Pros and Cons of Listening to Music while Studying


The ability music has to help with focus and retention while studying is dependent on the student and the type of music being used.  Studies, for example, have found that introverts tend to be more effective without the use of music during their study sessions, while extroverts benefit from the use of music.  In addition, the type of music can either positively or negatively affect information retention and comprehension.


Music that is soothing and relaxing, for example, can calm anxiety and stress levels, improving retention of the information.  As discussed in a previous post (“Dealing with the Test Stress”) relaxation also allows information to pass from short term memory into long term.  Therefore, listening to music may indirectly improve a student’s ability to memorize information.


For some, music also provides motivation and improves mood.  This, in turn, improves focus as the student feels less anxiety and more positive feelings toward the studying itself.  Particularly in cases where a long study session is necessary (right before a test, for example) music can aid in endurance.


On the other hand, the wrong kind of music may negatively affect a study session.  If an individual listens to music with lyrics, for example, while doing reading/writing assignments, they may be less focused and absorb less information.  Many students have experienced writing a sentence only to realize they’re writing what the song is saying rather than what they meant to write.  These mistakes and distractions take time, decreasing the student’s efficiency.


Music that is loud and aggressive can distract from reading as well while also depressing the student’s mood, making it even more difficult to focus.  Just as a positive mood can improve memory, a negative attitude may decrease a student’s ability to retain information studied, regardless of the length of time spent studying.


Another con of studying with music (whether positive or not) is the student may need to listen to music during the test itself in order to effectively recall the information studied.  If the silent test taking strategy is used, a student may find it difficult to remember what they studied.  If a student knows they will not be allowed to listen to music during a test, it may be a good idea to take time to study in a more silent space.


So, does listening to music help while studying?  It really depends upon the student.  Many find they do better when multi-tasking and so may benefit from listening to music.  Others may find they have a harder time focusing and prefer to work in silence.  Find what works for you, but keep in mind both the pros and cons of working while listening to music of any kind.


Personally, I’ve found great benefit in listening to music during long study sessions, while doing math problems, or while doing simple writing assignments.  In fact, I’ve been listening to Christmas music while writing this particular post.  While doing reading or more complex writing assignments, however, I often have to set aside the music in order to better focus.  So you see, it depends on the student and the situation.














Davis, Nicky. “Is It Good to Listen to Music While Studying.”,,


Kuepper-Tetzel, Carolina. “Listening to Music While Studying: A Good or a Bad Idea?” The          Learning Scientists, 10 Nov. 1970,