Studying with Music

When you’re studying for an upcoming test or simply doing your homework during a free hour or two between classes, chances are that you’re listening to music. Eight out of ten students I recently asked said they listen to music while doing school-related work. If that’s accurate for the rest of the university, that means roughly 80 percent of the students here listen to music when they study.

In my College 150: The Intentional Learner class, my teacher says that listening to music while doing homework or studying can be distracting. If we are listening to it, she says, it should always be music that’s instrumental or has no legible words to it, as those are usually less distracting than “normal” music with clear vocals. On a logical scale, I would definitely agree with her. However, many of the students that I asked said that having any type of music on, with or without words, was “better than no music at all” and helpful with cancelling more distracting noises. After considering my studying methods, I have to agree with them.

If I’m studying in the library or a quiet part of the Crow’s Nest, I usually don’t have music on. If the silence is extremely deafening and I’m in an extremely easily distractible mindset, I’ll listen to generic Zen music from an Apple-generated playlist.

However, if I’m studying in an area with more people and less noise restrictions, like the Great Lawn (if the weather’s nice) or Einstein’s, “normal” music is a must. I’ll need it to distract from the louder background noise around me, or else I won’t be able to properly focus. In my book, it’s better to have music making noise in the background that doesn’t distract you than noise that does. Listening to music I’ve heard so many times that the words don’t snag my attention are extremely helpful and assist me in getting my work done faster (Britney Spears, Coldplay, and Avril Lavigne are frequently used).

Everyone’s situation differs on your study environment and the work they’re doing, though. If I’m just copying notes I missed from a professor’s PowerPoint in class, I can listen to any type of music in nearly any environment. However, if I’m working on something larger, like an essay or group PowerPoint, I’ll need no music or music with no legible words to help me focus. Again, this type of thing is different for everyone; there are students who need music and those who don’t, as everyone learns differently and one study plan (with or without music) does not fit all.

While studying, I’d advise my fellow students to try listening to music they’ve practically memorized by heart to help drown out background noise and concentrate more. If that’s too much to work with, try listening to instrumental or generic noise music (there are tons of options on most streaming platforms). With midterms behind us and finals looming ahead, it’s important to know what works for you when you’re studying so that you’re not overly distracted and are as proactive as possible. Hopefully this helps.

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