NYSTCE Music Practice Test and Study Guide

What Is the NYSTCE Music Exam?

The New York State Teacher Certification Examinations (NYSTCE) Music exam is a Content Specialty Test (CST) for those aspiring to teach music classes. This exam is designed to gauge both overall subject knowledge and a candidate's ability to teach the subject to their students. It is required for certification as a music teacher in the state of New York. As a Content Specialty Test, the NYSTCE Music exam doesn't have broad applicability, but new teachers, as well as teachers with existing certifications and an interest in branching out may be interested in taking this test. This NYSTCE Music study guide will cover the structure of the exam, the knowledge being tested, and preparation for both registration and the test day itself.

NYSTCE Music Exam Format and Testing Time

The NYSTCE Music Exam is a Computer-Based Test (CBT) that consists of 90 selected-response items and one scenario-based constructed-response item. The selected-response items include traditional text-based questions, questions requiring the reading of sheet music, and questions requiring listening to music samples. There are around 22-23 selected-response items divided evenly between the four competencies. Test appointments are for a total of three and a half hours, the first fifteen minutes of which are set aside for a CBT tutorial and non-disclosure agreement.

Practice tests give you a better idea of the topics you have mastered and those you should keep studying.

NYSTCE Music Exam Components

The NYSTCE Music exam is structured around four areas of subject knowledge. These are, in order, listening skills, music theory, music performance, and cultural understanding and historical context. The exam closes with a scenario-based evaluation of a candidate's ability to apply concepts of pedagogy in instruction. The four subject areas will be covered in more detail in the following sections, but are broadly summarized here:

  • Listening Skills
    • This section is about listening to and recognizing aspects of music, such as genre or style, as well as recognizing specific songs and errors.
  • Music Theory
    • Music Theory covers notation, elements of melody, chord progressions, and other structural aspects of music.
  • Music Performance
    • This covers production and performance of music, including elementary acoustics, singing, and basic instrument techniques.
  • Cultural Understanding and Historical Context
    • The last subject competency is centered on the cultural context of music, including its connections to history and how different cultures have influenced American music.
  • Pedagogical Content Knowledge
    • The final item on the test is a scenario-based constructed-response item, about applying subject knowledge and effective instructional techniques in the classroom.

Listening Skills

The Listening Skills section of the NYSTCE Music Exam has the test's audio-based selected-response questions. Test-takers will be required to identify a range of musical styles and characteristics from around the world. Examinees will also be tested on their ability to recognize musical characteristics and masterworks of composers in the Western tradition from all time periods, such as J. S. Bach's The Art of Fugue and John Williams's Star Wars. Knowledge of major composers from the United States and their works is tested next, along with historical and contemporary cultural influences on American music.

After those items, aural recognition and understanding of specific elements are addressed, starting with voice types, instruments, and vocal and instrumental ensembles. This is followed by melodic, harmonic, temporal, and expressive elements, and closes with form, texture, and detection of errors.

Music Theory

This segment of the NYSTCE music exam is centered on aspects of Music Theory. Of its five key aspects on this test, the first is notation, in both traditional and nonstandard forms. This includes note names, symbols and their meanings, key signatures, expressive terms, and vocabulary. This section then covers melody and its elements, including pitch collections, motives, embellishments, intervals, contour, and compositional devices such as fragmentation. Harmony is addressed next, including voice leading, chord progression, chord qualities, chromatic chords, dissonance, and non-chord tones. After this, time-related elements are covered, including note and rest values, meter characteristics, time signatures and tempo markings, rhythmic devices, and genre-specific traits. Lastly, composition, arrangement, and improvisation are covered. This includes form, compositional techniques, texture, parameters for arrangements, harmonization of melodies, improvisation techniques, and the usage of technology in composition.

Music Performance

Here, the NYSTCE Music Exam addresses aspects of musical performance and production, beginning with the science of sound and acoustics, as well as tone quality and acoustic, digital, and analog sound production. The principles and techniques of singing are tested next, including developing singing skills, vocal maturation, ranges, sight singing, diction, and how to identify and solve common problems in singing. Knowledge of types and characteristics of many musical instruments is tested next, including string, keyboard, wind, brass, percussion, guitar, ukulele, and recorder, as well as basic techniques and maintenance of these instruments. Characteristics and practical ranges of vocal, instrumental, and classroom ensembles follow next. The section closes with questions on conducting, such as beat patterns, score analysis, cuing, and gestures.

Cultural Understanding and Historical Context

This segment of the NYSTCE Music Exam is focused on connecting music to culture, beginning with techniques and instruments from around the world and how their music reflects and influences history, culture, and each other. The history of Western music is covered in detail, with questions regarding the development of characteristics, performances, genres, and composers first from the medieval era to 1750, and then from 1750 to present day. These questions also address how music reflects and influences history, culture, and aesthetic values, as well as how it impacts technological development. The music of different eras will also be compared, to find both contrasts and similarities. After this, candidates will be tested on the music of the Americas, including the United States. As with the previous history questions, these will cover genres, characteristics, instruments, and relationships between music and history, culture, and aesthetics.

The next part covers music's roles in society, including different uses and settings, cultural expression, and communication, as well as influential instructors and their techniques. Resources for expanding one's knowledge and participation in music are also covered, as well as appropriate audience behavior. This section closes with the ways music relates to other forms of art and academic disciplines, including mutual influence, shared and distinct vocabularies and participant roles, and techniques for critical thinking and application of music to understanding other disciplines.

