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Music Entrance Test Information

The format for the Entrance Test for Music at UCC has changed. This page describes the new test and makes recommendations for how to prepare for it.


In order to get a place on one of UCC’s Music Degree programmes, you must pass the Entrance Test AND get enough points in your Leaving Cert.


The Entrance Tests will take place in UCC Music Department, which is on the Sunday’s Well Road, Cork. The dates in 2024 are 9th, 16th and 23rd March.

If you have listed us on your CAO form, you will receive an invitation to attend plus a choice of which session you would prefer. We will try to accommodate your preference, but - due to numbers - may not be able to do so.


Please note that the Entrance Test will be in person; exceptions will be made only in the most pressing circumstances. For enquiries about these, please email the Music Department at


Format of the new test

The new test has three parts:

  • Essay
  • Music Theory Test
  • Interview and Performance

You must pass every part in order to pass the Entrance Test overall.


Entrance Test theory sample paper.pdf

The Essay and Music Theory test both take place in a written exam of about 1 hour.



You will be asked to write a short essay on one of a choice of essay titles. This part of the exam will last about 30 minutes.


Essay titles

You will be given a choice of essay titles; they will apply to several different kinds of music. For instance, there might a question about pop music, one about Western Art Music, one about Irish Traditional Music and one about Film Music. The questions will typically ask you to address a statement about a particular kind of music; they will sometimes be deliberately provocative. For instance, “Riverdance is the authentic form of Irish Traditional Music. Discuss”.


What do we want to see in an essay?

  1. We would like to see an essay that exhibits good English and is correctly punctuated.
  2. The essay titles will ask you to argue a point (like the one above): what we’d like to see is that you can argue your point effectively. It’s not important whether you agree with the view expressed in the title or not: we just want to see if you can explain well why you believe what you believe.
  3. We would also expect you to exhibit your knowledge about a subject in the course of arguing your point. We would expect you to supply pertinent examples that help to back up your argument. These might be examples of music that is relevant, for example, or opinions expressed by people who could be considered experts in the field. If you can bring in knowledge and experience beyond what is imparted in the Leaving Certificate Music curriculum, so much the better.


Theory Paper

The Music Theory section of the Entrance test comprises three sections. They are described below, along with advice about what you need to know to be prepared for each one. This part of the test will last about 40 minutes.


Section 1: questions based on examples that you will hear played in the exam



A triad will be played for you twice: you will need to be able to tell by listening whether it is major or minor



Intervals will be played for you melodically (i.e. one note after the other); you’ll be given one of the two notes, and you’ll be asked to write down the other using standard musical notation. The intervals will be chosen from the following selection: major and minor 2nds, major and minor 3rds, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major and minor 6ths, major and minor 7ths, octave.



You will be played a very short melody and given three possible ways to notate its rhythm: you have to pick the right one (multiple choice question). The rhythm will only employ crotchets, dotted crotchets, quavers, minims and dotted minims (aka quarter notes, dotted quarters, eighth notes, half notes and dotted half notes).


Listening to unfamiliar music

You will hear a short extract from a piece of music; it will be something very unusual that you will probably not have heard before. There will be a question asking you something about the music you heard; your comments will be extremely brief (5 or 6 lines or so). There are no right or wrong answers to this: we are interested in how you respond when you hear something unfamiliar. To practice for this question, consider trying to find some very unusual music; listen to it, and think about what you’ve heard in terms of technical ideas. Can you say anything about its scale/mode? How about its rhythm? Do concepts like scale and rhythm apply? What role does timbre play in it? Does it remind you of another kind of music and, if so, why?


Section 2: questions based on notation

  1.  You must be able to read music notated using both treble and bass clefs. You will be asked to identify notes on those staves, and you will also be asked to take a short melody written in one clef, transpose it by an octave to two, and notate the result in a different clef.
  2.  You will need to be able to recognise and notate root position major and minor triads with the following root notes: C, G, D, A, E, F, Bb, Eb, Ab (e.g. C major, C minor, G major, G minor etc.)
  3.  You must be able to recognise the following intervals: major and minor 2nds, major and minor 3rds, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major and minor 6ths, major and minor 7ths, octave.
  4.  You must be able to identify crotchets, quavers, semiquavers, minims, semibreves, dotted crotchets and dotted quavers (aka quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, half notes, whole notes, dotted quarters and dotted eighths). You have to understand how they relate to each other: how many quavers are there in a crotchet, for instance.
  5.  You need to understand how time signatures work and be able to notate correctly in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 6/8 and 9/8

Section 3

This section contains musical challenges of a kind you’re unlikely to have come across before, and they are to do with being able to think your way through a task involving music notation. Advanced skills with notation are not needed. You will pick a task from a choice of two or three.


You will see three examples of the types of tasks this section contains in the Entrance Test theory sample paper.pdf. The actual questions in the test you take might be very different from the ones in the sample paper, but they will follow the same kind of approach.


How is the Theory Paper marked?

Each of the tasks described above is assigned a certain number of marks. These will be added together at the end, and you will pass if you have earned enough marks. The test is designed so that you should be able to pass if you have basic notation-reading ability plus enough music theory to answer the questions about triads, intervals and rhythms outlined above.




After you have sat the exam paper, you will be given an interview time later the same day. You may have to wait a couple of hours as there might be a lot of students to interview, but we will try to see you as soon as possible.



