Music students have performance opportunities from the first semester onward.


Stellar faculty includes 19 members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Grammy winners and performing and recording artists, augmented by guests such as acclaimed DSO conductor Jaap van Zweden.


Numerous ensembles and programs, including the Meadows Opera Theatre, provide multiple opportunities for performing on and off campus.


Multiple degrees are offered in performance, composition, music therapy, education and more at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Graduate Music History Diagnostic Guide

Music History Diagnostic Exam Testing and Study Procedures

The Music History Graduate Diagnostic Exam is designed to determine whether the incoming graduate student has the background in music history necessary to enter comfortably into graduate-level study of music history. The exam, along with a host of review materials, is web-based, using SMU’s online Blackboard course management portal ( Students may gain access to this course page as soon as they have been assigned an SMU username. For information on getting enrolled in this course website, please contact Dr. Peter Kupfer (

The diagnostic exam, which is open-book, is based on the 8th edition of A History of Western Music (AHWM) by Donald Grout, Claude Palisca, and Peter Burkholder (W.W. Norton, 2010). While older editions of this text and other music history textbooks will contain much of the same information contained in the exam, our exam uses questions provided by Norton, the publisher of the Burkholder, so we cannot vouch for the usefulness of earlier editions or other texts. The book is readily available online for purchase or rental as well as from the publisher directly.

The exam consists of three sections of 100 multiple-choice questions each. The sections are divided as follows:

  • Section I: Middle Ages and Renaissance (covering Chs. 1-12 of AHWM)
  • Section II: 17th and 18th Centuries (Chs. 13-23)
  • Section III: 19th and 20th Centuries (Chs. 24-36)

Passing the exam entails scoring at least 70% overall on the exam’s three sections. This means one could, for example, score below 70% on one or two section(s), but score high enough on the other one(s) to bring the overall average to 70% or higher. 

Though the exam is open book, students will have only one hour to complete each section; there will not be sufficient time to consult the book for each question. It is highly recommended that students prepare for the exam by making use of the review materials on the Blackboard site before taking the exam in August.

All incoming graduate students must take the exam during the week before classes begin in August. Students who score at least 70% overall may enroll in MUHI 6335 (Introduction to Graduate Studies) or equivalent, depending on degree program. Students who do not score at least 70% overall must enroll, at extra cost, in MUHI 5100 (Music History Review) in the fall semester (or, in certain degree programs, in the spring semester). MUHI 5100 is an uninstructed online course in which students will have the opportunity to pass those section(s) on which they did not score at least 70% during the diagnostic exam. There will be six opportunities over the course of the semester to retake any necessary sections; the dates for these will be announced at the beginning of the semester.

Note that MUHI 5100 comes at an extra cost and will delay the student’s ability to enroll in MUHI 6335 (or equivalent, depending on degree program), which cannot be taken until the diagnostic exam has been passed. MUHI 6335 is itself a pre-requisite for all upper level MUHI courses, so there are serious ramifications for not passing the diagnostic exam before classes begin. Students who fail the diagnostic and also fail MUHI 5100 will have to meet with the Director of Graduate Studies to assess their situation.

In order to help students prepare for the diagnostic exam (and for continued review if enrollment in MUHI 5100 follows), there are a host of study tools on the Blackboard course website:

  • Practice Quizzes: for each section of the exam there are practice quizzes that consist of 30 questions from the actual exam question pool. These quizzes have a 20-minute time limit per session in order to give a sense of the time pressure in the actual exam. The quizzes are ungraded; they are solely for your own practice.  Note, however, that each one can only be taken three times, so plan practice attempts wisely. (This limit will be reset for students who must enroll in MUHI 5100.)
  • Flash Cards: These can be used to practice knowledge of important terms and concepts for each chapter.
  • Chapter Outlines: These help provide an overview of the content of each chapter.

Students will take the exam on their own personal laptop computers, which all Meadows students are required to own. Visit here for more information on this requirement. Once on campus, students should make sure they can access the Blackboard site wirelessly in the OFAC. Questions about technology or issues with accessing the wifi network should be directed to the folks at TechEffect, the technology help desk at Meadows. Note that while students have had success taking the exam on iPads and other devices, we are not responsible for any technical difficulties that arise using such devices.

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Graduate Music History Diagnostic Guide

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