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Contact the Music Graduate Office

Office Location
East Studio Building 120 (JS 120)
205 S. Jordan Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405

Mailing Address
1201 E. 3rd Street
Bloomington, IN 47405

Hours: 8 am–12 pm, 1–5 pm
Phone: 812-855-1738Phone

E-mail: musgrad [at] indiana [dot] edu

musicdgs [at] indiana [dot] edu (Eric Isaacson), Director 
serbes [at] indiana [dot] edu (Sara Erbes), Advisor
anmiller [at] indiana [dot] edu (Angie Miller), Recorder
musgrad [at] indiana [dot] edu (Laurie Staring), Secretary
musdoc [at] indiana [dot] edu (Janis Cooper Parker), Doctoral Clerk

More Information

Qualifying Examinations

Doctoral degree students become candidates for their degrees when they have passed the qualifying examinations and been recommended by their advisory committee to the director of graduate studies in the Jacobs School of Music (DM and DME students) or dean of the University Graduate School (PhD students).

It is to a student's advantage to take qualifying exams as soon as possible after course work is finished. A written exam may be taken during the last semester of doctoral course work, as long as all course work for that particular field, plus all proficiencies and tool subjects, have been successfully completed.

All portions of the doctoral qualifying exams (written and oral) must be completed within one calendar year. If they are not, any exams older than one year must be retaken.

Once admitted to candidacy, a student must be enrolled each fall and spring semester until the degree is granted. Refer to information about doctoral candidacy and registration requirements.

The items in Step 1 in the outline below can be done in any order. They are listed here in the order in which they are usually completed.

Step 1a: Complete courses, proficiencies, and (DM students only) required minimum number of recitals

The following items must be completed before you are eligible to begin exams.

a. Proficiencies and tool subjects. All tools subjects and proficiencies (including language grammar, diction, or reading knowledge; performance, keyboard, and continuo; music theory and music history; and bibliography) but be completed before any qualifying exam can be taken.

b. Course work. You must pass all courses in a field before you are eligible to schedule an exam in that field. You must also be in or beyond your last semester of coursework overall. To determine if you are in your final semester of coursework, you may view your Academic Advisement Report on One.IU, or may request a report (degree check) by scheduling an appointment with the academic advisor. 

Also, make sure any elective courses or approved substitutions have been documented and formally approved by the chair of your department and the director of graduate studies (details on the approval process are here).

All coursework (including Other Required Credits general electives) must be completed prior to the oral exam with the exception of final project/dissertation/piano essay credit hours.

c. Recitals. Performance, conducting, and composition majors must have completed a minimum number of recitals before taking the major field exam. The number required varies by degree:

Degree To be completed before exams
DM Brass Pedagogy 1 recital
DM Brass Performance 2 recitals
DM Choral Conducting 1 recital
DM Composition 0/1 recitals (recital may be performed any time)
DM Early Music/Historical Performance 1 recital for students starting the program prior to fall 2004
2 recitals for students starting fall 2004 and later
DM Guitar 2 recitals
DM Harp 2 recitals
DM Orchestral Conducting 1 recital
DM Organ 3 recitals (or 2 recitals and 1 waived recital) for students starting the program prior to fall 2004
2 recitals for students starting fall 2004 or later
DM Organ and Church Music/Organ and Sacred Music 3 recitals
DM Percussion 2 recitals
DM Piano 4 recitals
DM Strings 2 recitals
DM Voice 2 recitals
DM Wind Conducting 1 recital
DM Woodwinds 2 recitals
DM Woodwinds (Mult.) 2 recitals

d. Minor field(s). Formally declare your minors by having the appropriate department approve your proposed courses. (The minor-field form is available here.) If your minor is outside the Jacobs School of Music, please ask the department to indicate to the music graduate office whether written and oral qualifying exams will be required.

e. Advisory Committee. Ask to have your advisory committee appointed. This committee consists of three major-field representatives and one representative from each minor field, and is responsible for the written and oral qualifying exams. Note that the Guided Electives option does not have a representative.

Step 1b: Apply to begin exams 

As you begin your final semester of coursework, the director of graduate studies will review your records and inform you by e-mail which exams you are eligible to schedule and, for those you are not yet eligible to take, what steps must be taken first. This review will happen automatically - you do not need to take any action to begin the process.

Once you receive that email from the director of graduate studies, you will also begin to receive email from the doctoral clerk announcing the availability of dates on the doctoral calendars and other matters pertaining to the qualifying exam process.

