Comprehensive Exams

Comprehensive exams are taken in May or November.

Deadlines

  • End of your first year: Outline schedule to prepare for exams, define history exam topics with your supervisor. 
  • Start of your third year: Consult with the Area to define works to present in the Oral.  Pick one work yourself.
  • Semester before comprehensives: 
    • Notify graduatestudies.music [at] mcgill.ca of your intent to take the exams next semester by:
      • May 1 for November exams  
      • November 1 for May exams
    • Supervisors submit committee membership list to graduatestudies.music [at] mcgill.ca by:
      • May 15 for November exams
      • November 15 for May exams

Written Exams

Exam 1. History of Music (Monday): Two three-hour sessions

  • Part 1: Two essay questions based upon seven of eight topics reflecting various periods prior to 1900.  Answers should demonstrate knowledge of musical works and secondary sources.
  • Part 2: Two essay questions demonstrating comprehensive knowledge of Western Music since 1900. 

Exam 2. Harmony and Counterpoint (Tuesday): Two three-hour sessions

  • Part I: Completion of a given passage of not more than four instrumental parts in 19th-century style.
  • Part 2: Completion of a given passage of up to four vocal parts in 16th-century style. May be waived if you have completed MUTH-302, Modal Counterpoint 2.

Exam 3. Analysis Parts I & II. (Wednesday): Two three-hour sessions

  • Part 1: Identification, with stylistic justification, of possible composer(s) and/or period of composition for 10 listening examples spanning the history of Western Music from Renaissance to the present.
  • Part 2: Written analysis of an excerpt of a given score.  Piano is available during this exam.

Exam 4. Orchestration Parts I & II: Take-home examination (typically Friday - Monday, 9am)

  • Part 1: Orchestration of a given full score.
  • Part 2: Piano reduction of a given full score, retaining essential stylistic and timbral characteristics of the original. Exam is emailed from, and returned to, the Music Graduate Studies Office.

Oral Exam

  • When: The week following the written examinations.
  • Duration: Two to three hours.
  • Part 1: 20 minute presentations of 4 works with 10 minute question/answer periods, demonstrating wide knowledge of repertoire, history, compositional practices, theory and aesthetics of the 20/21st centuries.
  • Part 2: A short question and answer period based on the written examinations.

Preparation

Begin preparing as early as possible, using placement exam results to determine where to put special effort.

Preparation should include:

  • Weekly meetings with supervisors 
  • Writing sample questions and answers
  • Completing sample orchestrations and exercises
  • Defending mock questions
  • Responding to listening examples, etc.
  • Collaborating with other area students who have completed, or are preparing for, their comprehensives.

Committee

  • Three full-time staff members from the student's area of specialization.
  • One member from a different area within the Department.
  • The Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in Music, or appointed representative, serves as Chair.

Resources

 

Keys to Success

"Starting early...being curious...allowing yourself the freedom to reflect deeply"
-Elinor Frey, DMus '12