Should Pupils Listen To Music When Revising?

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Music Revision


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How can you make effective use of time when completing revision?

Well, for a start, don’t listen to music! The research on cognition and memory suggests that certain types of music may be helpful, however, when it comes to examination conditions in which pupils are required to recall and retrieval information (both required for examination purpose) from their long term memory, if pupils learn in one way and are tested in another, performance will be limited.

When revising, you must mimic examination settings …

Pupils may often listen to music whilst revising at home or insist that their teachers ‘play the radio’. To allow pupils to wear headphones to ‘concentrate’ and revise in class will certainly not be mimicking the same conditions as the examination room. E.g. a table and chair; rows upon rows of other pupils with examination invigilators walking up and down between desks in a hot and sticky hall in the summer.

What does this suggest?

Two things:

  1. The pupil will be working in an unfamiliar environment and the brain will be unable to recall the information from long-term memory.
  2. If pupils choose to learn information using headphones, they are positioning themselves to ‘recall’ in a more difficult position in the exam when conditions stipulate that candidates must complete the test without headphones.

It’s quite simple. Your working memory is limited, and any background noise is ‘cognitive overload’ and will make learning much harder. Follow the research and this advice, turn the music off and achieve better examination outcomes!

Get in touch if you would like the research details quoted in the video. You can read more blogs in this series and also discover more classroom video ideas. Thanks for reading…

5 thoughts on “Should Pupils Listen To Music When Revising?

  1. Totally agree! All the research I have confirms your thoughts. All it does is make the “pain”of refusing more bearable – it does not make revision more effective.

    I do disagree about the music in the general classroom section though. I try to have music on when students enter; when I turn it off, that’s when they know I’m ready to start. I do not have to shout it argue to get their attention. I also play it as background, it’s amazing how many have never listened to classical, jazz etc and it starts a wider, cross-curricular discussion. It is also calming an a good indicator of “too much student”. – “I cannot hear the music so you must be doing too much talking etc.

    Time and place are key.

  2. Hi Ross. I’d like to have the details of the research you quoted in the video please. Could you please post them here?
    Thank you.

  3. I am a student who suffers from ADHD, I completely understand why music should not be used, however I cant focus on my work due to my ADHD unless I have something else on in the background. I have found that instrumental versions of songs are the best thing to study with. I wonder what research and other views there are on people with ADHD using music to help study?
    I have found some research regarding this:'n,distractors%20on%20children%20with%20ADHD.
    I would be really interested in your views on this

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