College Essay about Music

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The experiment was taking an in-depth look at how the sound, the tempo, and the pace of music can affect a student’s concentration, study habits, and performance. The goals of the study were to determine if, in fact, music has an effect on comprehension and accuracy. Students participated in this research study that consisted of ten study problems, and five-word problems. Each testing phase consisted of fast music and slow music, and then there was a phase of silence with no music at all during the testing. An example of the procedure is students would be presented with images and would later have to come back and determine if they had seen that image before. The goal was to see if the student would have better recognition with slow music, fast music, or no music at all. The word problems were to determine how a student’s comprehension changed with music, no music, or silence. Overall, the results revealed that students are more accurate on study items than word problems. The interaction tells us that music does have an effect. Not much of an effect on studying pictures and images, but there is seen to be an effect on word problems and comprehension with music in the background. Music seems to have little to no effect on studying pictures, but there is a different effect on a student who is working on comprehension problems. These particular research findings tend to align with other research findings that have examined in the past that music does have an effect on students’ concentration skills and abilities.

Keywords: music, comprehension, study, problems, concentration, research, tempo

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How the power of music can affect an academic student’s performance

Have you ever wondered about the effects music can have on someone’s concentration, performance, and study habits? Not just anybody, but specifically college students. College students are considered to be some of the most stressed people in the world. I’m interested to know how music affects their various study habits and if music is helping, or potentially hurting the student. It is well known that college students experience intense amounts of stress. Many researchers are well aware of this. But some research has found that music can be considered of the most powerful stress relievers for college students across the world, along with exercises and reading (Shapiro, 2015).

Since anxiety is well known among college students, researchers have taken an interest to see if music can help calm the anxiety of students in testing situations. The findings from research on the impact of music in occupational settings revealed that a single music relaxation session decreased participants’ anxiety significantly, compared to a control group with absolutely no music involved (Smith, 2008). The results of this study confirmed for researchers that music can help decrease tension, stress, and anxiety which are so frequently seen in workplace environments. If music can help people in the workplace setting such as an office, then surely it will be able to help college students researchers thought.

Another issue seen in students can be their attitude towards what they are studying or working on. Sometimes music may help or hurt the situation. For instance, if a student is working on an assignment, they take no interest in, music may help them to finish that dreaded assignment with a positive attitude. On the other hand, if a student is working on an assignment, they have an immense amount of passion for, music may make the overall experience even better for them. This next study takes a look at how a student’s attitude toward music during studying can affect their concentration. It discusses the current trend of just how popular music is among college students. Since this trend is around, it creates a specific attitude within people around this particular age. Apparently, the students do not listen to music all the time while they are studying. The majority of the students in this study claimed that they only listen to music while studying when they are in the right frame of mind. Only a small group of students listen to it most of the time while studying ((Kumar, Wajidi, Chian, Vishroothi, Ravindra, & Aithal, 2016). The psychological basis for this attitude could be regarded the music as an alternative to keep them motivated. Music is also considered a positive mood changer as it exerts a positive perception of the work being done by the student (Kumar, et al. 2016).

Next, another question that arises among researchers is how would a student’s concentration levels be affected if the student is listening to music they preferred. This question can range to everything from the genre, to tempo, to music artist, to a music playlist. Researchers in the past have shown that reading comprehension was impaired when concurrent lyrical music was played. However, this seems to contradict the music and cognition literature, which proposes that listening to music that one likes increases cognitive performance (Hallam, Price, & Katsarou, 2002). But this study goes on even further to show that students did not perform as well on tasks with lyrics. In this study, students did their best under silent conditions.

Lastly, another research question can be how can unpleasant music or unpleasant sounds during studying affect concentration and performance. Many times, it is close to impossible for a college student to be able to work in complete peace and quiet. Perhaps they are at the library where people are loud and sudden noises are constantly being made. Or perhaps the students are at their own home where they may have a sibling who has the music or television blaring in the background. As can be seen, students cannot always hide from the background noise. One study even went as far as playing music backgrounds to increase stress and see how it would affect a student (Jezova, Hlavacova, Makatsori, Duncko, Loder, & Hinghofer-Szalkay, 2013).