The interview will be with one member of staff and will be 15 minutes long. This is an opportunity for us to get to know you personally, to find out a little of your background, what you’re interested in and excited about. It is useful if you have looked at our curricula online, as you will be able to talk about those aspects of our curricula that are most in line with your ambitions and enthusiasms.



We ask you to perform some music as a part of the interview. You should aim to prepare a short programme of about 5 to a maximum of 7 minutes of material. Here are some important notes that may help you to decide what you might perform:

  • choose things that you really like and can show off what you can do at your best.
  • we have no expectations about the type of music you should perform. Select your pieces solely on their relevance to who you are as a musician. You absolutely do not have to offer programmes such as those seen in Grade exams and competitions. You don’t, for instance, have to play ‘classical’ music if it’s not what you normally do.
  • If you compose music, we strongly encourage you to perform some of it for us. If you improvise, we would love to hear you do that.
  • you can perform on more than one instrument or voice (but do remember to keep your total programme to the allotted time).
  • you’re welcome to perform using live electronics (including DJing) if that’s what you normally do.
  • you don’t have to play the piano if that’s not one of your usual instruments
  • you can perform music of more than one genre if that’s what you normally do. For instance, if you play Trad on the fiddle and sing songs from musicals, you’re welcome to offer both.
  • you can bring someone into the interview with you to act as an accompanist. They’ll be asked to leave during the other portions of the interview.
  • when working out the length of your programme, don’t forget to take into account the time it takes you to switch instruments etc.!


After the Entrance Test

About 3 weeks after you have taken your Entrance Test, we will be in touch to give you your result. Remember that if you pass the Test, you still need to get enough points at your Leaving Cert to obtain a place.



Can I do the test remotely (online) instead?

No, except in really exceptional circumstances. Contact the Music Department at to discuss this if necessary. Please note, however, that this option is very rarely made available.


Can I get a place in Music without passing the Entrance Test?



I passed the Entrance Test for [some other institution]? Will you accept that instead?

No. Each institution needs to learn different things about you because their curricula are different: another institution’s Entrance Test will not work for our degree programmes.


Do I have to play the piano?

No. We would like to hear you perform on your strongest instrument(s) and/or voice. If you don’t normally play the piano, there’s no need to play it at the Test.


I don’t play an instrument or sing. Can I still take the Entrance Test?

We try to accommodate students of many types, including those with unusual musical backgrounds. However, every student at UCC has to take part in performance courses and we  need to establish that you would be capable of doing that. If you are unsure whether your experience is suitable, please contact to discuss your situation with a member of staff.


What type of music should I perform?

Do I have to play ‘classical’ music?

Can I sing songs from the Musicals?

I perform using a laptop - is that OK?

We are interested in all musics, no matter what they are. We don’t consider one music to be superior to or more important than any other. We strongly encourage you to perform the music you’re best at and love most, no matter what it is. Similarly, we’re very open to musicians who use electronic instruments (such as laptops) rather than conventional acoustic ones.


How many pieces should I perform?

The number of pieces doesn’t matter, but your total programme should not exceed 7 minutes (you’ll be stopped if it does). If you want to perform on more than one instrument/voice, try to make each piece short enough so that they will all fit. When you’re working out how to fit everything in, remember to factor in the time it takes you to get an instrument out, tune it and so on.  If you play lots of instruments, you may not want to perform on all of them, since you’ll spend too much time switching and the pieces will have to be very short to make it possible: in this case, perhaps choose your best two.


I want to do Music with Theatre (CK112 Theatre and Performative Practices with Music). Do I have to pass both Entrance Tests?



Is the Entrance Test for CK104 BA Hons (Arts Music) the same as for BMus (Hons)?

Yes. You will take the same Entrance Test no matter which music degree you ultimately wish to take.


Do I have to take the Entrance Test if I’ve applied for CK101 BA (Hons) with Music as a minor subject?

No. Please note, however, that CK101 is not a music degree: it is an Arts degree which allows you to include 10 credits per year of music.I need an accompanist - do I have to provide my own?

If you need an accompanist, it’s necessary for you to provide your own. If this is impossible for any reason, you can use backing tracks (although this is not desirable!), or ask us to match you with a member of staff who can play your accompaniment for you: we may be able to help.


I need a guitar amp/bass amp/drumkit

If you need a guitar or bass amp, we ask you to bring your own. If you are unable to bring an amp, please contact us well in advance: we may be able to supply one. If you play drums, we’ll hold your interview in a room that has a kit in it.


Can I use backing tracks?

Yes, but it’s preferable to work with a live musician if you can. If you do use backing tracks, you have to bring a means to play them: you’re advised to take care that your playback equipment is able to play them at sufficient volume and sound quality to act as a good accompaniment for you.


How long does a pass at the Entrance Test remain valid?

If you pass the Entrance Test but decide not to take up your place in the next academic year, the result will be considered valid for a maximum of 3 years: i.e. if you decide to come one or two years later, you will not have to do the Entrance Test again.


What happens if I fail the test?

If you fail the Entrance Test, you will not be able to obtain a place to study Music at UCC. However, you’re very welcome to take the test again the following year: if you intend to do this, you can ask us for feedback to help you prepare for the retake.

Department of Music

Roinn an Cheoil

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