If you go into a library nowadays, the chances are most people will have headphones on. It seems a little odd, didn’t they come here for somewhere quiet? Does listening to music while you are revising help? Well, the studies in this area would suggest the answer is maybe: The effect of listening to music will differ depending on the person, the music and the task you are trying to complete.
You might have heard of the Mozart Effect; the idea that when babies listen to Mozart and other classical music they become smarter. However, the original research paper, from which this phrase was coined, does not support these claims. Using only 36 adult students, the authors from the University of California found that listening to Mozart only appeared to improve performance in spatial reasoning tasks for up to 15 minutes. This information is only useful for you if you have a shape visualisation test coming up.
There are many studies into the effect of music but, even though these papers do draw valid conclusions, be aware that they will often not be relevant to you because they are looking at the effect of a specific type of music on a very specific kind of task, usually using university students – who will already by skilled at learning. So can music help your GCSE or A Level Revision?
Like everything that you do when revising, it is important to reflect on whether what you are doing is really helping you. When it comes to music you want to consider the effect that you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to lift your mood or calm yourself before studying? Give you brain a break? (Dancing to a favourite tune is one of my favourite study-break activities.) Do you need some ambient, steady noise to cover up disruptive coughing and other occasional sounds? The effect of the music will differ depending on whether it is your favourite song or not. You might struggle to write an essay when listening to music with words. When revising you can test out these different conditions and find out what works best for you.
There is one proven way that music can help you with your revision and that is memorization. There is something magical about a rhythm and a beat to help you remember things. Can you remember the lyrics to hundreds of songs but struggle with the periodic table? Get creative and set what you need to music or if you are short on time, the chances are someone will have made a song about it already on YouTube.