The impact of music in our daily lives is well known, but many people don’t realize the educational benefits of music.
A 2010 study done by the University of Wales is just one of many studies that displayed how listening to music can have a positive effect on memory and intelligence. The study’s results showed listening to music before tests and during test preparation can increase cognitive functions like attention and memory and can increase positivity.
As a college student living on campus at an active university, it is incredibly hard to focus on studying when there are so many distractions at all times of the day. Plus, with midterm season in full swing, it’s more important than ever for students to study without getting distracted.
Personally, I think the most effective way to concentrate on studying is to listen to music, preferably by using headphones. It doesn’t matter where you are, or who you’re around. If you have headphones that can be used, then you can try it.
I often listen to music while studying because it helps me stay positive, confident and, most importantly, awake. However, I usually don’t listen to the same artists while I study because my mood isn’t always the same while studying. I like to mix it up every once in a while.
Since music can evoke many moods, especially positive ones, there are countless songs that you can choose from.
Let’s say you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming test and you’re worried about memorizing the material you learned. Try listening to some soothing R&B or jazz tunes. This will help your mind unwind and isolate yourself from your worries, placing your sole focus on studying. If you’re too busy being entranced by the melodies of Tyrese and Monica or the rhythm of Thundercat, you’ll be too calm to stress out about your exam.
Sometimes I feel helpless when I study. If you’re feeling unmotivated and are in need of a jolt, listen to something louder and upbeat, like rock or rap music. This can energize your mood and the songs’ hard-hitting rhythms can change how you view the assignment and make you feel more determined.
Even if you are 100% confident about your chances on an upcoming test, use your study time to celebrate your expertise of the course material by listening to whatever makes you happy.
Though all types of music are potentially helpful, it’s best not to listen to songs you have never heard before. If you listen to brand new songs while working, your mind will likely be too busy focusing on the song and its lyrics instead of concentrating on the more important task at hand.
In addition, if it’s hard to focus while listening to songs with lyrics, then try listening to classical music or instrumental hip-hop.
When studying, my preference is to listen to music with headphones, but there are other options. One option is to go to a local coffee shop and listen to the radio or live music, along with lots of ambient noise. A relaxing, but active environment like this may be helpful for people, such as myself, who need noise to stay alert while studying. However, I would not recommend this alternative for people who get stressed out by loud music or background noise.
If you’re still having trouble focusing while listening, music can also help your brain develop creative ideas on how to approach studying. This includes using music as a pneumonic device for remembering algorithms or important study terms. For example, I vividly remember my high school geometry teacher using the tune of “Row Row Row Your Boat” to help us learn the steps of the Pythagorean theorem.
If lyrics are easier for you to memorize than notes, you can write out a song to help you digest important information. This sounds like a much more enjoyable activity than staring at a textbook or study guide for hours on end, trying hard not to daydream.
Now I know some people get easily distracted when listening to music and that’s understandable, but there’s no reason not to try it while studying. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll get distracted. On the other hand, if it works out, then you’ve found an unbeatable study method that can be used forever and always.
Ryan Hardison is a sophomore studying journalism. Follow him on Twitter @Ryan_Hardison1.