Studying With Music: Is it Good or Bad? - MedCerts

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Music is all around: from the stores you shop into the trains and cars you travel in. Even if you’re not listening to music, it won’t take long for someone to arrive with a familiar tune on the radio or their headphones. Music also appears in movie soundtracks and at parties, and it can change the overall mood. Loud music might get you pumped, while soft music might calm you. Or, it might start quiet and get louder, building tension and expectation of change.

There’s another way people use music: for studying. Studying with music playing has gained interest among students eager to try new techniques that may help them ace their exams.

Does Music Help You Study?

You might wonder, do you learn better with music? Researchers are as curious as you are. That’s why they’ve worked on research studies to see students respond to music. Here’s what the “listening to music while studying” research shows so far:

  • The type of music matters

  • The loudness matters

  • The student’s working memory matters

Researchers have worked on several ideas:

Mozart Effect

Studies show that you’re more likely to find instrumental music helpful if it creates a positive mood. Whether it's Mozart or another type of classical sonata, this music may fire up specific parts of your brain. They’re also the parts you use for studying and problem-solving.

Arousal-Mood Effect

Another theory looks at your emotions in general, showing how music can activate your brain based on its tempo and melody. Music that raises your brain activity to a moderate level can help as much as music that calms your brain to a moderate level. Moderation is key, but the music needs to create positive emotions.

Seductive Effect

How much does music distract you? In this theory, your working memory affects how well you respond to music. Getting distracted by music won’t help with studying, since you’ll be too focused on what you’re hearing. Having a stronger working memory lets you use background music to a positive effect. A weaker working memory tends to lead to you paying more attention to the music than the task.

The Bottom Line: There’s no right or wrong answer to whether music helps you study. Your music tastes and study preferences are as unique as you are. Some people find success with instrumental music, while others like fast-paced background tunes. Others get distracted by lyrics but find the soft tones of classical music effective.

Tips for Studying With Music

Check out these tips for the best results:

  • Play some instrumental music first to see how you respond.

  • Try different types of lyrics. Songs that are too catchy can be distracting.

  • Use headphones if you’re around others.

  • Consider your mood and the time of day. Music might calm you sometimes but be distracting at other times.

The Power of Music While Studying With MedCerts

You’re working on course material and have an upcoming MedCerts program exam. Do you learn better with music? Put it to the test! Try different types of music and see if any bring heightened focus and better recall. There’s no harm in trying different study methods. Good luck!

Portrait of Julie Campos
Written by Julie Campos
Vice President of Student Success and Career Services

Julie Campos is the Vice President of Student Success and Career Services at MedCerts. She brings over 14 years of experience in Online Higher Education in both Student Support and Enrollment and started her career at the University of Phoenix, serving most of her tenure as a student-facing leader.

Julie has her Bachelors of Liberal Arts in Political Science from the University of Texas at El Paso, and her Masters in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. Her areas of expertise are student support in online higher education environments and working with nontraditional students. At MedCerts, she is focused on creating a pro-active student central support model for MedCerts students to reach their goals and has developed the MedCerts Student Support and Outreach Model, created MedCerts Student Success Advisor reports and Dashboards, as well as the Student Success Advisor Playbook. Her proactive approach to student support has been crucial in meeting MedCerts’ student’s needs, as well as completion and certification goals.

Julie has three children – a 10-year-old son and 12- and 4-year-old daughters, who keep her and her husband busy with sports. She is also an avid crafter with an entire room of her home dedicated to the hobby. In her free time, she enjoys teaching wreath making and even has a few “how-to” YouTube videos on the subject!

Published on May 30, 2024


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