SmileTutor Blog Students Study Tips Is Music Helpful or Distracting?

Is Music Helpful or Distracting?


In the 2019 National Music Consumption Survey done by National Arts Council (NAC), it showed that 36% of the time, Singaporeans listen to music while doing homework and chores.

Of the Singaporeans interested in music, the age group that showed the most interest is 15-34, many of them being students like you and me.

But is music a distraction that prevents us from being able to study properly? Let us find out more in this article.

How is Music Helpful?

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Some studies show that the ‘Mozart effect’ helps boost our grades because it improves our intelligence quotient (IQ) and our memory during our study sessions.

Here are some other benefits:

Improves your mood

Studying can be stressful, especially when the exam period nears. So many of us turn to listening to music during our study sessions.

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Studies show that listening to classical music or ‘mood music’ lowers our heart rate and cortisol levels, which helps us relax and reduces stress during our revisions.

This also puts us in a better mood, making us want to study.

Makes you motivated to study

Studies show that music causes our brains to release a chemical called dopamine. This chemical regulates our motivation and goal-oriented behaviour, which makes us more motivated to study.

Some songs also have upbeat music and empowering lyrics that hype us up and boost our confidence and energy levels, making us more motivated to study.

Helps you to focus and concentrate

If you struggle with focusing and concentrating while studying, music has been proven to help you focus better!

Listening to music with earphones or headphones plugged in can help to block out distracting noises (for example, construction noises or aeroplanes flying overhead). Music can also act as a stimulant and keep your brain alert.

Stimulates your brain and improves your memory

When you listen to music, it activates areas of your brain that are associated with memory and helps with processing tasks.

Research also shows that certain types of music boost memorisation and other cognitive functions like fluency and recognition memory. For example, classical music enhances memory retrieval, while playing nature music can restore your cognitive abilities.

How does it Negatively Affect Our Academic Performance?

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While there are plenty of benefits while listening to music, music can also become a distraction. Especially when you start paying more attention to the lyrics than the books in front of you.

Worsens your working memory

Working memory is a cognitive system with a limited capacity that holds information temporarily. It is also responsible for your learning, logical reasoning, problem-solving and decision-making skills that you use to answer questions and understand concepts.

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For example, you use your working memory to remember steps to a maths question, sequence of events, or even a list of tasks to be done.

Research shows that listening to music can reduce your working memory capacity, which means you retain less material. This is because music distracts your brain from focusing on the content before you.

Makes it difficult to comprehend reading

Sometimes, listening to music can make it more difficult to comprehend what you’re reading. Especially if you like listening to loud or agitated music like rock-and-roll or electronic dance music (EDM).

Music can sometimes make it difficult to comprehend what you are reading. Have you ever read the same paragraph two or three more times just because you were not focusing?

This is because the area of the brain used to process words happens to be the same function area that processes music, and our brain cannot multitask and process both language and music at the same time.

Develops an unhealthy reliance

Sometimes, we rely on music to focus and concentrate during our sessions, so when we aren’t allowed to listen to it, we become distracted and can’t study properly. Usually, this happens during exams and tests when we aren’t allowed to bring our music into the hall.

This could be detrimental because this heavy reliance on music makes us incapable of doing without it. So we cannot pay attention to our paper and complete it properly, which might cost us our marks.

Should You Listen to Music While Studying

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There is no definite answer as to whether you should listen to music while studying. But there are a few factors to consider before deciding whether you should plug in those earphones during your revision.

Here are some things to note if you plan to listen to music while you study:
1. Avoid music with lyrics
2. Choose slow, instrumental music
3. Keep the volume low
4. Stream commercial-free music – sometimes ads can break your concentration
5. Make sure you’re not heavily reliant on it and that you can work without it



Listening to music while studying is a double-edged sword, depending on your music preferences and the type of music you listen to as you study.

I hope this article shows you how music can benefit your study sessions, but it can also be a distraction. Let us know in the comments if you listen to music as you study or not, and what kind of music you listen to!

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Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.