If you want to apply to start exams prior to this automatic process (so that you can plan more carefully ahead of time), please send an email to serbes [at] indiana [dot] edu (Sara Erbes).

Step 1c: Submit oral exam repertory List (DM Students only)

May be done in or any time after the final semester of coursework.

The oral exam repertory list, required for DM degrees only, is not used in the written qualifying exams, but needs to be approved prior to scheduling the first written exam. PhD and DME students do not need to prepare an oral exam repertory list. The oral exam repertory list serves as the starting point for major-field questions that concern repertory in the oral exam. Minor-field representatives may use the list if they wish in the oral exam; students should talk with their minor-field representatives to make sure that expectations for the oral exam are clear. 

The oral exam repertory list should consist of approximately twelve works selected from the entire chronological and stylistic range of the student's major field. The list should be broadly representative of the repertory of the major field. Each "work" should be substantial—a song cycle or group of songs rather than an individual song or two; a collection of character pieces rather than just one, and so on. Students who include operas should list the entire opera, not just an individual aria or particular role. 

Consult with the chair of your advisory committee about which pieces to include on the list. Some departments have specific requirements, including composition. Please check with the department chair to see if there are departmental guidelines before finalizing your list.

To submit your oral exam repertory list for approval:

  1. Type your oral exam repertory list. Include the full title and composer name of each piece (include the names of any arrangers or transcribers). Include the dates of both the composer and the work (if known). Arrange the list in chronological order. The list should include your name and major at the top.
  2. Send the list either in the body of an e-mail or as an e-mail attachment to the chair of your advisory committee (ordinarily this is your teacher). Ask the committee chair to forward your oral exam repertory list to the doctoral clerk (musdoc [at] indiana [dot] edu) with her or his approval. If the chair of your committee does not use e-mail, please e-mail the list directly to the doctoral clerk and also submit a paper copy of the list, signed by the chair of your committee, to the music graduate office.

The oral exam repertory list is subject to the approval of the director of graduate studies.

The music graduate office will send copies of the approved oral exam repertory list to all members of the advisory committee before the oral exam.

Step 1d: Meet with the director of graduate studies

May be done in or any time after the final semester of coursework.

Before scheduling the first written exam, students should contact the music graduate office to arrange a pre-exam appointment with the director of graduate studies. In this meeting (which should take about 45 minutes), the director will review the structure and content of the written and oral exams, offer advice on how to prepare for the exams, talk about time limits, and answer any questions about the process. 

Step 1e: Have Topic Proposal Approved

For most students this must be done before scheduling the major field written exam. PhD students in in music theory and DM students in composition must have their topic approved before the oral exam can be scheduled. PhD students in musicology may have the topic proposal approved at any time, including after the qualifying exams have been completed.

A topic proposal for the final project, piano essay, or dissertation must be approved and your research committee appointed. Note that your research committee is established separately from the advisory committee even if their membership overlaps. Students are encouraged to start developing their topic before completing course work and to have the topic proposal approved or well along before beginning exams.  

Topic proposal guidelines for 

Step 2: Written examinations

Students must take written examinations in their major and minor fields. The examinations are prepared by the student's advisory committee member(s) representing the major or minor field and may be based on the content of courses taken in each field or on the background and concepts pertinent to the area. Written exams may be taken in any order.

DM Composition students do not take a written major-field exam, but must have completed their K702 7-day and K703 24-hour documents before they can schedule their oral exam. These documents are not included it the one-year time limit for completing qualifying exams.  Composition students must, however, take minor field exams as required of others.

At the discretion of the minor-field representative (as guided by appropriate department policy), students having music performance as a minor may substitute a 30-minute performance examination by a faculty jury or a recital for the written examination. Students in this situation must ask their minor field representative to inform the music graduate office that he or she approves the use of a recital in place of a written examination and to inform the office once the recital performance is complete. The minor Music Information Technology requires a portfolio of work from the four courses taken in place of a written exam.

Minors outside the Jacobs School of Music may or may not require a written exam.

Most written exams are given individually in the exam room in the music graduate office. Exams in music theory are given once per semester on a Saturday morning. The music theory department publishes information on music theory written minor field exam, including a schedule of upcoming dates.

Major Field Written Exams are given Monday through Friday in two parts on a single day. The first part begins at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 11:50 a.m.; the second part begins at 1:00 p.m. and ends at 4:50 p.m.

Minor Field Written Exams other than music theory are given Monday through Friday either from 8:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. or from 1 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.

