10 Awesome Benefits of Listening to Music while Studying

Music is a powerful psychological tool — including during study sessions and exam periods.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Benefits of listening to music while studying / Man wearing headphones and sitting in an armchair

Music is a wonderful thing to have in life, and whereas we all have different tastes and preferences for what we like to listen to, there’s no denying that we all love listening to it for many different reasons. In recent years, music has been touted as having certain benefits to work-related activities, including studying and preparing for exams.

It might seem counterintuitive, but listening to music can make us more effective at taking in the information we’re trying to learn.  This article explores the various benefits of listening to music while studying.

Plug in some headphones and read on!

1. It improves your focus

Our brains are said to have two focus systems: one that helps us focus on conscious things, and one that focuses on unconscious things, such as background noise or other unwanted distractions.

Both work in tandem, so this, unfortunately, explains why we might be concentrating on doing something but our minds instead get hung up on noises like a washing machine whirring or someone sniffing continuously.

Listening to music — an often pleasurable experience — will preoccupy the unconscious part of our brain on something pleasant, thus allowing us to focus on succeeding at studying.

2. It boosts your memory

Studies conducted in the US and Japan have demonstrated that music doesn’t just help us recall old memories through feelings of nostalgia or familiarity; it can help us learn new ones as, well.

The rhythms and melodies of music can reactivate areas of the brain that help with memory, and listening to music while studying can help us associate certain songs or tunes with what we’re trying to learn; in essence, it’s a primitive form of association.

Singing along to music, meanwhile, can further drive recall ability and help with retaining information. Whether you sing to an audience or just to yourself is completely up to you!

3. It motivates you to study

Listening to your favorite music stimulates the areas of your brain which focus on reward and thinking positively. This means that when you listen to such music, you will feel more empowered and motivated to do a good job — and perhaps go the extra mile in the studying you are doing.

Positive or upbeat music might sound especially motivating for you and spur you on to work hard and concentrate for longer.

4. It helps you to detach

Music has a strong ability for us to detach from realities and escape into our favorite artists or genres. This might appear counterintuitive for the purposes of studying, but there can be certain benefits.

Some types of music, such as lo-fi, can evoke certain trance-like feelings and meditative responses that allow us to purely focus on one task, which can be a great way to get going with a hard hour of intense studying. In these environments, time might fly by, and you will find that you have gotten a lot more work accomplished than you would have originally expected.

5. It reduces stress levels

Listening to certain types of music can really help people calm down and become less anxious, which will help you retain information and improve your mindset for studying.

In a 2013 study, a group of volunteers were asked to perform tasks while listening to rippling water, calming music, or nothing at all. The sample responded differently — and calmer — when listening to music.

In general, relaxing music can help us recall calming memories and stimulate hormones that alleviate anxiety, which is discussed next.

6. It reduces anxiety

Calming music, especially classical music, can have a very dramatic effect on reducing anxiety.

Indeed, a 2021 study of intensive care patients demonstrated that their levels of anxiety (in this exceptionally anxiety-inducing environment) were significantly reduced when having classical music played to them.

Because your favorite music increases your feelings of pleasure, this reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body and, therefore, improves your focus on studying.

7. It improves cognitive thought

Music does a lot more for cognitive function than driving focus and memory. Different types of music can trigger certain cognitive responses, so if you enjoy these types of music, it’s good to be aware of their advantages.

Classical music, for example, can especially help with recalling numbers, mathematical principles and spatial reasoning (the latter being referred to as the Mozart Effect). Songs with no lyrics are perfect for reading comprehension and writing. Nature sounds can help us concentrate, and chill-out music and lo-fi can assist with deep concentration and serious thought.

Therefore, it might be good to create certain playlists depending on what you’re studying.

8. It boosts your mood

One of the main reasons we listen to music in general is because it makes us happier. We all have our favorite songs and artists, and listening to them will bring a smile to our faces.

Having a mood enhancer for studying is an incredible feeling. Being happy and relaxed while studying makes the exercise of doing so a lot easier and pleasurable, and will install in you positive vibes that will make the end task (such as writing an essay or getting ready for an exam) seem a lot easier to achieve, and that, basically, everything will be okay.

9. It helps you organize your study plan

Listening to music can help you structure your approach to studying, or at least break down what might seem like an insurmountable obstacle into bite-sized, achievable tasks.

One approach to this is to use a certain album or group of songs as a timeframe for studying, and when this collection of songs finishes, use this as an opportunity to take a break. This approach is known as the “Pomodoro Technique”, a productivity theory that breaks up work into smaller chunks. Aligning this technique to music can be a naturally effective approach.

10. It eliminates boredom

Studying in a quiet or silent room can do wonders to help us focus but can sometimes be mind-numbingly dull. Using music for no other purpose than a background track to your studying can simply help you remain engaged in what you’re doing.

If you’re able to listen to music while taking in the information you’re supposed to, then listening to music can alleviate a lot of the boredom and tediousness of studying. It’s best to do this using music that can fade a little into the background, so avoid music with too many lyrics or a new album that you haven’t yet listened to, as this might only serve to distract you from the task at hand.

Key takeaways

Music is an amazing study aid that offers plenty of benefits but, in general, using music to study offer three main advantages:

  • It can improve focus.
  • It can de-stress you.
  • It can keep you engaged.

A big part of music’s effectiveness in helping you study is to find the best music to have on in the background. It makes sense to listen to music that you enjoy, but try to pick tracks and albums that will not distract you too much.

In general, calming music with few lyrics works best, but we are all individuals, so find music that works best for you. This can be a matter of trial and error, so if you feel that some types of music work less well, try a different genre. Sooner or later, you will find a style that clicks and will discover that studying becomes a lot easier — and a lot more effective.

Can you think of any other benefits of listening to music while studying? Let us know in the comments section below.


Originally published on July 25, 2018.