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Big Reviews: Finals & Exam Prep

2021 AP Music Theory Exam Guide

9 min readโ€ขmarch 1, 2021


AP Music Theoryย ๐ŸŽถ

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Your guide to the 2021 AP Music Theory exam

We know that studying for your AP exams can be stressful, but Fiveable has your back! We have created a study plan that will help you crush your AP Music Theory exam. We will continue to update this guide with more information about the 2021 exams, as well as helpful resources to help you score that 5. Create a Fiveable account and join our Discord to stay involved in all things AP exams! ๐Ÿ˜

Resources:

Format of the 2021 AP Music Theory exam

This year, all AP exams will cover all units and essay types. The 2021 AP Music Theory exam format will be:
  • 75 multiple choice questions with approximately 80 minutes to complete this section
    • There will be 10-12 stand alone questions and then 13 sets with 4-6 questions in each.
    • 41-43 questions will be based on an aural stimulus covering skills such as identification of an isolated pitch and rhythmic patterns or aural analysis of more complex clips of music. This section should take around 45 minutes.
    • Around 32-34 questions will require you to analyze a printed musical score. This section will take 35 minutes.
  • 7 written free-response questions with around an hour and ten minutes of time allotted.ย 
    • 2 questions about melodic dictation
    • 2 questions about harmonic dictation
    • 1 question about part writing from figured bass
    • 1 question about part writing from Roman numerals
    • 1 question about harmonization of a melody
  • 2 free-response sight singing questions of around 4 to 8 bars that will take around 10 minutes to complete.
    • For each melody you are given 75 seconds to look it over and practice and then 30 seconds to perform it.
    • The melody can be sung in the original pitch or a pitch more in your range.ย 

When is the 2021 AP Music Theory exam and how do I take it?

There are three different exam administrations this year and unlike other AP tests this year, all AP Music Theory exams will be taken in person at your school. Here is what we know from College Board so far:
  • The first exam date will be on May 12, 2021 at 12 pm, your local time.
  • The second exam date is May 21, 2021 at 12pm, your local time.
  • The final day is June 4, 2021 at 12pm, your local time.
You will have around 2 hours and 40 minutes to take the exam.ย We will have more updates from the College Board soon, but as of now this is what we know! Create a Fiveable account to get updates on the latest 2021 exam news.ย 

How should I prepare for the exam?

  • First, download the AP Music Theory Cram Chart PDF - a single sheet that covers everything you need to know at a high level. Take note of your strengths and weaknesses!
  • Review every unit and question type, and focus on the areas that need the most improvement. We've put together this plan to help you study between now and May. This will cover all of the units and essay types to prepare you for your exam.
  • Additionally, create your schedule ahead of time so that you can connect with other students instead of just studying alone! Join our Discord channel to talk to real students just like you studying for this exam. We have TAs in each subject channel to support you this Spring and tons of free events and pep talks.
  • Finally, check out our 5-hour Cram Finale so that you can review for the AP Music Theory exam with a rockstar teacher and study socially among other students.
  • Resources:

    Pre-work: set up your study environment

    Before we begin, take some time to get organized. Remote learning can be great, but it also means youโ€™ll need to hold yourself accountable more than usual.ย 
    ๐Ÿ–ฅ Create a study space.
    Make sure you have a designated place at home to study. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on learning, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your study space.ย 
    ๐Ÿ“š Organize your study materials.
    Get your notebook, textbook, prep books, or whatever other physical materials you have. Also create a space for you to keep track of review. Start a new section in your notebook to take notes or start a Google Doc to keep track of your notes. Get yourself set up!
    ๐Ÿ“… Plan designated times for studying.
    The hardest part about studying from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on one hour every day that you can dedicate to studying. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.
    ๐Ÿ† Decide on an accountability plan.
    How will you hold yourself accountable to this study plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First set your goal. This could be studying for x number of hours or getting through a unit. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!
    ๐Ÿค Get support from your peers.ย 
    There are thousands of students all over the world who are preparing for their AP exams just like you! Join our Discord channel to chat, ask questions, and meet other students who are also studying for the spring exams. You can even build study groups and review material together!ย 

    AP Music Theory 2021 Study Plan

    ๐ŸŽถ Unit 1: Music Fundamentals I: Pitch, Major Scales and Key Signatures, Rhythm, Meter, and Expressive Elements

    Unit Summary:

    In order to read and understand this new language, you will be introduced to various symbols that have specific meanings. Like any new language, by learning these symbols and their meanings, you will be able to converse in the language of music.

