Does music really affect your efficiency when revising? – Jordan MacMahon

As we all know “no music when revising” Ross has visited our school on various occasions and educated us about how to revise and make our work performance as efficient as possible. Many girls swooned at his “buff” appearance and extremely attractive ability to publicly-speak, and many others marvelled at his incredible memory; it was all fine until he told us- “you must not listen to music when you are revising because it will affect your efficiency “: or to quote Mr.Cuddihy, “Ross said if you listen to music then you will fail your exams or die”. Either outcome is a bit of a nuisance.

What music do you listen to? Rap? Pop? Indie? I guarantee that everyone reading has listened to music while working at least once in his or her life. I first thought about investigating when I noticed my lack of motivation to revise without music but my obvious lack of efficiency revising with it. I experimented with different types of music and admittedly I found a slight balance when listening to the classical genre, but being a member of choir I just couldn’t help but become distracted and sing along to Mozart’s Requiem. So I wondered, is there any solid evidence behind this annoying theory, and does it affect everyone?

One experiment was as followed:

Students were given a serial recall test in five different scenarios–

  1. A quiet environment
  2. “Steady state” speech. This means a single word (in this case, “three”) was repeated for the duration of the test
  3. “Changing state” speech. This means a variety of words (in this case, random digits from 1-9) were played during the test
  4. “Liked” music, meaning a song of the student’s choice (such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, or Arcade Fire). Students brought in their own music; the only requirement was that it had to have vocals
  5. “Disliked” music, which in this case was a metal song called “Thrashers” by Death Angel (all students in the study disliked metal)

Surprisingly to the scientists all the results for experiments 2-5 were very similar- that is they were all just as distracting as each other, suggesting the type of music or sound you listen to doesn’t have varying effects on your ability. However, as expected, the silent conditions produced the most effective work and best results.

Before you cancel your Spotify subscription, listen to this; in a similar experiment it was found that for a lot of children music didn’t affect their performance and it was genuinely about how willing they were to succeed. Many people performed exactly the same in both exams with and without music. So there is hope yet!

Many people may have heard of the “Mozart Effect”- this is the belief that listening to classical music will make you more intelligent. This has since been disproven, but there is strong evidence that listening to classical music has other effects like reducing anxiety and depression. Many experts believe that it may be more effective and even improve the quality of revision to listen to music before studying thereby becoming less stressed and more focused.

This isn’t, however, an episode of “Myth Busters” and I’m afraid my conclusion is fairly unsatisfactory. Does music affect the efficiency of your revision? It “depends”. Sadly it seems that a lot of evidence tips in Ross’ favour and music can have a negative effect on your efficiency when revising. But as you know, this is not always the case. I would recommend for optimum results in your exams to find yourself a method that works for you, experiment with sounds, different genres and silence- especially if your still in the lower half of the school, now is your time to find out what is the best for you. Above all, every experiment confirmed the same thing- the most important thing you need to do well in your revision and exams is commitment and a solid work ethic.

Good Luck!

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