You may think that exams are still a while away, but in fact they are approaching sooner than you think.  Reading Week just ended, after all, and to myself it seems like the semester just started. With tests soon approaching, it also means that making time to study is inevitable.

This leads me to introduce a hotly debated topic as to whether or not listening to music while you study is a good decision. Can listening to music while you study boost your performance? Some researchers stick to their claim that silence is the best method when it comes to studying. However, it cannot be argued that there are some people who easily lose concentration without background noise, or who do not feel as motivated to study when they have nothing but the sound of silence. Personally speaking, despite being very school-oriented, I dread the act of studying. The idea of taking down notes and reading them over bores me to no end. Whenever it comes time for me to study, I typically at first try it out with silence, but I get bored too quickly with being left alone with the silence and my study notes, so I always end up reaching towards study music. Having study music keeps me more motivated and makes me dread the tedious act a lot less than if I was left alone with silence. Thus, I have put together a list of tips to help you with preparing your study music.

Tip # 1 – Music without lyrics?

Researchers have found that listening to music with lyrics is disruptive since studying is a task that involves reading. Also, some people argue that classical, instrumental music is the best choice, believing in the “Mozart Effect” which states that Mozart’s works are the bests choices of music to listen to while studying. However, what happens if you really don’t like Mozart? If you don’t like Mozart, it is highly unlikely that you are going to find a Mozart effect. If you like Queen, it is more likely you are going to find a Queen effect. It seems instead that the most effective music will vary on the person. But what happens if the music you want includes lyrics? I myself am sometimes guilty of choosing study music that includes lyrics. My advice in this case, if you must choose study music with lyrics, is to keep the music at a lower volume than you would usually keep your study music at. This way, the music can still be heard but you are not overly distracted by the words from the music interrupting the words on the pages in front of you.

Tip # 2 – Orchestral music

I typically flock towards ambient, orchestral music when I am studying. This type of music is more modern than classical, and it still has a similar effect. A lot of film scores are influenced by ambient sounds, and I have lots of score pieces from films on my Spotify to accompany me when I am studying. Film composers such as John Williams, Danny Elfman, Justin Hurwitz and Alexandre Desplat are some of my personal favorites.

Tip # 3 – Keep it at a reasonable volume!

It is called music for studying, after all. You are not at a club or at a rave. It is best to listen to your study music at a moderate volume. The lower the better, and as I said previously if there are lyrics you should choose to keep it even lower. The reality is, the louder your music is the more it will be distracting. The main purpose of study music is for it to be in the background. When you’re finished studying then you can celebrate and bring it to the foreground and crank it to a deafening volume and rave all you want!

Tip # 4 – Plan ahead:

If you are about to study and yet you spend a long time trying to choose your study music or skipping songs every three minutes, this is only being counter-productive. Rather, create a playlist with all your favourite songs for studying in advance to avoid this problem. It will save you time and allow you to step right into studying as all you would have to do is pull up the playlist and click play.

Tip # 5 – Avoid the radio!!

Save yourself the distraction and don’t choose an easy and lazy solution. Avoid listening to the radio while studying. It already drives me crazy when I have to listen to advertisements interrupting my music during those rare moments I listen to the radio, but studying is definitely not a time you need those annoying interruptions. Have complete control of your study music and don’t allow any external dialogue from commercials distract you.

Tip # 6 – The time span of your playlist:

First, decide how long you want to study for in one session. Then, make playlists that last that long, I would say usually for 30 to 45 minutes. When the playlist ends, this can be your time to take a short break from studying, and when it is time to get back at it, you can either replay the same playlist or use a different one.

Tip # 7 – Music before the exam:

Ultimately, music has the power to make you feel relaxed, and that is exactly what you need before going into an exam. You do not want to go into an exam completely nervous or anxious. Listening to music before you go into the exam and can help put you in a calm state of mind which will help you focus when you get into the exam. Just remember to turn your music off when your writing the exam!


Happy studying and happy listening!