Written exams are given during the fall and spring semesters, and during the primary six-week JSOM summer term. Because of the press of other music graduate office work, no written exams are given during the first week of classes or exam week in any fall or spring term. Exams are also not given on holidays or when classes are not in session (spring break, July 4, etc.) or during the summer except for the primary six-week JSOM summer term.

Students planning to take written exams during the summer term must indicate their intentions by April 1. The only exception to this deadline is for students taking the music theory minor exam (the deadline to sign up for the summer music theory minor field exam is later in April).

The student has the option to write the exam by hand or to use one of the exam room computers (Macintosh or Windows). Blue books (for exams in writing), scratch paper, and staff paper are provided. Backpacks, purses, books, notes, electronic aids, etc., are not allowed in the exam room; these items may be left with the Graduate Secretary. The student may bring food, drinks, candy, glasses, pens, pencils, a clock, tissues, etc. Because the weather and heating/cooling vary, it is recommended that students bring a sweater. Students may also wish to bring ear plugs, as sound from nearby teaching studios can sometimes be heard in the exam room.

Students are encouraged to consult regularly with advisory committee members about their preparation for the exams, but please note that it is generally not appropriate for students to ask committee members about exams while they are being graded.

Completed exams are sent to the major field advisory committee (for major field exams) or minor field representative (for minor field exams) for grading. Students will be given a copy of their written exam answers. Exam results will be reported to the student by e-mail as soon as they are received in the graduate office. Ordinarily this will be by the third week following the exam, excepting breaks. Also, summer exams may not be graded until the fall. Exam results are also posted on the student's Academic Advisement Report.

If any area of the written exam is failed, the student will need to repeat all or a portion of the exam successfully before proceeding to the orals, at the discretion of the advisory committee. (NOTE: In music theory, the entire exam must always be retaken.) Students are given only two opportunities to pass the written exam in each area.

The Written Exam Calendar provides details on availability of written exam dates and scheduling information.

Step 3: Schedule and Take the Oral Examination

All students must take and pass all written qualifying exams (or their equivalent) before scheduling the oral exam.  Music theory majors must also complete the public lecture (MUS-T 659) and the dissertation topic proposal (for students in bulletin years prior to 2017), and composition majors must complete the topic proposal prior to scheduling the oral exam.

The major-field oral qualifying examination focuses on the student's major area. For DM students, the exam focuses especially on the literature on the oral exam repertory list. The exam may include assessment of the student's ability to articulate an understanding of the formal/analytical characteristics of the music, its historical development and social context, and features related to its teaching and learning. Students are encouraged to consult with the members of their advisory committee for advice on how to effectively prepare for the qualifying exam.

A majority vote of the committee determines the outcome of the major-field examination. Minor-field oral examinations, unless waived, take place at the same time but are evaluated separately.

Oral examinations take place in the conference room in the music graduate office. They are given during the fall and spring semesters on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday beginning at 3:30 p.m. and usually ending around 5:00. No oral exams are given during the first week of classes or during exam week. Oral examinations are possible during the summer term only if all members of the advisory committee are teaching in the summer or voluntarily offer to participate. Summer oral exams must take place during the primary six-week JSOM summer term.

Steps for Scheduling an Oral Exam
  1. Take and pass all required written qualifying examinations and complete any other required steps. The music graduate office will notify students by e-mail when they have successfully completed the last written exam and are eligible to schedule an oral exam.
  2. Tentatively reserve a date with the doctoral clerk. The oral exam calendar includes more details about the reservation process. Tentative reservations are good for one week. Dates not confirmed within a week may need to be offered to other students because of high demand.
    • Please consult with the doctoral clerk or director of graduate studies if you are having trouble securing a date. Keep in mind that the peak times for exams are at the end of semesters. Oral exam dates are opened on a rolling basis as the semester progresses (usually two weeks at a time).
  3. Confirm the availability of each member of the Advisory Committee who needs to be present on the tentatively reserved date. This includes your minor field representatives (if required).
    • In general, you must schedule your oral exam around your committee members' availability. If it is impossible for a member of your advisory committee to attend the oral exam (for example, because they are on sabbatical), you may petition the director of graduate studies for a substitute from the same department. Approval of committee substitutions is given only when there are no other options, and never to make a summer oral exam possible.
  4. When the availability of all committee members is confirmed, confirm the date of the exam with the doctoral clerk.

A failed oral examination may be retaken once. The committee may prescribe the scope of questioning of the reexamination.