Clare College Cambridge

Applying for Music


Admission Requirements


Clare College wishes to attract undergraduates who have a serious interest in a Tripos course that is primarily academic. A reasonable keyboard facility is expected from all candidates, but applicants need not necessarily be specialist performers (music interviews will be concerned with testing academic rather than practical aptitude). On the other hand, a keen involvement in musical activity outside the confines of the Tripos is well regarded. Current undergraduates have interests in composition and conducting as well as in vocal and instrumental performance. The nature of the Music Tripos course, which involves only a limited amount of time spent on lectures and supervisions, is best suited to well-organised and self-motivated students.

Offers for Music are usually made on the basis of A-level examination results, a typical offer being A*AA or 7,7,6 (42+ overall) in the IB or the equivalent in other educational systems.

One subject must be Music (not Music Technology), except for applicants with Grade VIII theory (ABRSM). A basic knowledge of harmony, counterpoint and analytical skills, such as can be studied at A-level, is a distinct advantage. Any combination of subjects is acceptable. Although the study of a foreign language (eg. French, German or Italian) is desirable, it is not obligatory.


Notes on Music Interviews at Clare College



Applicants will have an interview in early December, which will be concerned with musical and non-musical interests. Certain tests, as described below, will be given, including a written paper. The interviews will involve five main elements:

  • An opportunity to perform on the candidate's first instrument, or to sing. Lack of time will only permit a short performance (maximum 5 minutes).
  • Discussion of a short extract of music (prepared). On arrival at Clare, candidates will be handed a piece of music (usually from the classical period) to analyse. At the interview he/she will be asked both about its formal organisation and its thematic, harmonic and rhythmic structure. Commentary on any points of particular interest will also be invited.
  • Aural tests. These may consist of such exercises as identification of intervals or notes within a chord, and singing of an atonal melody.
  • Keyboard tests. These may involve harmonising a simple melody, reading a passage for string quartet from open score and sightreading. Potential and teachability is among the qualities tested.
  • General discussion. In the interviews there will be an opportunity to display not only general academic knowledge of music but also candidates' particular interests within the subject. The candidates will also be given a chance to ask about the Music Tripos, teaching methods and so on.

NB: Pianos are available for the use of candidates preparing for interview at Clare College.

Written paper. Candidates will be asked to sit an hour-long paper during their visit to Cambridge. There will be one question, the harmonization of a melody in a free style (i.e not necessarily in four parts) or the completion of the lower three parts of a Bach chorale. NB Please note that a keyboard will not be available for this paper.

Coursework/Composition. Candidates should send, in advance of their interview, one example of a recently completed (and marked) essay, and also a harmony exercise (also marked). Original compositions may also be sent in support of applications.