AP Music Theory Score Calculator – 2024

January 17, 2024

AP music theory score calculator

Many people have strong opinions about music, from our preferred (or most detested!) genres to our favorite artists. However, most of us are passive consumers of music who lack the technical knowledge necessary to appreciate how written notes become audible melodies. By taking classes like AP Music Theory, students can gain this knowledge, helping them recognize and understand musical features. Although studying for a music theory test might look a bit different than exam prep for other subjects, it’s still important to spend time reviewing pertinent material and the composition of the exam itself. This is where our AP Music Theory score calculator comes in. By using this tool, you can learn how the AP Music Theory exam is scored so that you can identify your strengths and put your best foot forward.

AP Music Theory Calculator

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How is the AP Music Theory exam structured?

Before using our AP Music Theory score calculator, it’s important that students understand the AP Music Theory exam’s composition. Students taking the AP Music Theory exam will have just over two hours to complete its two sections. Those sections encompass 75 multiple choice questions, seven free response questions, and two sight-singing exercises. Section I includes the exam’s multiple choice questions and is worth 45% of a student’s score. The first segment of Section I, Part A, includes 41-43 aural multiple choice questions and should take approximately 45 minutes according to College Board. After completing Part A of Section I, students will proceed to Part B, which includes 32-34 nonaural multiple choice questions. Test takers will have 35 minutes to complete this section.

Section II includes all of the AP Music Theory free response questions and sight-singing exercises. Part A of this section allocates 70 minutes for students to complete 7 free-response questions, which are worth 45% of students’ scores. Students will have approximately 25 minutes to complete the first four AP Music Theory free response questions:

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  • Question 1: Melodic dictation
  • Question 2: Melodic dictation
  • Question 3: Harmonic Dictation
  • Question 4: Harmonic Dictation

Test takers will have 45 minutes to complete the three remaining AP Music Theory free response questions:

  • Question 5: Part-writing from figured bass
  • Question 6: Part-writing from Roman numerals
  • Question 7: Harmonization of a melody

In Part B of Section II, students will have ten minutes to complete two sight-singing questions. Collectively, these exercises are worth 10% of students’ scores. For each exercise, students will have 75 seconds to observe and practice a melody. They will then have 30 seconds to perform it. To understand how each exam section contributes to your score, try experimenting with our AP Music Theory score calculator.

What concepts does the AP Music Theory exam cover?

Collectively, the questions in both sections of the AP Music Theory exam will assess students’ mastery of concepts from the eight units taught in AP Music Theory:

  • Unit 1: Music Fundamentals I: Pitch, Major Scales and Key Signatures, Rhythm, Meter, and Expressive Elements
  • Unit 2: Music Fundamentals II: Minor Scales and Key Signatures, Melody Timbre, and Texture
  • Unit 3: Music Fundamentals III: Triads and Seventh Chords
  • Unit 4: Harmony and Voice Leading I: Chord Function, Cadence, and Phrase
  • Unit 5: Harmony and Voice Leading II: Chord Progressions and Predominant Function
  • Unit 6: Harmony and Voice Leading III: Embellishments, Motives, and Melodic Devices
  • Unit 7: Harmony and Voice Leading IV: Secondary Function
  • Unit 8: Modes and Form

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College Board also identifies four skills that the AP Music Theory exam tests students on:

Skill Category 1: Analyze Performed Music

This skill evaluates how well students can analyze musical terms, concepts, and aural performed music. Specifically, students must use symbols and terms to describe features of pitch, rhythm, and melodic relationships. 48% of the exam’s multiple choice questions test this skill, as well as AP Music Theory free response questions 1-4.

Skill Category 2: Analyze Notated Music

This category tests students on the same analytical skills as Skill Category 1 but through nonaural questions. 44% of the exam’s multiple choice questions assess this skill, as well as free response questions 5-7 and the exam’s sight-singing exercises.

AP Music Theory Score Calculator (Continued)

Skill Category 3: Convert Between Performed and Notated Music

About 8% of the exam’s multiple choice questions will test students’ ability to identify discrepancies between the features of notated and performed music, including pitch and rhythm. Free response questions 1-4, as well as the sight-singing exercises, assess this skill.

Skill Category 4: Complete Based on Cues

In this category, students will apply their knowledge of musical features and concepts to complete exercises based on provided cues. AP Music Theory free response questions 5, 6, and 7 will assess this skill.

What can I expect from the AP Music Theory free response questions?

The structure of multiple choice questions is fairly familiar to most students, but free response questions can feel like a bit of a mystery. Let’s look at an example to learn more about the structure of these questions and how reviewers score them. Below is an example of a melodic dictation free response question from College Board:

The melody will be played four times. There will be a pause of 30 seconds after the first playing and a one-minute pause after each subsequent playing. The melody you will hear uses all four of the measures provided below and contains no rests. The melody will be played on a piano. The pitch of the first note has been provided. Be sure to notate the rhythm of that note. Now listen to the melody for the first time and begin working.

The melody for Question 1 will now be played a second time.

The melody for Question 1 will now be played a third time.

The melody for Question 1 will now be played a final time.

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Here, we can see that this free response question asks test takers to apply concepts learned from AP Music Theory to transform performed music into notated music. Since this question includes aural elements, students will have multiple opportunities to listen to the recording. While our AP Music Theory score calculator can provide you with a general sense of how your score on the free response questions can impact your overall performance on the exam, it is also helpful to review the scoring guidelines for the free response questions to help you understand how your responses will be evaluated on a more granular level.

