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Courses, Examinations & Thesis Credits



Graduate program requirements are listed in section 28 of the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Programs, Courses and University Regulations Calendar (included in the registration information).  It can also be found here:  2012-2013 Music Graduate Calendar.pdf. Not all of these courses are offered each year. A list of the courses being offered in the current year can be found in Class Schedule on MINERVA. Descriptions of the graduate seminars offered can be found on the Schulich School of Music website Graduate Seminar Information. 

Course numbering system 

The first four letters of the course number indicates the area of the course.

MUCO = Composition
MUEN = Ensembles
MUGT - Music Education
MUGS = General
MUHL = Musicology
MUMT = Music Technology
MUPD = Professional Development
MUPP = Performance Practice
MUTH = Theory

The three digits indicates the level of the course.

600 level courses are graduate courses
500 level courses are taken by both graduate and undergraduate students
400 level and lower are undergraduate courses.  

Most courses at McGill are single term (Fall or Winter or Summer) courses with final grades issued and any credits earned recorded at the end of the term. Single term courses are identified by a seven-character course number as described above.

Multi-term courses are taught in two consecutive terms and are identified by a two-character extension of the course number. Courses with numbers ending in D1 and D2 are taught in two consecutive terms (Fall and Winter). Students must register for both the D1 and D2 component. No credit will be given unless both components (D1 and D2) are successfully completed in consecutive terms.

However, to register on MINERVA, each course number is given a unique Course Registration Number (CRN) in the term where it is scheduled. All courses have section numbers. If there is only one section of a course, section number 001 is used.

Writing courses

The McGill Writing Centre (MWC) offers credit courses in academic writing for both native and non-native speakers of English. In addition to its credit course offerings, the MWC offers workshops, seminars, and tutorials. For further information, please visit the MWC website: www.mcgill.ca/mwc.

The French Language Centre (FLC) is a department of the Faculty of Arts with a unique mandate: to offer credit courses to students registered in any academic program. Its team of highly qualified specialists teaches sequenced courses in French as a Second Language. The per-credit fee will apply to all students taking these courses unless taken as a language requirement in their prgoram. 


Certain 500-level courses may be considered as graduate electives. In exceptional circumstances students may substitute a 500-level undergraduate course for an elective seminar, with the approval of his or her Area and the Graduate Studies Director. Such requests should be made in writing.

Special projects

A student may propose to undertake a special project as a substitute for one of the required courses in the program. In order to qualify for a special project, a student must develop a formal, written proposal (accompanied by a selective bibliography in correct citation style) clearly outlining the objectives and scope of the project, the nature of the work expected to be fulfilled, and the specific time limits for the successful completion of that work. The student must seek and obtain the consent of an appropriate member of the academic staff to supervise and evaluate the project. The student then submits the formal proposal on a Special Project Proposal Form) to their Area Chair at least two months before the end of the term prior to the term in which the project is to be undertaken. This is to ensure that there is time for the project to be approved by the Area Committee and the appropriate Department Graduate Sub-Committee before the deadline for registering for the course. Students will not be able to register for Special project courses until approval has been given. It is the student's responsibility to register on MINERVA for the Special Project. Special projects involving human subjects as part of the research must also be approved by the Ethics Review Committee. A form is available for this purpose Research Ethics Committee. For further information, please refer to the Policy on Research Ethcis.

Language reading examinations

Students in the Doctoral programs in Composition, Musicology, Music Education and Music Theory will see in the requirements for their programs that these include one or more language reading examinations. (Students whose mother tongue is French are exempt from the French Language Reading examination.) The language reading examinations are offered twice a year, in May and December. Students should look for the announcement of the examinations by e-mail from the Graduate Studies Coordinator. Students are advised to fulfil their language requirements as early in their program as possible. Doctoral students are required to pass the language examination requirements before taking their comprehensive examinations.