When we are inspecting anxiety within college students, we want to observe how music is also affecting that. Specifically, in this study, test anxiety was observed. It was determined that performance will be at its highest when the student experiences a moderate level of arousal (Lilley, Oberle, &, Thompson, Jr, 2014). Thus, if students are especially anxious about a test due to the grade consequences, listening to fast-tempo, obnoxious music prior to the test may increase their already-heightened arousal level, leading to relatively poor performance on the task at hand. On the other side of things, listening to slow-tempo, calm music prior to the test may lower their arousal to a more optimal level, leading to relatively greater performance on the test (Lilley, et al. 2014). Some students will be told the test will be hard and will greatly affect their grades, whereas the other students will be told just to be positive about the test. The prediction is that students who are instructed to simply try their best and not worry about a test will be optimistic, experience less anxiety, and perform relatively well on the test. In contrast, greater anxiety and poorer performance may result when students are warned that the test will be difficult and that their performance is critical to their grade in the course (Lilley, et al. 2014). When students’ grades were not threatened or in danger of facing a drastic change, there was no obvious difference in test scores between participants in the different music conditions, However, for participants whose grades were threatened to change, test scores were significantly lower for participants who listened to the obnoxious as opposed to the calm music (Lilley, et al. 2014).

The next study relevant to our research is a study on the attitude towards music while studying. Martin, Wogalter, and Forlano (1988) showed that reading comprehension was impaired when concurrent lyrical music was played. In this study researchers asked participants to undertake a reading comprehension task in the presence of the following sound conditions: quiet liked lyrical music, disliked lyrical music, and instrumental music (Perham, & Currie, 2014). This study, like ours, included comprehension tasks while listening to music. The reading comprehension task consisted of four passages (‘Silent film industry’, ‘Diversity of life’, ‘Values and integrity of journalism, and ‘Emergence of genetics’), along with their accompanying six questions, were taken from the ‘10 Real SATs’ (The College Board, 2000) (Perham, & Currie, 2014). Participants provided the liked music from their own music collection. The requirements were that it contained lyrics and songs were repeated so that they lasted the length of the task condition (10 min). Chosen songs were from artists such as One Direction, Frank Ocean, and Katy Perry (Perham, & Currie, 2014). The results of this study found that performance was greatest in the silent condition (Perham, & Currie, 2014). This study is relevant to our study in the sense that, these researchers also wanted to see how music affects comprehension and if preferred music can even affect that. For this study, students did best under the silent condition and with no music at all.

The last study relevant to our study had a lot of the same objectives as we did for our study. The objectives were to observe the effect of different types of music on the concentration and performance of students, to understand the effect of listening to music on the concentration and performance of students, to analyze the individual perception about the role of music in concentration and performance of the student (Kumar, et al. 2016). This test like ours also involved a questionnaire beforehand and wanted to determine how often students listened to music while studying, and under what conditions. Figure 1 involved taking a look at the incidence profile of students listening to music while studying and the duration of listening to music while studying. 47% of the students believe that music helps them to pay attention while studying. Figure 3 concluded that for the group of students who do not listen to music while studying, 97.5% of those students said that listening to music while studying would distract their concentration. Figure 4 found that the most popular music to listen to while studying is pop (82%). Finally, the experiment-based study noted that students who have a habit of listening to various types of music while studying could not score well without music (31%). But it was also concluded that there was a higher percentage of correct answers by students who are listening to soft music (75%). (Kumar, et al. 2016). This study unlike ours seems to lean towards the conclusion that music does help studying and concentration. Kumar, et al. (2016) concludes that “Music could help the student to concentrate while studying to the extent when they prefer to listen to music. This positive finding is relevant to justify the current trend of listening to music while studying as it does not pose any adverse effects on the concentration of students. In fact, it might also improve performance in their academics. Similarly, individual preferences of particular types of music seem to play a significant role in helping students to concentrate”.

