Piano Literature Diagnostic Exam

All incoming Piano MM and DMA graduate students must take the diagnostic exam in piano literature. Any student who does not take the exam will be automatically placed in the review courses. The exam will cover the breadth of piano literature, including listening, from 1600-present. Below are materials to help you study. Information about the exam date will be sent from the School of Music Graduate Coordinator along with all other entrance exam information. The exam will be offered in August and January each year. Students have 2 chances to pass any section of the exam.

Since the exam is comprehensive, a detailed study guide is not possible; however, the following should help direct your studies. Identifying and becoming familiar with the MAJOR composers, works, and artistic movements of each of the 4 periods would be a great place to start. Lesser-played composers and works can follow. The exam will be in 2 sections: written and listening.

Written Exam

The written portion will consist of 10 questions for each period. Of these, short answer is the most common type of question that will appear and the following are examples of possible questions.

  1. Provide the catalog numbers (possibly key) of works/selections of works of any MAJOR composer. (This will be restricted to our most essential repertoire, e.g., major works by Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, etc. )
  2. Outline the structure of a major work, including sections, keys, and other detail important to that composition. 
  3. Discuss the contents of major keyboard collections (e.g., The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book).
  4.  Discuss artistic movements (e.g., nationalism, impressionism, etc.) and how these are represented in the literature. List key composers.
  5.  Compare and contrast works of the same genre by different composers (e.g., Lizst vs. Chopin Etudes). 

 Multiple choice, and or matching questions may also be included in this portion.

Listening Exam

The listening portion will also have 10-15 examples for each period.

Excerpts will be played twice and will be chosen to exhibit characteristics of the work that enable recognition (i.e. expect to hear principle themes, and/or idiosyncrasies of the composer’s pianistic writing). Some works may be essential to the repertoire (a piece with which you should definitely be familiar) in which case the excerpt will be much shorter. Others will be less familiar, but will still posses identifying elements to help categorize the work. Exact composer is not the only goal, but where composer is not known; please provide the possible composer/ piece, including movement and opus/catalog number if appropriate. Your goal is to have a reasonable guess, and not to be perfectly correct with each example.

Study Aids

F.E. Kirby:  Music for Piano:  A Short History

Stewart Gordon:  A History of Keyboard Literature

David Burge:  Twentieth Century Piano Music

Listening Lists

You can use the listening lists below as a guide. Some examples may not appear in the lists below.