Can Music Help You Study Better?


There’s usually two types of students – ones who study best in absolute silence and the ones who can only get work done with some background music. Some students actually believe music helps them focus better and study faster. They could be right.

Anyone who’s studied music journalism will tell you music is known to have a significant impact on your body and emotional state. Filmmakers have used crashing chords and rising tempo to make you feel excited or terrified while watching a movie. There are rumors that movies like Psycho and Paranormal Activity are so hard to watch because the directors added a low-frequency sound to the final cut that made the viewer subconsciously uneasy.

Music has been used for everything, from busting stress to putting people into hypnosis. So, can it also help you study better?

Fortunately, there’s been some academic research dedicated to answering this question. Unfortunately, the results are inconclusive.

The Science

In 2013, researchers at the University of Maryland observed a bunch of students trying to solve math problems. Half of them were left in a room with music playing, while the other half were left in complete silence. Just to be certain, the researchers further divided the class with music into two groups. Half of them were listening to slow piano music, while the other half were listening to a heavy metal band.

The study showed that heavy metal clearly wasn’t helping anyone study better. The students in that group did the worst. Silence, it seems, was the clear winner in this study. Students who completed their test in a silent room scored better than ones listening to piano music.

That’s not to say listening to piano music was useless. It helped calm the students and lowered their anxiety. Students listening to piano music said they felt motivated to focus better. However, the music was somewhat distracting, which is why scores were less than average.

Similar studies in France and Taiwan, however, found that music had a positive impact on worker productivity. High-intensity music helped workers complete routine tasks faster and with fewer errors. Low-intensity music helped cut stress. How this boost in productivity translates to students studying for college exams is unclear.


For most students, it’s simply easier to study in a quiet place. Silence is, perhaps, necessary for cognitive tasks like learning a new skill. Some students prefer studying with ambient sounds. As long as the sounds are soft and instrumental, their focus won’t be impacted.

For students who absolutely cannot study without music, a better solution would be to study in a noisy cafe or with white noise in the background. Everyone has a unique method of studying and picking what works best for you could actually be the key to success at college.

Bio: Amira Smith is a photographer and recent college graduate, who still cherishes her life in college. She writes short novels and devotes her time to helping animal shelter in her hometown.

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