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Exit Exam for the Masters Degree In Performance


Every Masters Degree candidate in performance must, by regulation of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), have an exit exam in the major field. This exam may be written or oral, or a combination of both, and must be administered by the department of the major area. The exam should determine if the candidate has an appropriate and adequate grasp of historical, stylistic, and instrumental materials relative to his/her area of expertise.


The String Department offers the following guidelines for its students in preparation for this exam:
  1. The exam will be held in conjunction with the Masters Degree recital hearing. It will be an oral exam.

  2. The exam will immediately commence upon successful completion (passing) of the recital hearing (at the same time and place). Should the candidate not pass the recital hearing, there will be no exam given.

  3. Hearings are normally 20 minutes; therefore all Masters candidate’s hearings will automatically be scheduled for 30 minutes to accommodate the oral exit exam in the major field.

  4. The faculty panel will consist of five string faculty members, at least one of whom must be from the candidate’s major area (i.e., violin, viola, cello, or double bass).

  5. The chair of the hearing committee will lead the questioning, and poll the other members by secret ballot about the candidate’s passing or not passing the exam. The exam will be passed by a simple positive majority.

  6. Should the candidate not pass the exit exam, he/she can try again before the end of the semester in which the hearing takes place, and will be responsible for the same type of questions as in the original exam (see below).

  7. If the candidate fails the exit exam the second time, there will be only one more chance to pass the exam, and that must be done within the following semester.

 Guidelines for questions:

Candidates will be asked questions specific to all the works programmed on their Master’s recital, even though the candidate may not have performed all of them for the hearing panel during the course of the recital hearing itself. The panel must also get some sense that the candidate has a broad-based musical and stylistic knowledge appropriate to a graduate student majoring in performance from the IU School of Music. Some observations will be objective, but also some will be subjective.

Questions from the panel will focus on: 
  1. Composer birth and death dates

  2. When piece was written

  3. For whom piece was written

  4. Whether there is anything unusual in the history of the piece, its composition, its first or early performances, etc.

  5. General basic knowledge of other works by composer (e.g. if you’re playing a Beethoven Sonata, how many other sonatas exist? What other chamber music involving violin did Beethoven write?)

  6. Comment on the piece instrumentally (e.g what makes it well-written or not well-written for the instrument? What are specific instrumental challenges or innovations?)

  7. Form of the piece (each movement), and particular notes of anything unusual in the form or in the technical details of the performance and presentation of the work.

  8. Other composers ( predecessors or contemporaries) who may have influenced the piece’s composition

In addition, please prepare for the following questions:
  1. Have at least one stylistic comment specific to each piece (e.g. how is this piece similar to and different from most other pieces of its general type?)

  2. Have a comment about the relationship between the period in which the piece was written and what the composer was doing at that stage of his/her life.

  3. In your study of the piece, what specifically did you find easy / difficult / inspiring?