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Instrumental Music School ServicesFor Schools and Teachers ‹ Musical Aptitude Indicator (MAI)

Musical Aptitude Indicator (MAI)

The Instrumental Music School Services has had many requests, both nationally and internationally, for copies of the MAI CD.
Unfortunately, for legal and copyright reasons, the CD cannot be supplied to schools other than public schools in Western Australia.

The IMSS Musical Aptitude Indicator (MAI) has replaced the Arnold Bentley Measures of Musical Abilities test that has been used for many years.

The Bentley test, while having served its purpose, has many flaws. The Musical Aptitude Indicator has been developed to address many of these flaws and has the following features:

  • The voice used is a neutral Australian one.
  • The instructions have been worded to be as clear and consistent as possible.
  • The word "test" does not appear anywhere on the CD or on the marking sheet.
  • The CD was developed entirely in a digital format on computer. The pitches and rhythms are very accurate. There is no background noise at all.
  • There is no chord section.
  • Each section starts with a short musical introduction.
  • Marking is now easy and accurate using an overlay.

The MAI is marked out of 40. There are three parts: pitch (20 items), rhythm (10 items) and tunes (10 Items). It takes just under 17 minutes to complete.

It is important that the scores are not compared with previous Bentley test results. In particular, students will now usually score lower than expected on the pitch section because each item starts on a new pitch, where the Bentley test started each item at (approximately) 440hz.

There are no "A", "B" or "C" grades given. The MAI is not a standardised test and is to be used as a ranking tool only.

For further information contact Glenda Dutczak at the Instrumental Music School Services.

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Downloadable support documents

The IMSS Musical Aptitude Indicator is sent to all schools involved in the IMSS program. Included with the MAI are the following documents:

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Administration instructions

This page is an online copy of the Instructions for teachers document.

Please note that this activity is not a standardised test and does not equate to tests such as the Bentley and Gordon standardised tests. It is for use as a ranking exercise for aural acuity/response only and there is no grade allocation. Results should be used as one of a number of criteria for selecting students to be offered instrumental class places.

The contents of this kit are listed on the plastic envelope. Masters of the student worksheet, results record sheet and shortlisted student sheet are also available from the 'Downloads' section of the IMSS website ( The kit should be kept in the school resource centre, and cataloguing information is also noted on the plastic envelope.

You will need:

  • Good quality CD playing equipment. If your CD player has graphic equalisers, please set them all at 0. The correct sound balance for the activity is inbuilt.
  • Enough student worksheets for all the students.
  • A quiet classroom for the activity to take place.

Before using in class:

  • If you are administering the activity for the first time, listen to the activity on the equipment you will be using with the students. You might like to attempt it yourself!

Administering MAI in class:

  • The activity itself will take up to 30 minutes. The CD runs for 17 minutes.
  • Use pencil and eraser (if needed).
  • If possible, do the activity in the morning when the students are fresh.
  • Get students to fill in the top of the sheet first. Age is in years only. Students should list any instrument they are learning, whether at school or privately.
  • You may need to explain the choice of instruments available in your school.

Marking and recording student results:

  • The enclosed transparency overlays the student worksheet, making marking rapid. List the results on each part, and the total out of 40 in the shaded box at the bottom. Write the student's name in the box for later convenience and for other teachers who may not know the student as well as you!
  • Sort results from the highest to lowest mark, and enter details on the master result sheet.
  • The original result sheet should be kept confidentially in the school records and a copy faxed to the Instrumental Music School Services (9272 7877). No fax cover sheet is needed.
  • The scores on each of the parts (pitch, rhythm, tunes) could be important. They may help explain an otherwise surprising total score.
  • The shortlisted student sheet is provided for your convenience in combining the MAI results with other criteria when choosing classes.
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MAI results for Year 5 students

The following figures come from MAI testing in schools. The results of 2636 Year 5 students from 75 metropolitan and country primary schools were used. Year 5 students form the vast majority of students tested at this time and the figures do not reflect the results from any other age group.

  No. of students pitch mean rhythm mean tunes mean total mean
all 2636 9.47 3.95 4.84 18.26
male 1366 9.34 3.92 4.65 17.91
female 1270 9.61 3.98 5.04 18.64

Other statistics

Standard deviation (of the total score): 5.04

Skew: -0.06 (very low)

Standard error of the mean: 0.10 (very low)


  • Pitch to rhythm 0.23 (low or slight)
  • Pitch to tunes 0.33 (low or slight)
  • Rhythm to tunes 0.31 (low or slight)


The graph shows a typical normal distribution, with a mean of 18.26 and a standard deviation of 5.04. Ninety five percent of the students' scores fall between 8 and 28. It can be assumed that for older student populations the graph will "slide" to the right and for younger students it will "slide" to the left.

Please note that the MAI is not a standardised test and as such it is for use as a ranking exercise for aural acuity/response only. Results should be used as one of a number of criteria for selecting students to be offered instrumental class places.

Musical Aptitude Indicator (MAI)

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