary Functions

Chapter 18: Modulations Using Diatonic Common Chords

Modulation and Change of Key; Modulation and Tonicization; Key Relationships; Common-Chord Modulation; Analyzing Common-Chord Modulation

Chapter 19: Some Other Modulatory Techniques

Altered Chords as Common Chords; Sequential Modulation; Modulation by Common Tone; Monophonic Modulation; Direct Modulation

Chapter 20: Binary and Ternary Forms

Formal Terminology; Binary Forms; Ternary Forms; Rounded Binary Forms; 12-Bar Blues; Other Forms with a Ternary Design; Sonata Form; Rondo Form


Part V: Chromaticism 2

Chapter 21: Mode Mixture and the Neapolitan

Introduction; Borrowed Chords in Minor; Borrowed Chords in Major; The Use of B-Flat 6; Other Borrowed Chords in Major; Modulations Involving Mode Mixture and the Neapolitan

Chapter 22: Augmented Sixth Chords

The Interval of the Augmented Sixth; The Italian Augmented Sixth Chord; The French Augmented Sixth Chord; The German Augmented Sixth Chord; Other Uses of the Conventional Augmented Sixth Chords; Other Bass Positions

Chapter 23: Enharmonic Spellings and Enharmonic Modulations

Enharmonic Spellings; Enharmonic Reinterpretation; Enharmonic Modulations Using the Major-Minor Seventh Sonority; Enharmonic Modulations Using the Diminished Seventh Chord; Other Examples of Enharmonicism

Chapter 24: Further Elements of the Harmonic Vocabulary

Introduction; The Dominant with a Substituted 6th; The Dominant with a Raised 5th; Ninth, Eleventh, and Thirteenth Chords; The Common-Tone Diminished Seventh Chord; Simultaneities; Coloristic Chord Progressions

Chapter 25: Tonal Harmony in the Late Nineteenth Century

Introduction; More About Mediants; Mediant Chains and Other Combinations; Counterpoint and Voice Leading; Sequences and Other Systematic Procedures


Part VI: An Introduction to Twentieth-Century Music

Chapter 26: Materials and Techniques

Introduction; Impressionism; Scale Materials; The Diatonic Modes; Pentatonic Scales; Synthetic Scales; Chord Structure; Extended Tertian Harmony; Polyharmony; Chord/Scale Connections; Quartal and Secundal Harmony; Other Concepts; Parallelism; Pandiatonicism; Rhythm and Meter; Summary

Chapter 27: Post-Tonal Theory

Introduction; Basic Atonal Theory; Normal Form; Equivalence Relations and Mod 12; Transposition (Tn) and Inversion (TnI); Set Class and Prime Form; Interval Vector; Twelve-Tone Serialism; Integral Serialism

Chapter Twenty-Eight: New Directions

Introduction; Explorations of Texture, Timbre, and Tuning; Indeterminacy; Minimalism; Electronic and Computer Music; Summary and Forward Look