Preparing for the NYSTCE Music Exam

Effective studying for the NYSTCE Music Exam requires a clear plan of action. Candidates should have a firm, but not excessively rigid schedule, which should begin by allotting specific amounts of time per subject. As each of the subjects covered on this test is an equal proportion of the final score, study should similarly begin evenly divided. Study aids, including flashcards, practice questions, and an NYSTCE Music study guide, should be employed as needed. Flashcards work best for relatively simple, quick concepts with a clear answer; topics that require a more involved response are best handled through other techniques, such as NYSTCE Music practice tests. As a candidate's study sessions go on, they should try to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and tweak further sessions accordingly. Study sessions should also be kept relatively short; spending hours on end cramming is wasteful and ineffective.

NYSTCE Music Practice Test

Practice tests for the NYSTCE Music exam are an excellent resource for test preparation. These provide five major benefits.

  • They highlight the gaps in a test-taker's knowledge, allowing them to better focus further study on subjects that need it.
  • They help pace studying. Breaking up study sessions with practice tests can help separate the sessions into manageable chunks.
  • They allow test-takers to apply their knowledge, which is helpful for retaining that knowledge.
  • They show test-takers what they do know, helping to reduce anxiety and inspire more confidence. This helps candidates be more rested and prepared for the real test.
  • They give a sample of how the real test is structured, giving candidates a clear image of what the test will be like.

NYSTCE Music Exam Registration Policies

Candidates registering for the NYSTCE Music Exam must pay $122, either online via Visa or MasterCard debit or credit or by personal check. Those paying with a check must contact Evaluation Systems for information. Test appointments are made online, and are available year-round, with the exception of Sundays and some holidays. Test sites are located both within the state of New York and nationwide, and may also be found online.

Alternative testing arrangements and accommodations are available to candidates that require them. All test centers are wheelchair-accessible, and visual enhancement features, such as increased contrast and enlarged font, are available on-site without pre-approval. Further, a range of accommodations known as "comfort aids" are also available without approval. Should an examinee need a restroom or medication break, it may be taken without prior approval, but it will not stop the exam timer. Other accommodations do require advance approval, which is requested with an Alternative Testing Arrangements Request Form and supporting documentation.

NYSTCE Music Exam Test Day Policies

On the day of the NYSTCE Music Exam, candidates should plan to arrive early, with at least fifteen minutes of leeway recommended. Late arrivals may not be permitted entry; if late, the candidate will be considered absent. One current, government-issued identification is required, in the applicant's name as it was registered in the appointment. This may be a driver's license, passport, state ID, military ID, or permanent resident visa with photograph and signature. If the signature is missing, another form of valid ID with the same name and a recent photograph or signature is required.

All forms of electronic communication, including visual, audio, or listening devices, or any devices with an on/off switch, are prohibited. This includes eyeglasses with communication and recording functionality. Calculators, cell phones, outside bags or packages of any kind, non-religious or medical headwear, and any printed or handwritten materials from outside the site are not permitted. All food and drink, including gum, are also prohibited.

The full test rules and non-disclosure policy is available on the NYSTCE site, and will also be communicated upon arrival. Candidates who need to retake the exam must wait 60 days to do so.

NYSTCE Music Exam Score Reporting Policies

The NYSTCE Music exam, like other NYSTCE content specialty tests, has a passing score of 520, with a possible range of 400 to 600. Each selected-response item is scored equally, with incorrect answers not being penalized. The constructed-response item at the end makes up 20% of the score.

Scores will be reported to test-takers, the New York State Education Department (NYSED), and any applicable institutions indicated on registration. These are reported based on the social security number indicated during registration; errors in the registered social security number may delay or block certificate issuance. Scores are reported every eight weeks according to a fixed schedule, always on Wednesday, and may be viewed online.


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Exam Instructions:

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  1. Which jazz styles originated in which decade?

    • Correct Answer
  2. With which musical form is this meter most closely associated?
    With which musical form is this meter most closely associated?
    • Correct Answer
  3. Which type of meter does this measure present?
    Which type of meter does this measure present?
    • Correct Answer
  4. You are accompanying a singer but the range of the music is too high and needs to be lowered a major third or four semitones. Which of the following choices represents the correct modulation for this chord progression: D major - b minor - E major - f# minor - A Major:

    • Correct Answer
  5. A movie composer wants to show the audience that a character is physically slowing down. Which type of thematic transformation is the composer most likely to use?

    • Correct Answer
  6. Identify the key of the signature
    Identify the key of the signature
    • Correct Answer
  7. Which type of scale is this?
    Which type of scale is this?
    • Correct Answer
  8. How did composers respond to the fragmented and turbulent political times of the Romantic Era in their music?

    • Correct Answer
  9. Which of the following forms contains an exposition, development, and recapitulation?

    • Correct Answer
  10. You are teaching an elementary level beginning choir. Which musical form will be easiest for your young singers to learn?

    • Correct Answer
  11. Which composers are best known for mixing jazz with concert music?

    • Correct Answer
  12. Which creative traits and philosophies did Claude Debussy share with painters of his era?

    • Correct Answer
  13. You are auditioning singers for your high school choir. One student has a range from D below middle C to A above middle C. In which section of the choir will you place this student?

    • Correct Answer
  14. Which vocal range does this image present?
    Which vocal range does this image present?
    • Correct Answer
  15. Which is normally the largest section of the orchestra?

    • Correct Answer