Our study will be measuring how the tempo of music affects the concentration and accuracy of students’ performance. We are manipulating the tempo and pace of the music, and seeing how it affects students while they study images and complete word problems. Our goal of this research study is to determine if music benefits, or hurts students’ concentration overall. By manipulating the tempo and pace of the music, we can see how that affects a student’s performance. With our control condition being no music at all, that can also help determine if simply no music is the solution for students and that music while studying does not at all benefit their academic success. The question is, does music help or hurt a student’s potential success? Some researchers suggest, turning on the medicine that is music! But, we as researchers are not entirely confident that is the advice college students should be listening to.

Based on most previous research, it was hypothesized that music would distract a student during studying. Since auditory stimuli can be so distracting, background noise, music with lyrics, or instrumental music could all be seen as potential distractions to a student. If both sound, tempo, lyrics, and no lyrics all tend to affect a student, then participants in the research study should be more likely to not be able to study the images accurately. The participants also will most likely become distracted by the music during the word comprehension problems of the testing phase. Participants should be more likely to succeed in the silent condition. No distractions around will help them succeed to their highest potential in studying images and word comprehension problems.



During the study, there were 12 participants. Both males and females participated in the research study (M:4, F:8) with an average age of 22.92 years, SD (7.93 Years). Participants' ages ranged from 19 years old to 46 years old. We recruited these 12 participants as they all attend the Ohio State University: Newark Campus. All of the students are also in a class known as PSYCH 2300 Research Methods taught by Dr. Robinson. The only problem when we ran our study is that 2 participants did not complete the study fully. We had to exclude 2 participants because they did not fully complete the test trials. We ran 12 participants for training but only 10 for testing on paper. Subject 829 did not give testing data but did give training data.


The stimuli in the study were memory stimuli, and word and comprehension stimuli. So, in total, there were thirty pictures and fifteen-word problems. The stimuli were presented as long as the student needed. The student pressed the space bar when they were ready to move on to the next image or word problem in the study. The students were first presented with the images, then later moved on to word and comprehension problems.

The memory stimuli consisted of various creatures. What would happen is the student would be presented with many different images of creatures. The student would take the time to observe and memorize certain aspects of the photo. Once they felt they spent enough time studying the image, they would move on to the next one and press the space bar.

This is one example of the type of photo the student would see during the study phase. In each study phase, the student would see 10 different pictures. It’s a test of have you seen this before? Yes or no. It is chance performance. The goal is to see how well the students can study the images and memorize details while in the presence of music.

The word and comprehension stimuli were math problems the student had to solve while in the fast, slow, or silent music condition. An example of a word problem the student saw during the research study was, “During the summer, Tristan earns extra money mowing lawns for $20 an hour. He mows 6 lawns an hour and needs to mow 21 lawns. How long will it take him to complete 21 lawns”? The student would then have 4 multiple choice answers to choose from in forms A, B, C, or D. The motive was to find out how accurate students could be answering these complex math problems while listening to music at the exact same time.

The current study featured 1 independent variable which was the music or type of auditory playing. There were 3 levels of the independent variable, fast, slow, and control. The dependent variable was the proportion of answers the students got correct. What the students studied may also be considered an independent variable in the study. The songs included in the study were Far Horizons as part of the TES V Skyrim Soundtrack during the slow condition. In the fast condition, participants listened to the song F-Zero X Dream Chaser by Taro Bando & Hajime Wakai.


