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How music can make you a better student

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Listening to your favourite music while studying can supercharge pre-exam productivity, but it needs to be low in “psychological arousal”, according to expert research.

Choosing the right songs and artists, and choosing music that is familiar to you, will assist you when studying, Curtin University’s Head of Psychology and Speech Pathology Professor Adrian North writes in The Conversation.

“What determines whether music helps or hinders studying is how much or little physiological arousal it produces,” he says.

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“Music is less arousing if it is slow, smooth and steady, and it also places a lower demand on your brain if you know it well already.”

Research led by Macquarie University’s Professor Williams Thompson showed that “highly familiar music may also be efficiently processed and less distracting” and “music is most likely to disrupt reading comprehension when the music is fast and loud”.

It concludes that while there might be a cost to your reading comprehension from listening to music, that can be offset by the “benefits of music listening for mood and arousal”.

For this, think of artists like The xx, Kite String Tangle, Chet Faker and even some of the Arctic Monkeys’ (or any bands’) down-tempo songs.

Remember, with this approach your preference is important, but choices must be grounded with an easy-listening kind of vibe.

And if those bands are not your thing, classical music is also a helpful study aid.

Research in France showed that students listening to a lecture where classical music was played in the background were significantly more successful in a quiz about the lecture than students who listened to the same lecture without the music.

According to an article published by the University of Southern California, listening to music by Brahms, Handel, Mozart, Strauss and Bach helped with relaxation and promoted a good night’s sleep, which is helpful around exam time.

Below is a playlist to get you on your way, plus Professor North’s top tips for shaping your study tunes:

Top tips for choosing study music

1. Avoid hard rock, big dance beats and heavy rap music

2. Know the music you pick very well

3. Keep it slow, steady and smooth

4. Music is perfect for repetitive, monotonous revision

5. The right music is very helpful for long, late night study sessions

6. Chill out with music during stressful periods: can be an oasis in a panic storm

7. If you listened to certain music when studying, listen to the same tunes just before exam/assessment. Research shows recalling facts is easier under similar conditions

8. If you’re learning a super complex piece of information keep in mind music may not be helpful

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