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Frequently Asked Questions
  • New Requirements

    Why have the theory requirements been changed?

    The Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition has been updated to reflect current pedagogy and to better support practical studies and the development of well-rounded musicianship at all levels.

    Why do the theory examinations have new names?

    There is now a direct relationship between the names of the theory and practical examinations. For example, the theory corequisite for the Level 5 practical examination is called "Level 5 Theory," while the corequisites for Level 9 practical are "Level 9 History" and "Level 9 Harmony." This will make it easier for teachers, students, and especially parents to understand the theory titles, and to identify the correct examination for which they should register.

    How do the new levels compare to the existing theory levels?

    The table below shows the alignment of the 2016 syllabus levels with the 2009 requirements. In the new syllabus, concepts have been introduced gradually and reinforced from Preparatory through to Level 4. Some of the requirements have shifted slightly as a result of the pedagogical sequencing of material. In addition, the Melody Writing and Guided Listening (History) streams have been incorporated beginning at Level 1. As a result, the Level 5 Theory examination, although similar to Basic Rudiments, is not exactly identical to it.

    2016 Syllabus (New Exam Names) 2009 Syllabus
    Level 5 Theory Basic Rudiments
    Level 6 Theory Intermediate Rudiments
    Level 7 Theory
    Level 8 Theory Advanced Rudiments
    Level 9 Harmony Basic Harmony
    Level 9 History History 1
    Level 10 Harmony & Counterpoint Intermediate Harmony
    Level 10 History History 2
    ARCT Harmony & Counterpoint Advanced Harmony
    ARCT History History 3
    ARCT Analysis Analysis

    Are students now required to write examinations at every level?

    No. While the Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition outlines theory concepts recommended for concurrent study from Preparatory through to Level 4, there are no required examinations prior to Level 5.

    Why is the Counterpoint examination being eliminated?

    Counterpoint is an essential element of music study that leads to a richer musical experience. For this reason, elements of counterpoint have been added to the study of harmony beginning at Level 9 and continuing through Levels 10 and ARCT. While the stand-alone Counterpoint examination will no longer be offered, all students will have the opportunity to study counterpoint and to become familiar with its role within the musical landscape.

    Is Level 9 Harmony now a required examination?

    Yes. Level 9 Harmony is now a prerequisite for the Associate Diploma (ARCT). In response to feedback from the teaching community, Level 9 Harmony is now a required examination as part of a well-sequenced, pedagogically sound progression of study. Students who omit the Level 9 Harmony (previously Basic Harmony) examination miss the opportunity to solidify basic part-writing skills as preparation for the study of chromatic harmony and advanced modulation that follows. By requiring this examination, we are setting students up for success in their harmony studies.

    How will the Guided Listening component be tested in theory examinations?

    The Guided Listening components of Levels 5, 6, 7, and 8 Theory will be tested gently, with short answer, fill-in the-blanks, or true/false questions. For specific examples of examination questions, please click here and see the Practice Examination Papers, 2016 Edition.

    Are there recommended recordings for the Guided Listening pieces, and if so, how can I access these recordings?

    There is a wide range of recordings available, both online and in libraries, for the Guided Listening examples for all levels. Teachers, parents, and students are encouraged to explore online to find professional recordings by a wide range of performing artists and ensembles. Many suitable recordings (audio or video) can be found using Google or YouTube. For Level 8 Theory, specific recordings from the Naxos Music Library are referenced in the Guided Listening section and can be accessed through many local public library websites. A list of recommended resources is in progress and will be available online soon.

    How do the new Theory names impact secondary school accreditation?

    We have communicated with Ministries of Education across Canada to update them on the new names for the Theory examinations and to ensure that the examinations based on the Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition continue to be recognized for secondary school accreditation.

    More information regarding requirements for specific provinces can be found here.

    What symbols should French-speaking students use for root/quality chord symbols on Theory examinations?

