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Lucas Fink

SAT Study Music

The “Mozart effect” is pretty well-known, but it’s usually misunderstood or exaggerated. The truth is, it’s unlikely at best that any one type of music can help bring up your SAT scores—it may even impair your memorization skills. But I still recommend listening while prepping. Why?


Music makes studying more enjoyable

Even if the music won’t make you remember formulas better, that doesn’t mean it won’t make the time spent sitting still more pleasant. If you’re like me, you’d be miserable sitting still for hours without something playing in the background.

Making SAT prep an enjoyable experience is important. You want to get to the point where every practice question is something you’re interested in solving, and getting some positive vibes from your music can encourage that mentality.


Why instrumental music is best for studying

Every word you hear is a mental distraction, and it’s just not worth sacrificing your SAT prep that much. Stay away from anything that you can sing along to.

But what if you don’t listen to a whole lot of instrumental music? Find something that’s pretty close to what you’re used to, and give it a shot. If you normally listen to a lot of hip-hop, then great; there are plenty of instrumental hip-hop artists out there. Blues? Tons. There are instrumental artists in pretty much every genre. Try a few different things out, and you might settle into some personal favorites for SAT practice music. After you build the association, then every time you put on that album, artist, or genre, it’ll put you into the right frame of mind for some test practice.


Some (under the radar) personal SAT prep favorites


Classical  (of course):

I really like modern, “post-classical” stuff, personally. Max Richter and Dustin O’Halloran may be moody, but they make some beautiful stuff.



Explosions in the Sky or Sigur Ros can make even mathematical functions feel totally epic. And there are lots of others from around the globe, such as Neil on Impression or Yndi Halda.



The line between music and white noise isn’t always so clear. This can help drown out the outside world. Stars of the Lid or Grouper may put some people to sleep, but I think of them like noise-cancelling headphones without the headphones.



As long as you can’t understand what they’re saying, metal doesn’t even have to be instrumental. To be fair, it is an acquired taste, but something nice and level, like Wolves in the Throne Room, works pretty well for me.

Of course, it’s all a matter of taste—it’s no big deal if you don’t share mine. Just leave your personal studying favorites in the comments!


About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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