Studyology: Does music help you learn?

It’s not a myth — music does in fact help you concentrate while you’re studying, but according to science, only instrumental tracks. Anything else (say, the new Weeknd album) is just about as helpful as your roommate blab in your ear about their wild night out while you’re cramming for your exam in the morning.

A Wales University study from 2010 suggested that students’ performance was impacted by “music conditions and the changing-state speech” in comparison “to quiet and steady-state speech conditions,” meaning that listening to music with changing lyrics is detrimental to your overall concentration. Their findings suggest that listening to music with little to no interruption in speech pattern that is steadier is more beneficial to memory.

The ever popular “Mozart effect” also comes to mind and has been proven true by researchers. It’s definitely not just for babies and toddlers. Students who listened to more Mozart, or simply music without lyrics, have tended to perform better in the category of memory and recall than those who did not.

Another pilot study, however, determined that music’s effect on college students can vary greatly, depending on the person. From the students within this study, researchers found that “background music does affect people's job-site behaviour.” From the three groups of students in the study — background music, no music and music before work — it was discovered that music affected individual performance on different levels and it is too varied to make any conclusions based on their findings.

So does music help you learn? Not quite, and it’s not a foolproof solution for everyone — but listening to a little Mozart or Bach during a cram session can’t hurt.