Iphone, headphones & music for studying

Listening to Music While Studying

Similar to the “is coffee good or bad for you” argument, scientists and researchers continue to disagree on whether or not listening to music while you study is a distraction. They do agree on this: if you have to listen to music, songs without lyrics won’t take focus away from what you’re trying to learn.

With that in mind, think about how you normally prepare for an exam. You’re settling in for a long study session. You’ve got your notes, your highlighters, your laptop, and the necessary textbook. You’ve got your favorite Spotify playlist on in the background and you feel like you’re going to rock your exam.

Then, the day comes to take the test and everything you thought you learned disappears the moment you read the first question. All you can remember are the lyrics to “Eye of the Tiger.” You’re left frustrated and upset that, despite your hard work and studying the right way, your score is less than perfect. Does this prove the scientists right, that you should have listened to a playlist made up solely of Mozart, Bach, and other similar composers?

With everything else you’ve got going on in your life, you don’t have time to care what studies written by people you don’t know have to say. What is really going to help you make the most of your study time?

Music and memory.

Reading with Headphones and tea

A large part of studying and absorbing information is repetition, memorization, and a practical understanding of the material. You’re rereading notes and textbooks to make sure the facts and figures are stuck in your brain. However, trying to cram a study session in last minute or simply relying on memorization without really understanding what you’re reading can cause you to draw a blank when it’s time to prove you know your stuff on an exam.

Music might help with that. In various studies, music has been found to enhance the memory of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, improving their scores on tests. With that in mind, you can use music to enhance your learning experience and help you remember the ideas you study better. The key, though, is using the right music for the task you’re setting out to accomplish.

What should you listen to when?

Reading with Headphones and tea

Your taste in music is personal to you and tailoring your playlist for the task at hand doesn’t mean listening to songs and artists you dislike. That’s the last thing you should do! Listening to songs that you don’t relate to will affect your productivity. Instead, using music and songs you like, create playlists that inspire a particular feeling.

  • When you’re reading or writing,

    have a quieter playlist ready to go that includes mellow or soft music (with or without lyrics) that makes you feel calm and inspired.
    • Depending on your personal taste in music, that could mean tuning in to a folk playlist with soft sounds like Fleet Foxes or pulling up some soft rock ballads that make you feel all the positive feels.
  • When you’re studying and need to focus,

    try to find classical music you like or even instrumental versions of your favorite songs.
    • Not a fan of classical music or instrumentals? Listen to music in a language you don’t know! Not only is it a fun change of pace, but since you don’t know what the lyrics mean, your brain can put that music in the background instead of trying to concentrate on the words you’re hearing.
  • When you need to get in the right mindset to study,

    create a playlist that includes energetic, upbeat music with positive lyrics. Sometimes, the toughest part of studying is quieting the doubts you have about being successful or even just shaking off the stress of day-to-day life.

When you’re stressed and distracted or in a bad mood, the notes you take won’t stick. Before digging into a study session, listen to something that makes you happy and puts you in a positive frame of mind. Pull from the genres and artists you like best. Since music impacts your mood, fun and happy songs will get you ready to take on whatever challenges the day may bring.

    • Not sure what can get you ready to take on the world? Try listening to classic pop songs or songs that you enjoyed as a kid. N*Sync, Backstreet Boys, Menudo… whatever reminds you of a time when you felt invincible and happy can help you conjure those feelings in the present.

So, will music help me do better on my next test?

Iphone Headphones playing music & coffee

Creating the perfect playlist can help you focus and remember what you learn but great music doesn’t guarantee a good grade. Studying and really learning the material to prepare for a test depends on dedication, good notes, and taking advantage of the resources available to you.

If you’re worried that music could negatively affect your focus when you’re study, try ambient music or white noise to dull the sounds around you. Check out apps like White Noise or Headspace for background noise and meditation guides to get you in the right mindset for a successful study session.

Get ready to rock your comeback with Penn Foster.

Jump back into school and get excited to begin your journey toward your goals. Listen to our Back to School playlist on Spotify to get you in the mood to make your dreams your reality.