Celebrate Theory Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition

New Requirements | Transition and Crossover

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

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.

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, History, and Analysis 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 Editionand 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 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.