Oberlin Conservatory and Double Degree Program students have the opportunity to take placement tests during New Student Orientation. We offer placement testing in aural skills, music theory, music history, and piano.

Students who have taken Advanced Placement courses should consult with the Academic Advising Resource Center or review the policies in Oberlin’s catalog under each program in the conservatory’s 11 divisions.

Testing and placement for Aural Skills courses take place during Orientation week.

  • Students will attend an aural skills orientation session followed by individual testing during Orientation week, usually on Monday and Tuesday. Students will receive an individual schedule with testing dates and times when they the aural skills orientation session.
  • Placement will be based on sight singing rhythms and melodies. (Solfége is not required.)
  • Based on this test score, incoming students will be placed and consented for their assigned aural skills courses and sections. Final aural skills placements should be posted outside room 309 in the Kohl Building, the day after testing. New students will not register for aural skills until the last two days of Orientation.

For questions about Theory, Aural Skills, and Music History contact: Jeanne Rosecrans, Kohl Bldg 309, x58297

College of Arts and Sciences students interested in taking aural skills courses may also take the test, however, Bachelor of Music students will be given preference regarding class limit and section assignment. The aural skills test is not required of arts and sciences students wishing to take secondary lessons, ensembles, and most other conservatory courses.

Performance Diploma students are not eligible to take theory, aural skills, or music history until they have transferred into the Bachelor of Music degree. Please contact our office if you have questions or concerns regarding this restriction.

Testing conflict: If you must attend another exam during the aural skills placement test, please stop in the Kohl Building 309 or contact the theory department  prior to test date/time to schedule an alternate testing appointment.

Jazz students are required to take additional jazz theory and jazz aural skills. Placement in these courses is based on testing which usually occurs the first day of orientation week. Please see an updated Orientation schedule for specific time, date, location. For jazz theory and jazz aural skills questions, please contact Julie Baker Kohl Bldg 200.

The music theory placement test is required for all Bachelor of Music and Double Degree Program students. Most students submit this test during the admissions process. You will receive a link to complete our online music theory exam in the confirmation email we send after we receive your Oberlin Conservatory Application for Admission.

This initial test will be requested again for incoming Bachelor of Music/Double Degree Program students who did not take the test during the admissions process. This course is not required of Master’s, Artist Diploma, or Performance Diploma students.

Based on this test score, incoming conservatory/double degree-students will be placed into and consented for their assigned theory courses and sections, if they place into the first level of music theory. New students will not register for music theory until the last two days of Orientation.

Most students will be notified of their placement via U.S. mail or email prior to their arrival on campus. Final theory test placements and section assignments (class day/time/CRN) will also be posted outside Kohl Building, Room 309 during Orientation week just prior to registration. Students must register prior to the add/drop period.

Some students will have the opportunity to take an additional test, which may or may not place them into a more advanced theory course. Selected students will receive instructions and the advanced placement test via email or U.S. mail during June. The exemption test deadline is usually July 15.

For questions about Theory, Aural Skills, and Music History contact: Jeanne Rosecrans, Kohl Bldg 309, x58297

Students who wish to prepare for the placement exam can consult Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm, and Meter by John Clough (pub. Norton) or The Complete Musician by Steven G. Laitz (pub. Oxford University Press).


College of Arts and Science students or incoming Bachelor of Music students who are interested in taking theory courses who have not yet taken the theory test, but who wish to do so may take the online theory test . Bachelor of Music students, however, will be given preference regarding class limit and section assignment. The music theory placement exam/course is not required of arts and sciences students wishing to take secondary lessons, ensembles, and most other conservatory courses.

All conservatory students are required to take MHST 101, Introduction to Music History and Literature. Students are consented in MHST 101 either fall or spring semester. However, transfer students who have successfully passed two or more semesters of music history at another institution and students who have taken music history courses (particularly through the IB program) may wish to take the placement exam.

The exam generally takes two hours and includes specific and generic listening identification; term definition; and essay questions on Western concert music, jazz, popular music, and basic ethnomusicology. One must pass every component of the exam and successfully demonstrate knowledge of all eras of music history in order to pass the exam.

Students interested in taking the exam must send an email to departmental assistant Jeanne Rosecrans by the first week of August to allow for scheduling. The exam is usually scheduled as group testing during Orientation. Please check your Orientation schedule for updated time, date, and location. Final placements and waivers are assigned by department chair Charles McGuire .

Music history is not required of Master’s, Artist Diploma, or Performance Diploma students.

For questions about Theory, Aural Skills, and Music History contact: Jeanne Rosecrans, Kohl Bldg 309, x58297


College of Arts and Science students: Bachelor of music students will be given preference regarding class limit and section assignment. The music history test/course is not required of arts and sciences students wishing to take secondary lessons, ensembles, and most other conservatory courses.

For information about secondary piano auditions for new conservatory non-piano majors, please stop by Conservatory Bibbins 326 for audition information and for sign-up sheets for audition times. Be sure to have your consent form ready to submit at the audition.

  • New students who are non-piano conservatory majors may audition during Orientation week. Signup for audition times are outside of Bibbins, room 326.
  • Conservatory students without prior piano experience do not need to take a placement audition. Please signup for a piano class (APST 110). Sign-up sheets will be posted outside Bibbins, room 326 during Orientation or the first week of classes. New students should select a section once they have registered for their other required courses. Further instructions will be listed on the sign-up sheet. Please send an email to Professor Andrea McAlister for more information.
  • New and returning arts and sciences students interested in secondary piano lessons may audition during the first week of classes. Students may be placed into private lessons with student-teachers or faculty for credit-bearing lessons. Sign-up sheets and additional information will be posted outside Bibbins, room 326 as well as on the bulletin board outside Bibbins 113. Space is limited. 
  • Repertoire: Students will be asked to sight read, harmonize, and play a few scales and chords. One solo may be prepared that represents your highest level of playing but is not required.

See Secondary Lessons: Piano Auditions and Consent for additional details, and send an email to Professor Andrea McAlister if you have questions about secondary piano instruction.

All entering Conservatory and Double-Degree students must complete the Conservatory Writing Assessment, administered by the Conservatory Writing Committee. Generally, this assessment takes place during Orientation week. This assessment is graded on a Pass/No Pass basis. Students who receive a passing grade on this initial assessment will have satisfied the writing requirement.

For question regarding the Conservatory Writing Assessment please contact Associate Dean Bill Quillen, Bibbins 113, x58200.

For general information about requesting credit for Advanced Placement (AP) exams, review the Advanced Placement or course planning for first-time students section in the Academic Advising Resource Center website.

Browse the course catalog for additional information. You will need to search under “AP credit’ for each department and their requirements. Students with a score of 5 will normally receive 4 AP credits in that area of study.

For questions regarding AP credits please contact the AARC, Carnegie West, x58450.

Blackboard Instructions

Visit blackboard.oberlin.edu  to begin.

By late July or early August, you should be able to sign on using your Obie ID sent to you in the gold-colored letter from the Oberlin College registrar’s office.

  1. Select the tab labeled "Academics" where you will find that you are enrolled in a course entitled "Placement/Readiness Exams" once Blackboard is prepped for the school year.
  2. Follow the "Placement/Readiness Exams" link to find information and instructions for taking placement test before and once on campus (on the "What to do" page).