Comprehensive Exams

The various MM degree plans follow different guidelines regarding comprehensive examinations (see below), but in every case an oral exam is compulsory, and it should last at least 45 minutes.

If the supervisory committee wishes to defer the grade of the oral examination, the student has two weeks in which to re-take the portion which was not passed. If the re-take is not passed, the student is required to repeat the entire oral examination during the subsequent semester. If the supervisory committee decides that a student failed the oral examination, a re-examination may not be scheduled until the following semester.

The Final Oral Examination Report Form must be filed in the Office of Graduate Studies at least four weeks before the oral examination. Prior to this time, the candidate must obtain approval from the chair of the supervisory committee to take the oral examination and notify the Graduate Secretary in the Music Office.


The MM comprehensive examination for Options IA and IB is the defense of the student’s thesis. The candidate may be asked to summarize the thesis and/or its genesis, to answer questions about specific elements of the project, to contextualize the project in a larger scholarly, musical, or historical context, or to speculate about additional research or compositional avenues suggested by the project.


The exam for candidates for Option IC is in two parts: the written examination and the oral examination.

Candidates pursuing Option IC are eligible to take their written examination no earlier than their third semester of study. The written examination is most often held on the Thursday following Fall Break and the Thursday following Spring Break. This may vary depending on the relationship of fixed deadlines set by the Office of Graduate Studies to the academic calendar in the school year in question. Students should check with the GKSOM Graduate Secretary for the exact date in any given semester.

The written examination lasts for ninety minutes. Students will write responses to three questions or prompts. These questions will be developed by the three members of the student’s Supervisory Committee, in a manner directed by the Supervisory Committee Chair. The form and content of the questions will be determined according to the student’s scholarly and artistic interests. The list of three questions and the desired format of the responses shall be made available to the student no later than five days prior to his/her exam time.

 At the chair’s discretion, members of the committee may consult with the student to determine the content and nature of the questions and required responses. In addition to prose answers, questions requiring response in the form of composition and/or musical analysis are acceptable if approved by the Supervisory Committee Chair. The three questions may assess the student’s knowledge of theory, history, and/or musicology from any period of Western music, non-Western music, and other musical styles/genres as appropriate; however, at least one question must require the student in part to write prose about their own compositions and/or artistic philosophy.

 Responses are assessed using the following scale: 1) Pass; 2) Defer (students retake the written exam with similar question[s] in the current semester), or 3) No Pass (students must retake the written exam with new question[s] in a subsequent semester). Students will not be eligible to take the Oral Examination until successfully receiving a grade of Pass on all elements of their Comprehensive Written Exam. Students who fail the written exam and fail a retake in the following semester will be placed on academic probation.


The MM comprehensive examination for Option III is an oral exam before the supervisory committee. This exam covers the major applied area (pedagogy, literature, etc.) and the graduate recital. The exam is informed by an essay, prepared and submitted electronically in pdf format by the student to each individual member of the student’s Supervisory Committee no less than one week prior to the oral exam. The essay should provide detailed historical, stylistic, and analytical perspectives of the compositions performed on the student’s recital. Scholarly citation is required if external sources are consulted. The candidate brings the scores of the recital works performed to the examination and should be prepared to demonstrate intellectual mastery of the music in the discussion which would typically consider the theoretical, biographical, historical, stylistic, and pedagogical background of the pieces. The discussion then may expand to probe more broadly and deeply into relevant history and repertoire of the applied area. The candidate should plan to demonstrate fluency with the applied area of study that ranges well beyond the music from the recital.


All candidates are required to pass a 90-minute oral examination before completing the requirements for the Master of Music degree. Students may schedule the examination in the semester during, but not before, the semester in which the course work is to be completed. A Final Examination Report Form must be filed in the Office of Graduate Studies at least four weeks before the examination (three weeks in the summer). Prior to this time, the student must obtain approval from the chair of the supervisory committee to take the exam and notify the Graduate Secretary in the Music Office.

Two weeks prior to the examination the student will submit to the Graduate Secretary a portfolio containing:

  1. a 10-15 minute video file demonstrating the application of knowledge and skills learned in the Masters program to a K-12 teaching setting;
  2. a written 1-to-3 page statement of the student’s philosophy of music education; and
  3. a research paper previously (completed in either MUED 843, 845, or 928) or a Masters Research Document (completed in MUED 897).

The examination consists of two parts:

  1. The student is given 90 minutes to complete a theoretical and historical analysis of a band, choral, or orchestral score from a historical period and stylistic genre relevant to the students’ teaching assignment prior to the oral examination.
  2. The portfolio and the analysis become the basis of a 90-minute oral examination conducted by the supervisory committee.

The examination is graded as follows: Pass, Deferred with a re-take of a portion of the exam during the current semester, or No Pass with a re-take of the entire exam during a subsequent semester or summer session. If during the subsequent semester a candidate re-takes the examination and it is again graded No Pass, the candidate will be asked to take one or more additional courses. After completing that course work, the candidate may re-take the exam a final time.