The Senior Exam

Comprehensive Exam

Soon after Dean’s Date, senior concentrators will sit for a day-long, written examination known as the senior comprehensive exam. This is an open-book, take-home test, comprised of a series of short responses to musical excerpts. Though the structure may vary slightly from one year to the next, the general contours of the exam are as follows:

In Part 1, students will be given twelve unidentified listening and/or score examples: three examples from each of four historical groups that span antiquity to the present day. Selecting six of these examples (at least one from each historical group), students write a clear, concise essay of about 500 words on each. The approach may be historical, analytical, hermeneutic, or any combination thereof, and the essay may address such factors as compositional technique, formal design, musical style, instrumentation, text setting, expressive character, historical context, or reception. Identification of the composer or work is not the object of the exercise; the success of one’s essay does not rest on the recognition of the specific piece, but rather on one’s ability to situate the piece in a meaningful way.

In Part 2, students complete a more substantive task in response to the unidentified examples provided in Part 1: either a longer, in-depth essay, typically comparative; or a short “response” composition, or a section of a larger one, accompanied by a paragraph of prose.

Exam Preparation

In preparing for the exam, students are encouraged to review notes and materials from courses taken in fulfillment of the major requirements. After months of working deeply but narrowly on individual thesis topics, this is an opportunity to think broadly and expansively across one’s course of study in the major.

Exam Procedure

The exam begins at 9AMand must be completed by 4:45PM the same day. You will receive hard copies of scores at 8:45AM on the day of the exam; all additional materials, including audio files, will be available through Blackboard at 9AM. You may complete the examination in the setting of your choosing. Should you need a quiet space in which to take the exam, a room in the Woolworth Center can be reserved in advance by request. You may not consult your peers, nor may you use music identification apps or software. Please include the honor pledge on the final page of the exam. You may complete the exam by hand or by word processor, and must submit it either as a hard copy or email attachment to the Academic Programs Administrator no later than 4:45PM that day. Senior comprehensive exams are evaluated by the Departmental Representative; results of the exam are factored into departmental GPAs, and are used as criteria for assigning honors.