These language reading requirements may be met one of two ways:

  1. Passing the language reading examination set by the Schulich School of Music.
  2. Successfully completing twelve undergraduate credits of the requisite language at the beginner's level at McGill (or equivalent) or six undergraduate credits at the intermediate level or higher.

Completion of a graduate language reading course does not fulfil the requirement.

Language reading examinations are prepared by members of the Schulich School of Music. The examinations are graded with a mark of pass or fail. The examination consists of two passages from the scholarly literature. The student is asked to translate both passages into his or her mother tongue in good literate style within a three-hour time limit; dictionaries may be used. One of the passages will usually have a theoretical/analytical emphasis in order to test the student's knowledge of technical vocabulary.

Sample texts for French and German language reading examinations may be obtained from the Graduate Studies Office (Room A726A). Further information concerning the texts, the level of knowledge required and suggestions concerning how to prepare for the French language reading examinations may be obtained from Prof. Peter Schubert and Prof. Christoph Neidhöfer for the German language reading examination.

Guidelines for MA research papers (MUGS 635 and 636) for the MA non-thesis programs in Musicology, Music Theory, and Music Education.

Objectives of the non-thesis research paper

The purpose of the paper is to allow candidates to develop skills in research, criticism, and academic writing in a project that normally will be of smaller scope than a Master's thesis but larger and/or more professional than a seminar paper. Anticipated possibilities for future use of research papers include publication, conference papers, and dossiers for grant applications and/or further graduate study.


  1. Papers will normally be 7,000-12,000 words (c. 20-40 pages).
  2. Papers must adhere to professional standards of organization, writing, format, and citation practice and style (please see the guidelines on Master's thesis preparation).
  3. Guidelines for the content of paper are equivalent to those of a Master's thesis (please consult these): scope of research and size of the final product are the main differences between a thesis and major paper. An original proposition need not be developed—although this is the goal most encouraged by the department—but at a minimum the paper must demonstrate good bibliographic control and an ability to synthesize the current state of knowledge about the paper topic.
  4. Papers must be prepared and developed from the earliest stages in consultation with a school advisor. The advisor will be one of the final readers for the project. When the paper has been written, a second reader from the Schulich School of Music will be assigned following consultation between the advisor and candidate.
  5. Major papers may be developed from previous seminar work or from a special project. In such cases, the seminar instructor will normally be the paper advisor. The major paper should clearly demonstrate a significant advance in argument and/or scope of research beyond the output achieved in the seminar. Limited development of the work beyond seminar research is sufficient ground to request revision or assign a failing grade.
  6. Major papers may also develop a topic not covered in seminar work. In such cases, it will be particularly important for candidates to consult a school advisor at the beginning of the work.
  7. Shortly after the candidate and advisor determine a topic, the candidate should inform the Chair of the Area in which the student is doing the degree, and the Chair of the Area of the supervisor (if they are different). The Area Chair(s) will then bring it forward to the Area committee(s) and the Graduate Studies Coordinator as a point of information. This will allow other colleagues the opportunity to offer suggestions, which will be communicated to the candidate by the advisor or the Area Chair. The topic need not be presented to the Graduate Sub-Committee of the Department.
  8. Papers will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis. Both readers must pass the paper.
  9. Either of the two readers may request revisions before determining the grade. The two readers will normally consult each other before requesting revisions. Suggestions for revision may address both substantive matters of content and/or issues of style and format.
  10. In view of possible revisions, it is advantageous for candidates who wish to graduate to submit the final draft of their paper to their advisor and second reader in a timely manner, that is two weeks before the end of classes in the term immediately preceding the prospective graduation date.

Graduate Colloquium (PhD students)

PhD students are required to attend four terms of the Graduate Colloquium. Regular attendance and at least one presentation on their thesis research in the Colloquium during the course of their doctoral studies is required. Presentations, guest lectures and professional workshops are held regularly throughout the year on Fridays from 16:15 to 17:45 in Clara Hall,  Room C209.