The computers students used in the study were Dell Optiplex 3040 desktops. The software on those computers is DirectRT (v2016). The software was used to present the stimuli to the students and to record their responses to the stimuli. The monitor was presented on a Dell 1909W monitor with 1440 x 900 resolution. The monitor revealed the visual stimuli. Headphones used to play the music conditions to the students were Kensington KMW33137 at approximately 65-68 dB. The headphones were used to present the auditory stimuli to the students. Fast, and slow music conditions


The procedure began with students going to the Psych lab on the date March 6, 2019. Students were instructed to take a seat at a computer that was logged on and had all testing data open and ready to go. Participants experienced 3 different training phases. For each training phase, there were 10 pictures during each phase and 5 different word problems. The test was all grouped together with 30 study problems, half the images were old, and half of the images were new. Each picture was questioned as to whether the participant had seen that image thus far. These conditions all come when the participants were listening to music. In Phase 1 the participants heard fast music during their task, phase 2 consisted of slow music during the task, and in phase 3 the participants heard nothing but silence during the task. The students sitting in the back row tested the silent condition first. While the back row was testing the silent condition, the middle row was in the testing phase of the slow music condition, and the front row was in the testing phase with the fast music condition. All students were instructed to follow the instructions on the screen and that pressing the space bar would transition them to the next image and or word problem. The middle row and the front row were instructed to place the headphones on since their testing phases involved music conditions.

During the study, there were 3 conditions. Fast, slow, and silent conditions. During each condition, there were 10 study problems and 5-word problems. The testing phase was all intermixed and the student would be presented with a study item and would need to determine if that study item was old or new. The student needed to decide for themselves if they had seen that image before during the procedure. Half the study items were old, and half of the study items were new. The chance performance for study items was 50%. The chance performance for word problems was 25% with a comprehension check.

Once students completed the test, they went on to complete a questionnaire asking about their favorite music genres, what tempo of music they prefer, and if they listened to music while studying at all. As a result, the research study had the opportunity to not only go through testing phases and different conditions but also having a questionnaire involved helped us to better understand just how often students do listen to music while studying, and exactly under what type of conditions they would listen to music while studying.


The question was do outcomes differ if the participants are hearing fast or slow music during a task? We submitted the proportion of answers correct to a one-way repeated measures ANOVA. The ANOVA tells us that every person did every condition. This is going to reveal the proportion correct during training because we are only taking a look at the training data. Training data was examined first, next was accuracy on the word problems, and then w We submitted the proportion of correct answers during training to a one-way repeated measures ANOVA. The one-way ANOVA revealed that there is a main effect of condition, F(2.22)= 3.73, p =.040. The only difference was the accuracy in the fast mean (M= .83, SD= .17) was greater than slow mean (M= .67, SD= .16), t (11)= 2.59, p = 0.25.

Degrees of freedom for numerator and denominator, f value, p-value. Below .05 has a significant effect. The one-way ANOVA revealed that there is a main effect of condition because results are below .05. F(2.22)= 3.73, P=.040. These results reveal that two of the means differ from one another. Next, we followed up on the ANOVA with a paired t-test. The purpose of the t-test is to compare different conditions. The only one that had a difference was fast vs. slow. The only difference was the accuracy in the fast mean (M= .83, SD= .17) was greater than the slow mean. The mean and standard deviation for the slow condition are (M= .67, SD= .16), t (11)= 2.59, P= 0.25. With the Bonferroni test, the fast condition revealed that the participants were more accurate in listening to the faster music, rather than the slower music. (F=.78, SE=.04), P=.017. The pairwise comparison with Bonferroni adjustment revealed that fast was greater than slow. Next, the results revealed that the silent condition did not differ from any of the groups. Slow music (S=.65, SE=.03). The analysis showed a main effect of type F(1,9)= 7.45, P=0.23. Study (M=.82, SE=.04). Word problems (M=.64, SE=.05). In conclusion, for the study 82% accuracy in examining images, and 64% accuracy on the word problems. Fast and slow do differ. The main effect of the condition looks similar to the training data. Results showed that participants are more accurate on study items, such as the images, rather than word problems. The interaction tells us whether music does have an effect or not. Music does not seem to have much of an effect on studying the images. 3% difference in performance as a function of what you’re listening to on picture recognition. But music does appear to have an effect if a participant is working on a comprehension problem of some sort. As a result, music seems to have no effect on studying pictures and further recognition of those pictures. But music does have an effect on word and comprehension problems in participants.


