Only you can find your own best study habits. Everyone is different, and so are everyone’s ideal studying conditions. So today, we’re going to bust two study myths that are often told.

  1. Myth: Listening to music while working is distracting

It’s actually been shown in numerous studies that listening to music stimulates different parts of the brain and increases focus. Now this in no way means you should stick your headphones in and turn the volume to max in order to score an A on the chemistry test. The music only acts as a stimulant; the motivation to get that A has to come from within.

One caveat to the previous statement is that certain genres of music are more effective than others in improving productivity, specifically easy-listening instrumental-only, like downtempo or video game music for example. Others can in fact be counterproductive. The reason behind this being that listening to lyrics or loud-and-heavy riffs can indeed be distracting. But take this with a pinch of salt, because again—people’s brains work differently, and what may be helpful for your friend Bob may not be as helpful for you. For several people dead silence can be just as distracting as rock and roll. Don’t simply take “their” word for it. Try both. Make a note of which you prefer (be honest with yourself), and stick with whatever works better for you. Rock on!

  1. Myth: Study groups are the best way to study.

You’ve definitely encountered the study group myth, the myth that states study groups are the only way to study effectively. Now while studying with partners certainly has its benefits, it often devolves into conversation instead of genuinely productive discussion. People also have the notion that their study partners will teach them everything there is to know for the upcoming test. Now if everyone subscribes to this notion, we have a problem—we now have eight eager learners but not a single teacher. This defeats the purpose of a study group.

Now this “myth” does hold some truth, but we need to modify our approach to the study group. It’s far more productive to study on your own at first, note down any questions you have about the subject—no matter how seemingly insignificant—and bring those questions with you to the study group. Now not only do you and each of your partners have questions that will hopefully be answered, but now each of you also has the knowledge to answer your friends’ questions and potentially even your own questions! Verbalizing an answer and teaching a concept to someone else have been proved time and again to strengthen learning.

But don’t study too hard. There is in fact such a thing, believe it or not. It’s important to recognize that there is a saturation point, a point after which the extra returns you receive from studying that extra hour may not outweigh the sleep you’ll be losing. Sleep deprivation and stress will only hurt your score. Don’t sacrifice your health unnecessarily. Know when to take a study break, because sometimes a distraction is exactly what your brain needs.

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