For example, the free response question included above is worth up to 9 points. According to the scoring guidelines provided by College Board, reviewers will award students 1 point (up to a maximum of 8 points) for each notated segment that is correct in its pitch and rhythm. Here, a “segment” references any half measure of the melody. Any response in which at least one segment is correct in pitch and rhythm will be awarded one extra point. So, a student who recorded seven segments correctly would receive a score of eight (7 points for the correct segments + 1 bonus point). For this question, scores of 3 or below are subject to an alternate scoring guide, in which students may receive ½ points for segments with correct pitches OR rhythms.

As this example demonstrates, it is important to understand how AP Music Theory exam scores are calculated at both the macro and micro level. For that reason, we recommend utilizing our AP Music Theory score calculator in combination with the free response scoring guidelines to understand the criteria that will impact your score.

Is AP Music Theory hard?

With all this talk of exam scoring, you might be wondering how difficult AP Music Theory is. In terms of exam performance, AP Music Theory is not among the hardest or the easiest AP courses. From those lists, one could deduce that AP Music Theory is of moderate difficulty. However, bear in mind that difficulty is subjective. Some students may have a mastery of musical theory’s technical components but struggle to apply those concepts to sight-singing exercises. In comparison, students who have an intuitive understanding of music may struggle to understand its formal concepts. For this reason, rather than thinking of AP Music Theory in terms of its overall difficulty, it will be most helpful for students to identify their distinct strengths and weaknesses by taking practice tests and using our AP Music Theory score calculator.

What is the average AP Music Theory score?

When gauging the difficulty of AP Music Theory, students may also find it helpful to examine the distribution of students’ exam scores. Below is a breakdown of students’ AP Music Theory exam scores in 2023:

AP Music Theory Exam Score 5 4 3 2 1 3+
% Students Earning 20.0% 17.0% 24.0% 24.0% 15.0% 61.0%

Students taking AP exams receive scores on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest score. A score of 3 or above is typically considered a good score, as many U.S. colleges will grant credit or advanced placement to students who earn a score in that range. With that context, we can see that the majority of students do well on the AP Music Theory exam. 61% earned a 3 or above in 2023. Moreover, 20% of students earned a top score of 5, while the average score was a 3.03.

How to get a 5 on AP Music Theory?

After learning more about the structure and scoring of the AP Music Theory exam, you’re probably wondering how you can boost your chances of earning a 5. In looking at the AP Music Theory score calculator, you’ll see that students will need to do well on all of the exam’s components, including multiple choice questions, free response questions, and the sight-singing exercises, to receive a 5. While there isn’t a secret formula to earn a 5, students can look at patterns in previous students’ exam scores to help them create an effective study plan.

For example, past students struggled with multiple choice questions centered on harmony and voice leading (i.e. concepts covered in Unit 4 of AP Music Theory). A significant number of students also found the sight-singing questions challenging in 2021. While 10% of students earned the maximum number of points on these questions, a larger portion found these questions difficult. 12% of students earned 0-1 point(s) on the first sight-singing exercise. Similarly, 20% earned 0-1 point(s) on the second sight-singing question. Since these two exercises are worth 10% of a student’s overall score, they could make a difference for students who are on the cusp of earning a 5.

Tips for Success on the AP Music Theory Exam

Being aware of these patterns can give students a helpful starting point when preparing for the AP Music Theory exam. However, difficulty is subjective, and these challenges will not be universal for all students. For that reason, students should take stock of their unique needs when studying for their AP Music Theory exam. Below are a few tips to help you study smarter:

1) Know your vocabulary.

As anyone who has learned to read music knows, music is its own language. This principle also extends to the AP Music Theory exam. When preparing for the exam, familiarize yourself with the task verbs used in the AP Music Theory free response questions. These include:

  • Complete: use music notation to compose the remainder of a bass line.
  • Continue logically: proceed according to conventions of 18th-century voice-leading procedures.
  • Notate: transcribe using musical notation.
  • Realize: complete the music notation for a chord progression in four parts following the conventions of 18th-century voice-leading procedures.
  • Sing or perform: vocalize by singing (humming or whistling is also acceptable).
  • Transpose: sing in a key other than the written key.
  • Write: use appropriate notation to indicate chords and their inversions and/or complete a chord progression in four-part harmony, following 18th-century voice-leading procedures.

AP Music Theory Score Calculator (Continued)

As you can see, these verbs may be familiar, but they often take on a slightly different meaning in the context of music theory. Reviewing this terminology will ensure students have the information they need to thoroughly answer free response questions.

2) Practice, practice, practice.

Once you have a sound understanding of the AP Music Theory exam’s structure and composition, it’s time to dive in. Complete practice questions and exams to get a feel for the test and gauge your understanding of different concepts. Additionally, consider asking your teacher to help you practice sight-singing exercises to ensure you feel comfortable with their timing and format.

3) Calculate your score and strategize accordingly.

Once you complete a practice exam, use our AP Music Theory score calculator to see how you fared. If you scored a 5, congratulations! Continue studying to ensure you feel confident on exam day. However, if you’re unhappy with your score, play around with the calculator to see how you can improve. Use your observations to refine your study plan by identifying what concepts, skills, or question types warrant more practice.

Final Thoughts: AP Music Theory Score Calculator

Just like any exam, the AP Music Theory test requires thoughtful preparation. One tool that can help you study smarter is our AP Music Theory score calculator. However, by understanding the exam’s composition and scoring system, and reflecting on your unique strengths and weaknesses, you can create a personalized study plan to help you perform your best.

For additional information about AP exams and music programs, please consult the following resources:

Additional Resources

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