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Study Finds Music is Too Distracting During Revision

Do you listen to music while studying? Do you find it helps? Some students swear by it but others can only work in complete silence. Most students claim that listening to their favourite music can help them study and revise better. Now, a new study suggests that music is too much of a distraction for most students while revising and studying.


The Study’s Findings

Carried out in conjunction with the Cardiff Metropolitan University, the researchers divided the participants into four groups.

  • The first was a silent revision group
  • The second experienced music they liked (with lyrics)
  • The third were subjected to music they didn’t like (also with lyrics)
  • The fourth listened to music without lyrics

Each was then asked to take a simple test covering the information they had revised during the experiment. The results were intriguing: those who revised in silence experienced the best results; they also reported better concentration and less distraction. The second best performing group was those who listened to instrumental music (no lyrics). There was no difference between the other two groups. This flies in the face of “The Mozart Effect” and finally lays that particular urban legend to rest.


“Moderate Nose Level” Helps Creativity

But some studies suggest that background noise can aid productivity, especially with creative work. A study from 2012 by University of Chicago asked “Is Noise Always Bad?” found that a “moderate” level of background noise can help productivity. Five experiments forming part of the same study found repeatable results. In this case, the “moderate” level was 70db, the equivalent of the background noise in a typical coffee shop. Most interesting, a low level of noise (50db or below) was just as distracting as a higher level of noise (85db).

It’s important to note that this study related to creativity and work productivity, not learning, revision or studying for exams. The authors also recognise the flaws and weaknesses in their own studies. Other studies covering the same or similar subjects have shown how background noise stifles the work environment. This is a careful balancing act; if in doubt, students should always opt for silence as shown in the most recent study.


The Best Places to Study

It should come as no great surprise that the best places to study include your university library where there is an imposed silence to help everybody work. Libraries typical have an ambient noise level of about 40db. Working at home is always a good option too; however, students who don’t have to study at present may be playing music, television or video games too loudly to aid concentration. If in doubt, head for the library or another quiet space such as a vacant lecture theatre or classroom.