Published February 16, 2024

Everything You Need to get a 5 on AP Music Theory

NP

Natasha Potter

MSU Alumni, Creative Advertising Major, Marketing Associate at Knowt 😃

This guide will go over a few of our tricks to getting a 5 on AP Music Theory and I’ll break them down in this article! With the right strategies and resources, it’s definitely possible for you to ace the exam. 

Free AP Music Theory Resources

If you’re cramming last minute for AP Music Theory, don’t stress we’ve all been there! If you’re wondering how to pass AP Music Theory in a time crunch, here are some of our student-made AP Music Theory exam tips and resources for a last minute cram.

What Do I Need to Memorize for the AP Music Theory Exam?

So, let's dig into what these AP Music Theory questions will actually cover. You can expect them to closely relate to the material and skills you learned in class. The AP Music Theory course is divided into eight major units, each with its own subunits. Let's take a casual stroll through them:

Unit 1: Music Fundamentals I: Pitch, Major Scales, and Key Signatures, Rhythm, Meter, and Expressive Elements

  • Stuff like pitch and pitch notation, rhythmic values, major scales and key signatures, and the nitty-gritty of rhythm, meter, tempo, dynamics, and articulation.

Unit 2: Music Fundamentals II: Minor Scales and Key Signatures, Melody, Timbre, and Texture

  • You'll dive into minor scales, both natural and fancy ones like harmonic and melodic. Get ready to explore relative keys, other cool scales like chromatic and pentatonic, and important concepts like interval size, transposing instruments, timbre, melody, and texture.

Unit 3: Music Fundamentals III: Triads and Seventh Chords

  • Here's where you'll rock out with triads, chord qualities, diatonic chords, Roman numerals, and the joy of seventh chords. Don't forget about those chord inversions and figured bass!

Unit 4: Harmony and Voice Leading I: Chord Function, Cadence, and Phrase

  • Time to get your voice leading skills on point. You'll dive into soprano-bass counterpoint, SATB voice leading, harmonic progression, functional harmony, cadences, and voice leading with those lovely seventh chords.

Unit 5: Harmony and Voice Leading II: Chord Progressions and Predominant Function

  • Adding some spice with predominant function. You'll explore chords like IV, ii, vi, and iii, and how they fit into chord progressions, cadences, and 6-4 chords.

Unit 6: Harmony and Voice Leading III: Embellishments, Motives, and Melodic Devices

  • Let's decorate those melodies! You'll learn about passing tones, neighbor tones, suspensions, appoggiaturas, and more. Dive into motives, melodic and harmonic sequences, and explore how to add some fancy melodic devices to your music.

Unit 7: Harmony and Voice Leading IV: Secondary Function

  • Time to get a bit fancy with secondary dominant chords and secondary leading tone chords. Learn how to use them in part writing and create some sweet harmonic progressions.

Unit 8: Modes and Form

  • Get ready to explore different modes and how they relate to phrase relationships and common formal sections in music.

That's the breakdown of the major units in AP Music Theory. Reviewing these concepts will give you a solid idea of what to expect on the exam. For a deeper dive into the course content, check out the AP Music Theory Course and Exam Description. Get groovin' with your music theory knowledge!

What is on the AP Music Theory Exam?

The multiple-choice section makes up 45% of your total score. You'll face 75 questions, and each correct answer earns you 1 point. The best part? No points are taken away for wrong answers, so make sure to give it your best shot on every question using the AP Music Theory test tips you’ve learned!

Now, the free-response section carries 55% of your total score. Within the free-response section, the written questions account for 45% of your score, while the sight singing questions make up 10% of your score. Here's a breakdown of the points for each part and a breakdown of what is on the AP Music Theory exam:

Written (45% of total score):

- Question 1: Melodic Dictation - 9 points

- Question 2: Melodic Dictation - 9 points

- Question 3: Harmonic Dictation - 24 points

- Question 4: Harmonic Dictation - 24 points

- Question 5: Part-writing from figured bass - 25 points

- Question 6: Part-writing from Roman numerals - 18 points

- Question 7: Harmonizing a Melody - 9 points

Total: 118 points

Sight Singing (10% of total score):

- Question 1: 9 points

- Question 2: 9 points

Total: 18 points

Here's the cool part: Your scores from each section (multiple-choice, free-response written, and free-response sight singing) will be added up and scaled to fit the weight of that section. Then, they'll all be added together and converted to the standard AP scoring scale of 1-5. The exact formula for this might change a bit from year to year, but don't sweat it. Keep reading to learn how to study for the AP Music Theory exam! Trust the process and utilize the AP Music Exam tips to get that 5!

Do your best on every section, and let the scoring magic do its thing. Remember, you got this!

AP Music Theory Exam Format

There are 75 questions in total, split into two parts.

Part A is the Aural section, where you'll listen to audio clips and answer questions. This part has around 41-43 questions and lasts about 45 minutes. Get your ears ready!

