Where’s the best place to study?

So with finals week coming up, I’m sure everybody is as nervous and panicked as I am. Just the thought of taking a test that’s worth so much of our final grade stresses me out. I have already gotten a head start on studying for my exams. I try to at least study for a certain topic an hour a day so I can maintain and remember everything I need to know. The only thing I have a problem with this is the place to do so. When my roommates in the room, the TV is most likely on and it creates the biggest distraction. By next week, I plan on finding the perfect study spot in order for me to ace my exams.

In order to find the perfect place to study, there are a few variables one must consider. The variables to consider are where you study, the noise of the room, and who you are with. In an experiment, studying with music vs studying without would be the independent variable and how you’re performance of cognitive memory (studying) would be the dependent variable. Who you are with and where you study would also be the independent variables in the study. First and foremost, where is the place where you can find the least amount of noise. By noise, I mean any distractions that can get in the way of you retaining your material. Listening to music doesn’t generally count as “noise”, because some people prefer to have something playing in the back ground. When it comes to studying, there is a distinct difference in listening to music as a background noise, and listening to music with ear phones in. Studying with headphones on tends to decrease retention and memory, whereas music in the background can be an aid to study. The difference between the two deals with how close the input of sound is. Headphones have a direct accost the brain by covering the ear, essentially blocking out any information you try to take in with your eyes because your brain is too focused on the music. Background music on the other hand has all environmental noises included in it, and to hear this music to the exclusion of other input requires intense concentration. A study at Stanford University wanted to see how listening to music can affect the brain with cognitive memory. What they found was music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory. They were able to conclude that music can positively affect cognitive production. I then stumbled upon another article dealing with music, but this one had a different spin on the idea. Nick Perham and Martinne Sykora of Applied Cognitive Psychology conducted an experiment using 25 undergrad students as participants. The students partook in several serial recall tasks, mainly presenting them 8 consonants and them repeating it back in order to them. What they found was studying in a quiet room had the greatest performance among the participants. But the key finding in this study was that the participants performed better while listening to music they didn’t like as opposed to listening they do like. Making sure that each participants had the same likes and dislikes in music, it was discovered that listening to music they didn’t like was like, “a cacophony of sound, in which the segmentation of each individual sound from the next is difficult to identify”(Perham). The music they disliked had less acoustic variation from one moment to the next, which had a less detrimental effect than music they liked. Music that was liked by the participants had the greatest degree of distraction out of all the methods of cognitive memory. Another study I found showed that with 115 children studying, those who were in the room with noise levels lower than 50 decibels were more productive than those who were in the room with noise levels above 60 decibels. The children in the higher noise room reported to have higher blood pressure, raised heart rates and levels of stress hormones increased. I was able to find one more study regarding the effect of music while studying because I believe this is one of the biggest factors in focusing and retaining the information you need. Early in 1975, researches wanted to find out if listening to music vs silence would promote the best memory recall amongst college students (Etaugh & Michals, 1975)16 males and 16 females were used and were to read a passage with music and a passage without. Using a controlled experiment is one of the best ways to discover the differences because you can control the noise and see clearly how the two differentiate. What was found that males performed exactly the same with music and non music environments, yet females performed worse with noise than without. The same study idea was used in a recent administrated survey by professors Kotsopoulous and Hallam (2010). The survey asked questions to 600 students from varying ages of countries USA, Greece, Japan, and the UK. The survey asked questions about study habits, what type of music did they listen to, if they listening to it during studying, and whether they wrote and did homework while listening to music. What they found out was music was listened to mostly when thinking and writing,  but not normally listened to when studying and retaining information.Subjects reported that music helped most with concentration, easing stress, and reducing boredom. However, subjects could recognize if the music was interfering with their focus and therefore would return to silence. While regarding all these research experiments I believe that it’s safe to hypothesis that listening to music can cause poorer study habits and reduce cognitive memory. This will affect tests scores so you could also hypothesis that listening to music while studying for a test could result in a lower test score. So essentially, when it comes to studying, being in a quiet place can have the best results, though listening to music as a background noise can be acceptable as well.





The next thing to consider when trying to find a perfect place to study is where it is. What do they always say in real estate? Location. Location. Location. That’s right, where you work can have a big impact on how well you study. Most students would say that they are fine with studying in there room, but for others, their room could be the thing that’s keeping them from studying. When you leave your room, you have to organize yourself in order to study before you go. Plus, you only take what you need to study when you leave your room, avoid distractions from your roommate or television in the process. From personal experience, I found it much easier to study and grasp the information I needed by leaving my room and going into the quiet study lounge down the hall. By doing so, I take my self away from the unwanted noise, and I’m able to concentrate at the work at hand. Students who normally leave the room to study do so because they know that they could get sidetracked or even worse, fall asleep. If a student gets distracted easily, studying in a classroom or library could be the best place for you. Extracting all the “fun” out of a room could be the thing that gets a student to lock in on their work. So when finding a perfect place to study, it is possible to do so in your dorm room. But for maximum results, being in a place like a library that has a plethora of information access, is quiet, and essentially “boring” can be the thing that really gets you to lock in on your work.

Other key factors that can help determine the perfect study place is who you are with and the lighting. Who you’re with is huge because normally, studying alone can eliminate distractions. But, having someone to study with isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, having an organized study group can be the best thing for you, for you’re with other people who covering the same material, most likely in a quiet environment, and you have someone to help you understand something if you don’t get it at first. Having an active study group is great for studying for problems can be discussed and worked out using the knowledge of the ones around you. Lighting is also something the can factor into how you study. It’s tough to read in dim lighting, but it’s even more annoying trying to read with harsh artificial light coming right at you. Finding the perfect lighting along with the perfect people can make your study sesh 10x better.

When finals comes these next two weeks, I hope that I will be prepared because of my studying. I also hope that I find a perfect study spot for these tests so I can concentrate and use my time well. With regarding the research regarding studying with music, the affects of other people in the room, and where you study, I believe that studying in a quiet room, preferably a library, by yourself (or with a focussed study group), with adequate lighting is the perfect place to study for an exam.

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2 thoughts on “Where’s the best place to study?

  1. pjt5135

    This to me is a very subjective topic. The optimal study space is where one can feel comfortable and efficient simultaneously. Also it could depend on what kind of activity you are trying to get done. For example, I like reading in the Hub; there is something about focusing amongst all the noise that actually enhances my focus and increases my comprehension. However, I would not be able to study accounting in the Hub; I would need a place that is silent as possible. Why is this? Do different fields of study use different parts of the brain that do not function with distractions? However, as you showed, if science says that silence and seclusion produce the highest returns, maybe I should give it a try.

  2. Michael Thomas

    Now being a senior here on campus, I have seen my fair shares of cramming for finals during final week and I can attest to the fact that its very hard to find an adequate study spot. It makes so much sense that a perfect spot, good music or complete silence would all impact how well you study. Here is a cool article describing how to go about finding a good study routine.

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