The goal of the current study was to investigate how music, specifically fast versus slow music affects students while studying and completing word comprehension problems. To address this question we had, we had participants complete word comprehension problems and study images while listening to the various music conditions. We manipulated this by changing the pace and tempo of the music. The goal was to determine if fast or slow music was a distraction to the participant and interfered with their studying and performance. We also wanted to find out how the silent condition affected them as well.

The results revealed findings that showed students are more accurate on study items than word problems with music involved. During study items, students performed best and the most accurate when the music was fast-paced, then in the silent condition, and finally performed the worst in the slow music condition. The overall conclusion is that music does not seem to have much of an effect on studying images. But there is an effect if a student’s task is word comprehension. Music hurt the student in this condition.

Unlike previous research that suggested that music actually helps students. Our study did not necessarily reveal that music helps students with performance and concentration. Our study showed that music negatively affected students when it came to focus on accuracy and performance for word problems. Kumar, et al. (2016) study results mentioned that music could help the student concentrate to the extent that they prefer the music. This study also said that listening to music while studying does not pose any adverse effects on the concentration of students. In fact, the researchers suggest it might even improve performance in the student's academics (Kumar, et al. 2016). Our study results did not have the same findings. More specifically, our study suggests that music does not help students during word comprehension solving.

Previous research has also suggested that slower music will lead to lower arousal levels, causing students to perform better on tests and any type of assignment involving a grade (Lilley, et al. 2014). Our study did not reveal these findings either. Our study showed that the slower music condition did not improve participants' accuracy and performance. The worst scores of accuracies in our study and testing phases were during the slow condition. This study suggests that slower music will improve students’ performance and help decrease their anxiety levels. Our research study suggested that faster music conditions improve performance and accuracy in testing conditions.

While this study helped identify more clearly how music affects students’ concentration and performance, there were a few limitations to the study and research procedure. If our sample size was larger, our results could have had the potential of generating more accurate results. Our research could have been more supported if our sample size was larger. Also, our study only involved student participants in one psychology course on campus. This was due to easy access, and the study would cost nothing for data collection. Our results also could have generated better and more accurate results if we used more students on our Ohio State Newark campus. Our data collection process may have also shown other limitations. This research study was conducted on the last day of psychology class before spring break. Students may have been tired and ready to go home and completed the research study in a rush. This may have reflected the results in some way and their performance in the research study. Finally, there may have been some invasive manipulations in the study. This means physical changes in the participant's body. This study was conducted at 8:00 AM, many students may have had coffee, causing anxiety and jitters in the body.

Additional research should examine students' study habits more in-depth. Some students may be able to handle intense amounts of distraction during the course of study. Others may have to be in complete silence to get any work done. It would be interesting to understand the types of conditions certain people need to perform at their best. Some students most likely do perform better with music, while others may struggle with that noise and distraction. To build off of the proposed study, researchers should have participants take a questionnaire beforehand asking for a choice of songs, which song every participant knows. Most likely there will be a song on the list that every participant knows and recognizes. To build off of this research, researchers should take a look at how a song people recognize and know the lyrics and beat, affects distraction, performance, and accuracy. If a song is familiar, or unfamiliar, how would that affect a student? This study was looking more at tempo, to build off of the study, researchers can identify results of how familiarity would change the students studying.

In conclusion, the current findings of this research study point out the changes in a student’s accuracy and performance in fast music conditions, slow music conditions, and silent music conditions. Students performed at their best during the fast music condition and performed the worst during the slow music condition. This study suggests that fast music can help improve accuracy and performance during the studying of an image during a testing phase. This study also suggests that music does not help improve performance on word comprehension study problems.

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