Part B is the Nonaural section, where you'll look at printed scores to answer questions. This part has around 32-34 questions and lasts about 35 minutes. Time to put your music-reading skills to the test!

In total, the exam lasts around 1 hour and 20 minutes, and it's worth a hefty 45% of your final score. So make sure to give it your all!

The questions in the exam will assess your ability to describe musical features, procedures, and relationships using symbols and terms. You'll also need to detect discrepancies in pitch and rhythm when comparing notated and performed music. Get ready to explore various musical styles, from baroque and classical to romantic and contemporary genres like world music, jazz, or pop. They've got you covered with both instrumental and vocal music.

Part A is the Free-Response Written section. You'll tackle seven questions, including melodic and harmonic dictations, part writing from figured bass and Roman numerals, and even composing a bass line or harmonizing a melody. This part lasts approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes, and it's worth a solid 45% of your final score. Time to unleash your musical creativity!

Part B is the Free-Response Sight Singing section. This one is all about using your vocal skills. You'll sing and record two diatonic melodies, each about 4-8 bars long. It's a quick section, lasting around 10 minutes, but it carries 10% of your total score. So, warm up those vocal cords and get ready to show off your sight singing talents!

Don't worry if some of the questions seem a bit confusing at first. You'll find sample questions in the exam materials to help you get the hang of it. Take a look and listen to see how it's done.

Now you're all set to conquer the AP Music Theory exam. Good luck and let the music play!

How do I study for the AP Music Theory Exam?

Now that you've got the lowdown on the AP Music Theory exam, let's talk about how to prepare for the AP Music Theroy exam. Follow these three AP Music Exam tips, and you'll know how to ace the AP Music Theory exam like a pro!

#1: Sharpen Your Listening Skills

More than half of the Music Theory questions will require you to listen to audio clips. So, it's crucial to train those ears of yours. Get familiar with different scales, chord qualities, and intervals. Here's a fun exercise: Have a buddy play intervals on a piano (or any other instrument) while you close your eyes. Try to guess which interval was just played. Mix it up with a range of intervals going up and down. It's like a little musical guessing game!

#2: Hands-On Practice is Key

Forget passive studying, my friend. Music Theory is all about getting active. Play through scales like a pro, both major and minor. Practice identifying notes, scales, and chords. You can find awesome resources online for this. And don't forget about sight singing! Listen to different melodies and sing them back with the right pitches, rhythm, and tempo. Get those vocal cords grooving!

#3: Test Yourself with Practice Tests

Practice makes perfect, right? Take advantage of practice tests and questions to get in the zone. The College Board's official resources and Knowt resources are the best way to study for the AP Music Theory exam. They're super close to the real deal. Now, there aren't a ton of official multiple-choice questions out there, but fear not! In the AP Music Theory Course and Exam Description, starting on page 218, you'll find 15 multiple-choice questions to tackle.

The good news is that there are plenty of official free-response questions available online for Music Theory. Go for the ones from the past five years to stay up-to-date with the current exam format. So, grab those practice tests and unleash your music theory skills!

With these tips, you'll be well-prepared for the AP Music Theory exam. Jam on, my friend, and show that test who's boss!

When do AP scores come out?

Hey, good news! The College Board has given us an update on when we can expect those AP scores. Based on the latest info, we can look forward to getting our scores in July 2023. Normally, the College Board likes to release them early in the month, so keep an eye out!

When the time comes, all you need to do is log into your College Board account using your trusty username and password. Voila! Your AP scores will be right there, ready for you to check out. It's a convenient way to access your results online. Can't wait to see how you did!

Is the AP Music Theory Exam Hard?

If you're planning to pursue a music program in college, listen up! This AP Music Theory exam can actually give you a leg up. Many universities require music students to complete written and aural theory courses, usually spanning one or two semesters. On top of that, some universities even throw in a barrier exam for second- or third-year students. Barrier exams are like checkpoints to determine if you're ready to move forward in your course of study. If you can't pass the barrier after a couple of tries, it might be a roadblock for continuing in that program.

But hey, here's the cool part. Students who score high on the AP Music Theory exam can benefit big time. Not only can you potentially earn course credit for a whole semester of theory, but it also boosts your chances of passing that tricky barrier exam down the road. So, ace that AP test, and open up doors to a smoother journey through your music program. Rock on!

Explaining the 2023 AP Music Theory Score

You know what? Scoring high on the AP Music Theory exam ain't easy for everyone. That's why they've got this sub-score system in place. Not every student has the magical power of absolute pitch, so ear training becomes crucial to nailing that 4 or 5 score. Trust me, those aural theory questions can be real tough cookies for students.

In fact, Total Registration's analysis of AP exam scores for six whole years showed that aural theory was consistently the weakest spot for students. Let's take a trip down memory lane:

2011: Sight-singing (yeah, it includes the starting pitch)

2012: Melodic dictation

2013: Roman numerals

2014: Melodic dictation

2015: Roman numerals and more melodic dictation

2016: Melodic dictation and multiple-choice questions with a listening prompt

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