    Definitely do this:

    ๐Ÿ“š Read these Fiveable study guides:

    Resources:

    If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

    ๐Ÿ’ป Learn about the best prep books so you can start studying early:
    ๐Ÿ“น Review and Refer to this College Board Review Playlist:

    Resources:

    ๐ŸŽถ Unit 2: Music Fundamentals II: Minor Scales and Key Signatures, Melody, Timbre, and Texture

    Unit Summary:

    In unit one, you learned about major chord relationships and pitch patterns. Now, in unit 2 you will learn how to apply that knowledge to minor scales through analyzing their natural, harmonic, and melodic forms.ย 

    Definitely do this:

    ๐Ÿ“š Read these study guides:

    Resources:

    If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

    ๐Ÿ’ป It is never to early to want to prepare for the exam:
    ๐Ÿ“นWatch these videos from College Board

    Resources:

    ๐ŸŽป Unit 3: Music Fundamentals III: Triads and Seventh Chords

    Unit Summary:

    Throughout unit 3, you will begin to get a complete understanding of pitch relations and become introduced to harmony through diatonic chords and 7th chords. You will also learn about chord inversions and figures.

    Definitely do this:

    ๐Ÿ“š Read these study guides:

    Resources:

    ๐ŸŽน Unit 4: Harmony and Voice Leading I: Chord Function, Cadence, and Phrase

    Unit Summary:

    Now that we have all the building blocks of notes, rhythms, and chords out of the way, we can start to analyze music and the rules of putting pitch combinations together. The way individual voices of a composition move from chord to chord is called voice leading. Back in the 17th and 18th-century, when writing music was becoming normalized, rules of voice leading came about to guide composers on how to create aesthetically-pleasing compositions.ย 

    Definitely do this:

    ๐Ÿ“š Read these study guides:

    Resources:

    If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

    ๐Ÿ’ป Have a good laugh with some memes:

    Resources:

    ๐ŸŽธ Unit 5: Harmony and Voice Leading ii: Chord Progressions and Predominant Function

    Unit Summary:

    In unit 5, you will be introduced to the SATB voice leading and how it can be used in musical compositions to increase their complexity. Describing and analyzing these harmonic progressions are another key part of this unit.ย 

    Definitely do this:

    ๐Ÿ“š Read these study guides:
    ๐Ÿ’ป Review these articles:
    ๐Ÿ“นWatch this video from College Board:

    Resources:

    ๐ŸŽบ Unit 6: Harmony and Voice Leading iii: Embellishments, Motives, and Melodic Devices

    Unit Summary:

    Building on the skills from units 4 and 5, you will look at harmonies and voice leading as well as melodic sequences. Motives and motivic transformation along with the types of embellishing tones are also key topics you will learn to master in unit 6.ย 

    Definitely do this:

    ๐Ÿ“นWatch these videos from College Board:
    ๐Ÿ’ป Review these articles:

    ๐ŸŽค Unit 7: Harmony and Voice Leading iv: Secondary Function

    Unit Summary:

    This unit focuses on harmonic relationships and procedures. You will also learn more about keys, scale degrees, and chords. By the end of the unit, you should be skilled in part writing dominant and leading-tone chords.

    Definitely do this:

    ๐Ÿ“น Watch these videos from College Board:
    ๐Ÿ’ป Review these articles:

    ๐ŸŽท Unit 8: Modes and Form

    Unit Summary:

    This unit takes a look at the conventions that affect the character of music. Some of those key conventions are the 7 types of modes, the melodic relationships between phrases, and forms. You will also be introduced to the sections of music such as introduction, verse, chorus, and codetta.ย 

    Definitely do this:

    ๐Ÿ“นWatch these videos from College Board:
    ๐Ÿ’ป Review these articles:

    If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

    ๐Ÿ’ป Make sure youโ€™re reviewing with quality content:

    Resources:

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