To Listen or Not to Listen: How Music Effects Your Ability to Study

To Listen or Not to Listen: How Music Effects Your Ability to Study



Exam season is just around the corner, and you’re swamped. You think, “How in the world can I get through all this material before the end of the semester and retain all these facts?” The temptation is there get yourself a good cup of coffee, pop in the earbuds, and read (and reread) your notes. But wait. Will that music you want to enjoy stop your brain from memorizing? Will it unlock some hidden talent in your mind for absorbing what you need to for tomorrow’s test?

If you prefer to listen to music while studying, there are a few things you should know. Keep reading to find out more.

Know Your Learning Style

Many studies point to different results, but one thing is for sure; You can stop right here if you are the type who puts on some music and can’t help but stand up and groove to the beat. If any noise is a distraction, you can pretty much bet that adding any music will undoubtedly decrease your studying productivity. Auditory learners can hear someone explain a concept and get it right away. Meanwhile, experiential learners may find it difficult to focus when even the slightest rhythm is vying for their attention. Methodic, list-memorizing learners may find that music can help them connect ideas to certain parts of a song or composition. However, come test time, you probably won’t have access to that music as a reminder of what you learned.

Mix it up

You may have heard of the “Mozart Effect” or the idea that simply listening to Mozart makes you smarter. While concepts such as these are brought forward by psychologists and marketers alike, keep in mind that it is certain types of music that may help for studying certain topics. Students exposed to music at an early age have been found to develop the parts of the brain that are related to language and reasoning. Also connected to the brain’s left side is creativity, which could explain why music can help it. On the other hand, the right side of the brain is connected to mathematics, facts, and logic and may be better served by some focused, no-music time.

Fight anxiety and de-stress

A significant advantage to music while studying is the potential to access its anti-anxiety and de-stressing powers. While songs are written and music composed to convey feelings, we need to keep our emotions in check if we are to focus on the work at hand. How does this music make you feel? If it’s any type of agitation or negative emotions, it may hinder memorization. Because it is excellent at altering your mood, music should be a calming and de-stressing addition to your studying.

Test it out

If all else fails, try, and try again. What that means is that studying and learning what’s best for you personally, is just that, a personal thing. Studies suggest that certain groups of people memorize more information while listening to music. They then have been able to retain more. But what they don’t account for is that what’s good for some may not be good for you. Consider listening to different types of music or white noise, such as ocean or rainforest sounds, and then testing yourself. Which set of study sessions worked the best? Before and after the test, take your temperature and see how you feel. How confident are you that you have mastered the knowledge?

When in doubt, you can also go back to the librarian’s good old friend, silence. Above all, try to balance the amount of planning you do and the amount of actual learning. Don’t ignore the potential power of music. But you also don’t want to waste your precious study time by making endless playlists of the perfect music for a study session.

Take breaks

One of the least talked about music, and studying strategies is the one where you completely separate the two in the form of a much needed, and well-deserved break. If you are a music lover, why not consider making that stretch break a stretch-and-dance-party break? Because we are so focused on working or studying, we often forget that giving ourselves a break can do wonders to increase our memory and focus. So maybe music and studying shouldn’t mix but should complement each other instead.

You knew it was coming at the end of this article, so here it is: Why not take a course through Iris Speed Reading? With classes offered in-person or online anywhere, you can learn valuable skills to help you study. The instructors at Iris Speed Reading have years of experience so you can invest in yourself to become more efficient and succeed in school and in your career.

Andrew is a husband of over ten years, and father to two young kids. An ambitious procrastinator, he learned the value of prioritizing, becoming efficient, and enjoys being a life-long learner. He teaches Iris Speed Reading classes in Vancouver, Canada. “All I ever wanted to do was get organized, read and learn faster so I could get ahead and spend more time with my family,” he says. You can write to him at [email protected]. Be sure to attend an upcoming class with Andrew too! Find out more information at




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