Should You Listen to Music While Studying?

Should You Listen to Music While Studying?This week we welcome back guest writer and lawyer John Passmore to discuss the positives and negatives of listening to music while studying.

Should you listen to music while studying in law school or during bar prep? As with most all study skills questions, one-size rarely fits all. So this post will not demonize your earbuds or bless them. Maybe the answer is even different for different study tasks or different subjects. The key is to appreciate the good and the bad and to make your choice an intentional part of your study plan. If you are trying to decide if study tunes are on your road to law school or bar exam prep success or failure, consider the following pros and cons:

Pro: Study Habit

Effective studying relies on good habits. If you have a routine that includes music, that is not something to be quickly dismissed. Music can help you disengage from the clutter of the noise around you and focus on your studying. There are even certain companies that claim to be able to provide you music that will enhance your focus. (Read Jennifer Warren’s interesting piece Can the Right Type of Music Help you Study? that looks at two companies providing music designed to increase focus.) Also, music can help you keep going when you hit a study wall. You could work into your study plan that your afternoon study session includes music. Maybe that will help you get re-energized (and stay awake) for another round of studying. Music can be an effective tool to utilize when establishing study habits that will stick.

Con: Practice Like You Play

If you cannot listen to music during your exam, you should not listen to it while studying. “Practice like you play,” as the saying goes. Practicing the ability to keep your focus is a key part of studying. Especially if you are working practice questions or even a practice bar exam section, listening to music will change the experience. Recreating the exam experience as closely as possible is important. The closer your study experience is to the environment of the exam, the more confident you will feel going into your exam. Eliminating music draws you nearer to your actual test taking experience, and that is a positive thing.

Pro: Treat Yourself

Whether you are cramming for finals or in the bar exam prep marathon, exam prep is grueling. Music can be a way to give yourself a treat amongst the stress and anxiety. If you are a music lover, music could be part of your self-care strategies. (For other self-care tips, read Amanda Gernentz Hanson’s Self-Care During Midterm Exams in Law School.) Avoiding burnout by adding some music you enjoy to your day while still working can be invaluable–be it Beethoven or Cardi B. As mentioned above, you can use study music to reward yourself. If you ace your practice test, you get to listen to music. Even if the practice of listening to music costs a bit of productivity, it may well be worth it for you. Self-care can not be overlooked.

Con: Distraction

Allowing for distractions to disrupt a study session can sidetrack even the most committed student. With music likely comes a phone, and with a phone, a host of tempting distractions. A quick effort to skip a song could turn into 5 minutes spent on social media. Even if you diligently silence your phone from outside calls or texts, you may find yourself constantly picking up your device to switch songs or stations. Alexis Storey, writing for the Law School Toolbox, explains “the ability to pay attention and focus for long periods of time is like a muscle: if you don’t exercise that muscle, it atrophies, while if you exercise the muscle regularly, it gets stronger and builds endurance.” Freeing yourself from distractions while studying is building your ability to focus. Conversely, having music playing and having a phone at hand to fiddle with could interrupt your study and waste significant time.

Only you can decide if music while studying is a net positive or net negative for you. Will your music enhance rather than detract from your studying outcomes? As part of the never-ending goal to enhance your study skills, be intentional about listening to music or not listening. Ensure you choose after mindfully evaluating the pros and cons of adding music to your study routine. With plenty of studying to do during law school and for the bar exam, you have plenty of opportunities to experiment. Try studying with music, try studying without music, try different types of music, try limiting music to certain times of day, try varying your approach based on the subject. No one but you can decide what is best for your studies. Whether putting in the ear buds or taking them out – best of luck on those exams!

Do you study to music? What kind of music keeps you focused? Leave a reply below!


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About John Passmore

John Passmore is a family-violence nonprofit attorney in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He previously served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Texas Office of the Attorney General - Child Support Division. He received his B.A. from Texas A&M University and his J.D. from The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. John and his wife enjoy drinking coffee and chasing around their children and standard poodle named Sebastian.

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