    Root/quality chord symbols should be shown using the same symbols on both English and French language examinations. Because root/quality chord symbols are a form of practical shorthand used when working in popular styles, they should be understood by all musicians, regardless of language and geography. It is therefore expected that students analyze music using symbols that are universally understood, regardless of the language in which they study and speak. Examples of root/quality chord symbols are provided on pp. 58-59 of the Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition. They are also discussed throughout the Celebrate Theory books (see Level 5 Theory: pp. 70 and 79; Level 7 Theory: p. 60).

  • Transition and Crossover

    When does the new syllabus take effect?

    The Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition comes into effect September 1, 2016.

    Do my students have to prepare the new requirements immediately?

    No. To support teachers and students in the transition into preparing the new syllabus requirements, a one-year crossover period will be offered for Levels 5 through 10. A two-year crossover period will be offered for ARCT Harmony & Counterpoint only. From September 1, 2016 - August 31, 2017, alternate questions will be offered on all examinations to accommodate students who have based their preparation on either the 2009 or 2016 Theory Syllabus. In the following year (2017-2018), alternate questions will be offered at the ARCT level only.

    Please note that Preparatory Rudiments and Introductory Harmony examinations will be eliminated immediately; Counterpoint will be offered in December 2016 only, and then eliminated.

    Will there be two versions of examinations offered during the crossover year?

    No. As there is considerable overlap between the requirements in the Theory Syllabus, 2009 Edition and 2016 Edition, beginning in December 2016, one version of each examination will be offered. For students who have prepared using the 2009 syllabus, alternate questions will be offered as necessary. Clear instructions will guide students through these examinations.

    My student has just finished the Intermediate Rudiments examination. Which theory level should she work at next?

    Level 7. Students who have completed the Intermediate Rudiments examination should continue to Level 7 Theory as the next step to best ensure that there are no gaps in their knowledge and understanding of concepts. Although the Level 8 Theory examination would satisfy the requirements, because of the inclusion of new melody writing and history content, and the new sequencing of material for study, the Level 7 content should not be skipped

    My student is already working on Advanced Harmony using the 2009 syllabus. Can he still write his examination in May 2017 without switching to the new syllabus?

    Yes. During the first year of the crossover period (September 1, 2016 - August 31, 2017) students may prepare for theory examinations using either the 2009 or the 2016 Theory Syllabus. After August 31, 2017, all theory examinations will be based on the 2016 syllabus only, with the exception of ARCT Harmony & Counterpoint. To support students in completing their theory harmony studies using a familiar approach, the crossover period has been extended to August 2018 for Advanced Harmony only.

    If a student chose to complete Counterpoint as one of their theory requirements for the Associate Diploma (ARCT) as specified in the Theory Syllabus, 2009 Edition, do they now have to complete the new ARCT Harmony & Counterpoint examination to satisfy the new requirements?

    No. Counterpoint examinations successfully completed (up to and including December 2016) will continue to be accepted as valid corequisites for the ARCT diploma. However, in order to gain the musical understanding required to support performance of ARCT repertoire, students are encouraged to complete both the new ARCT Harmony & Counterpoint and ARCT Analysis examinations.

    How will crossover questions be presented on theory examinations? Will students be able to easily identify which questions to answer?

    Click here for complete information on the crossover examinations and samples of crossover questions for Levels 5 and 8 Theory; Levels 9 and 10 Harmony & Counterpoint, and Level 9 History.

    Will marks be deducted if students use old terminology on exams during the crossover period?

    No. Students will not be penalized for using old terminology during the crossover period in their exams, as long as the terms are used with consistency.

    What is the preferred label for the cadential 6/4 on examinations: V6/4-5/3or I6/4-V?

    V6/4-5/3 is the preferred label for the cadential . We will no longer be providing I6/4-V as an alternative label on examinations, but if a student uses this label during the crossover years, no deduction will be taken.

    Will marks be deducted if students use old terminology on exams after the crossover period has ended?

    After the crossover period, examiners will continue to be open-minded in accepting "old terminology," provided that there is no ambiguity in the response. For example, using "+" for "major" could potentially be misunderstood as the symbol for "augmented" in a root/quality chord symbol. For this reason, we do encourage teachers and students to embrace the new terminology included in the Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition as soon as possible.