Theory Skills Assessments

Music theory image

Incoming Freshmen and Transfer Students

All prospective students will take the Theory Placement Exam (TPE) on the day of their entrance audition. This exam is administered to determine whether a student’s prior study has sufficiently prepared them for Theory I. The result of this test does not have an impact on a student’s admission into the School of Music.

For students who submit a video audition, the TPE is postponed until arrival on campus. Please contact the School of Music at or 614-292-2870 for more information.

Music Minors

All prospective music minors must also take the Theory Placement Exam.

Due to university policy regarding COVID-19, the School of Music will not be able to offer the Theory Placement Exam in April. The safety of our community is our top priority. Future Theory Placement Exam dates will be updated once more information becomes available.

The TPE is held in Hughes Hall Auditorium, 1899 College Rd, Columbus 43210. Allow up to hour to complete the exam. Please bring two (2) sharpened #2 pencils to your exam. You do not need to register or check in prior to this exam.

Directions and Parking

How to Prepare

The Theory Placement Exam will test skills such as reading notation in treble and bass clef, matching rhythms to time signatures, scales and intervals, and identifying the quality of triads and seventh chords.

Sample Test Item

Resources to Help You Prepare

Free websites:


  • Andrew Surmani, Karen Farnum Surmani, and Morton Manus, Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory: A complete Self-study Course for All Musicians (Book and two CDs) Alfred Music, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-0739036358
  • Joseph N. Straus, Elements of Music. Prentice Hall, 2008. ISBN 0-13-034341
  • John Clough and Joyce Conley, Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm, and Meter. W.W. Norton & Co., 1999. ISBN 0-393-95189-8

Music Theory Software:

  • MFun by Elisabeth Sayrs

What Happens Next?

If you pass, you will be automatically enrolled in Theory I and Aural I in the autumn semester of your first year and you will be on track to complete your Theory and Aural Skills sequence at the end of your second year.

If you do not pass the Theory Placement Exam, you will receive instructions for the following options:

Enroll in Music Fundamentals Online (MFO), an online platform that provides instruction during the summer to prepare students for Theory I. The cost for this online course is $70. In the spring, you will receive detailed instructions on how and when to register for the MFO.

  • Before beginning MFO, students take an adaptive, online placement test that evaluates their current competencies. This placement test serves to personalize a student’s MFO experience: he/she need only complete MFO topics where additional instruction and practice are needed.
  • Music Fundamentals Online provides guided feedback as students are led through written theory fundamentals.
  • Visit Music Fundamentals Online

You may take Ohio State's Fundamentals of Theory course in the autumn semester of your first year at Ohio State. With this option, you will not be able to enter Theory I until the spring semester and you will complete the two-year theory sequence in your third year. Your academic advisor will help you to determine your adjusted academic plan.

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