Exam season is coming up, but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. If you want to survive, you’re going to need three things: a good pair of headphones, a lot of strong coffee, and a killer playlist. Even better, this one is backed up with science.
Ah, exam season. Even now, the memories of long hours staring at a religious studies revision guide, while those young enough to escape persecution played outside, haven’t quite left me. The first-time terror of GCSE’s, the huge weight of responsibility that came with A-Levels, even the S.A.T’s that you now know didn’t mean anything but at the time felt like life or death.
Even now, gearing up for my second round of university exams, so I’m in this boat with you. However, my usual playlist (a heady mix of folk music, shock rock, Broadway soundtracks and novelty steampunk robots) just isn’t going to cut it.
No, this is serious. This is going to take… Science.
Like any good procrastinator, I decided to dedicate some of my all-important revision time to finding out what you should really be listening to while you work, precisely so you don’t have to. So sit back, grab your caffeinated beverage of choice, and get ready to waste a few minutes of your life preparing for the revision we both know you’re going to put off until the last minute anyway.
It’s either this or watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory, and at least this is kind of educational.
1. Classical Music, obviously.
Okay, this is an obvious one. Everyone knows they should be listening to classical music while they work, the issue is they don’t know where to start. Most people don’t know their Bach from their Mozart, which can make the whole genre seem intimidating, but there’s really no need to overcomplicate things.
8Tracks is completely free, requires no downloads, and has thousands of classical playlists dedicated to studying. Even better, the playlists are curated by anyone but ranked by staff, so it’s really easy to separate the really good stuff.
My favourite is here, but most likely you’ll soon come across your own. Even better, listening to classical music has the added benefit of making you feel smart, which is basically half the battle.
2. Movie Scores aka Cheat’s Classical №1
Still not convinced? Fair enough. Classical music of the traditional kind isn’t for everybody, but I guarantee that you already have quite the taste for it in your own life. Even if concert hall symphones make you want to fall asleep on your biology text book even more than usual, you’ll still be able to find classical music that makes you feel energised and ready to power through.
This is a great example, as it’s pretty diverse, but this can be as specific as you like. Maybe you want a fantasy playlist that makes you want to slay dragons, play Quidditch and defeat Sauron once and for all? Or maybe the UP soundtrack is the perfect thing to calm down any pre-revision jitters. Whatever your poison, you can harness the mood of the movies that inspire you without having to drop what you’re doing to watch them, although I will admit that can be tempting too.
3. Video Game Soundtracks aka Cheat’s Classic №2
Okay, so maybe “video game soundtracks” is a little bit broad. There are some that are definitely not going to work for you, I cant imagine the Fall Out franchise is going to be much help to you, and Call Of Duty won’t have much to offer either. However, there is one video game whose soundtrack is designed to blend perfectly into your life, because it aims to provide you with an alternative one.
The Animal Crossing music. No, I’m not kidding.
Trying this out revolutionised my study habits. Not only was the nostalgia factor invaluable in giving me a little dopamine boost, but the music itself is perfect. It’s calming and simple, so your brain doesn’t have to spend time in the background trying to work out the complex melodies, and it changes throughout the day, so it will always match your mood exactly.
Best of all, almost all of them are available in super-long loops on YouTube, and you can always use a site like ListenOnRepeat to keep it going indefinitely, making it perfect for all-nighters.
Speaking of Listen On Repeat…
4. Literally Any Song, As Long As It’s On Repeat
I mean, there are some I still wouldn’t recommend, but if listening to Pirate Metal Legends Alestorm is what lets you wind down and focus then I’m not about to judge.
The important thing here is to let your mind get into a state of flow, where you’re barely conscious of time passing. Listening to one song on repeat allows it to fade into the background and help with this, and even tricks you into working for longer as to some degree you lose track of time!
You still want to avoid anything overly complicated, so save the mathcore and freestyle jazz for another day, and it’s better to avoid anything overly brash and in your face. Upbeat and happy is fine, but it should be calm and consistent enough to create an ambiance. Some of my favourites for this are:
Of course, there’s one thing you can listen to that combines the scientific benefits of all the above techniques, and it’s so obvious you won’t be able to believe you didn’t think of it before!
Want to know what it is? You’ll have to click over to Niume to find out.
(Don’t worry, it’s not a scam. I’m a struggling writer and if you click the link I actually get paid for what you’re reading right now, no mess / no fuss involved. You wouldn’t want to deprive me of that now would you?)