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Music Theory & Aural Skills for Incoming Undergraduates

All undergraduate music degrees require classes in Music Theory and Aural Skills. These courses are designed to increase your musical skills and knowledge about how music "works,” about how composers combine scales and chords to create music, and so much more! Music theory is the study of musical structures: rhythm, meter, scales, intervals, chords, melodies harmonies, chord progressions, etc. Aural Skills include performing all of these musical structures and identifying them, known, respectively, as sight singing and dictation.

This page provides detailed information for students new to the School of Music.

If you have further questions after reading the detailed information on this page, please contact:

          Dr. Cynthia I. Gonzales (“Dr. G”)


First-Semester Music Majors

All first-semester music majors take a written Theory Placement Exam on the first class-day of their first semester at TXST.

  • In fall semesters, the Theory Placement Exam is administered in all sections of MU 1112 and Mu 1115 on the first class day.
  • In spring semesters, it is administered at 8 am in the Music Building room 135 (If you have an 8 am class, please arrive at 7:15 am to take the exam).

The results of this Theory Placement Exam determine whether you start with MU 1113 Aural Skills I & MU 1315 Music Theory I, or MU 1112 Basic Musicianship. Test topics include:

  • Rhythm: completing measures with the correct rest
  • Time Signatures: determining the appropriate time signature for a given measure
  • Staff: notating pitches on the treble and bass clefs
  • Scales: notating major and minor scales
  • Key Signatures: notating and identifying key signatures
  • Intervals: identifing and notating intervals above and below a given pitch

Prior to arriving for your first semester at TXST, prepare for the Theory Placement Exam. Students who prepare are more likely to pass than those who do not.

1. Take the Online Diagnostic Test. Password: TXST2020

2. Based on the results of the Online Diagnostic Test, study topics, as needed, using any available book or website. Your high school director or private teacher may have favorite resources to recommend.

Online resources (mostly free):

Downloadable software (ca. $40):

3. Download and print out Practice Exams and corresponding Answer Keys so that you become familiar with the test format. In recent years, students have reported that working through these practice exams was crucial to passing the exam.


Practice Exam A

Practice Exam A Answer Key

Practice Exam B Practice Exam B Answer Key


Credit for AP Music Theory

If you took the AP Music Theory Exam, be certain that TXST was listed as a school to receive your score.

Students who earn a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Exam receive credit for MU 1112, MU 1115, and MU 1315. If TXST has your scores on file when you see an advisor, you will be allowed to enroll in MU 1116 and MU 1316. If your scores arrive after you enroll for classes, you will be allowed to change courses at the beginning of the semester.

Students who score a 3 on the AP Exam receive credit for MU 1112, as well as enroll in MU 1115 and MU 1315.

For more information, visit the Testing Evaluation and Measurement Center.


Transfer Students

  1. Transfer students who have completed four semesters of Music Theory & Aural Skills at another institution:
    1. Your transcript will be evaluated by an advisor
    2. You will not be asked to re-take courses for which you already have credit
    3. Complete the Theory Proficiency Exam as soon as possible after arriving at TXST
  2. Transfer students who have completed fewer than four semesters of Music Theory & Aural Skills:
    1. Your transcript will be evaluated by an advisor
    2. You will not be asked to re-take courses for which you already have credit
    3. Enroll in the “next” course: if you already have credit for two semesters of Music Theory & Aural Skills, for example, then register for third-semester courses
  3. Transfer students who have no college-level credits in Music Theory & Aural Skills:
    1. Follow the instructions for First-Semester Music Majors



Once enrolled at Texas State, music majors are encouraged to visit the free tutoring center — The Center for Aural and Theory Tutoring (CATT) — for assistance with homework or when preparing for tests. The CATT Office also has review materials for the Theory Proficiency Exam.

Located in room 129 of the Music Building, hours of operation are posted at the beginning of each semester. The CATT Office announcements are also posted on Facebook.