Musicology Department

Graduate Entrance Examinations in Music History and Literature

All new graduate students entering the IU School of Music take the Graduate Entrance Examination in Music History & Literature (GEE:MH&L) and the Music Theory Graduate Proficiency Examination at the start of their first term of residence. The exam evaluates your preparation for graduate-level course work at IU.

The GEE:MH&L reflects the course requirements of the basic one-year undergraduate survey of music history and literature at IU, M401-M402 (4-4 cr.). This survey is preceded by a 15 credit-hour prerequisite in music theory, literature, and structure, which means that the IU undergraduate takes the survey during his or her junior or senior years.  The course at IU is probably taught at a higher level than that of similar courses taught at other schools during a student's freshman or sophomore years.

The GEE:MH&L is divided into two parts:  Part 1 covering Antiquity to Bach and Handel and Part 2 covering the early Classic period to the present. You will have two opportunities to take the exam, before your first and second semesters of enrollment.  If you score below 60% (54 points out of 90) on either half of the GEE:MH&L, you will be required to pass graduate review courses in music history and literature. 

The GEE:MH&L is a multiple-choice exam, so the general strategy for such exams applies: answer every question, choosing the best answer among the five possibilities given.  The answers may all be plausible, so pick carefully; make sure you read all of the answers.

All of the questions are based on musical excerpts that you listen to or see in score.  So focus in your studying on being able to place pieces of music in their historical context.  For instance, rather than ask you to give Robert Schumann’s birth and death dates, the exam might show you a page from a Schumann piano piece and then ask a series of questions, one of which might be to identify the composer and another of which might be to give a likely date of composition.  In the former case, you might be asked to choose among Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms; in the latter, between 1790-1810, 1810-1830, 1830-1850, 1850-1870, and 1870-1890.  Obviously, knowing Schumann’s birth and death dates will help, but the point is to be able to apply your knowledge to real pieces of music, and being able to distinguish the styles of music from different generations and composers is most important.

Study with those types of question in mind.  Review for the GEE:MH&L might best be accomplished by reviewing your texts, listening lists, class notes, anthologies of scores and audio recordings, and study notes from the music history and literature courses you have taken.  You are not expected to go out and learn new material.  However, the music that appears on the exam is not taken from any particular anthology or textbook; it is intended to test your ability to recognize styles and procedures rather than individual works.  So it would be helpful to look not only at the anthologies or listening lists for the courses you took, but also at other historical anthologies of music.

Click here for the next scheduled exam date.