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The age old question remains: while studying, is it best to slip on a pair of headphones and quietly jam to some music, or do we sit in silence? If we listen to music, what kind? No one enjoys flipping through textbooks, trying to cram enough information in to pass the next exam, but music eases some of this stress and pain. But is it actually helpful?

Some argue that according to the Mozart Effect, listening to classical music is helpful during studying as it makes us “smarter,” by increasing our spatial reasoning.

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But more recent studies have largely debunked or otherwise minimized the efficacy of the Mozart Effect. They found that nearly any type of enjoyable music works just as well (if not better!) and that the enhanced reasoning lasts approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Timothy Byron, lecturer in psychology at the University of Wollongong, writes:

“However, further research conclusively debunked the Mozart effect theory: it wasn’t really anything to do with maths, it was really just that music puts us in a better mood… Being in a better mood likely means that we try that little bit harder and are willing to stick with challenging tasks.”

Relaxing music further helps with nerves and even anxiety, creating a conducive environment in which to study, refresh and learn. It also prevents students from becoming (too) bored, which in turn, allows for longer study sessions. Even better, certain studies show that music can improve memory. Music helps us recall old information, but also allows us to memorize new information. Sounds great, right?

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Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks. While calming and relaxing music settles people down, angry and energetic music (with high beats per minute) does the exact opposite. As a result, people lose the benefits associated with study music. Lyrical songs can also make information more difficult to retain as focus is shifted to the music, as well as loud songs. However, all in all, the decrease in learning is surprisingly only minimal

What are the best styles of songs to listen to?

  1. Relaxing

  2. Slow BPM

  3. Low volume

  4. Instrumental instead of lyrical

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While it can seem a bit complicated to the perfect songs to study to, certain YouTube channels/videos and Spotify playlists are specifically tailored for tasks like studying. There are several tips to consider, but in the end, the music that should be played should simply be enjoyable. That means different things to different people, so be sure to experiment!

And so, the next time you crack open a textbook, feel free to play some tunes knowing that it may, in fact, help.

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Kaitlin is a bilingual (French and English) writer originating from friendly Thunder Bay. They are in their seventh year at York University, where they study professional writing with an emphasis on journalism. They live with their partner of nine years and their cat, Tessa. They started writing with a passion and a poem that eventually won third in a contest 12 years ago, and started editing not too long after. When not at the keyboard, Kaitlin can be found reading, cooking, playing video games, or holding Tessa. Their favorite movies are scary and their favorite television genre is reality. Kaitlin's passions include copyediting, anything scary or spooky and adding to her collection of dolls, magnets and cups. Their favorite part of writing/editing is giving others a chance to share their story or achieve their dreams and offering insight on "the little things." Some of Kaitlin's favorite topics reflect on their personal life, including health/disabilities, fringe topics and social issues.
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