Most of the studies, however, have been relatively unsystematic and somewhat inconclusive, because so much depends on an individual student's preferences and study habits, and the enormous number of musical genres available.
If students study with music playing, they seem to perform better when the music is calm and they don't engage with the music.
Styles range from coffeehouse-style folk music to pop music versions to classics, country, and indie channels.
Pandora's New Age genre has several channels perfect for taking your anxiety over that deadline down a notch or two.
So: if you are the kind of student who needs music as a background to study, to act as white noise to keep other people's voices or the radiator's banging or personal worries out of your head, keep it low enough that you won't actually pay much attention to it.
If you find yourself singing along, change the station.
In other words, don't sing along, for example, or don't pick music that you either don't like or like too much.
Your emotional response to music does add to the distraction value: music that is too stimulating or too sleep-inducing will also be a distraction.
Instead, when I am cramming for a test or putting the finishing touches on an essay, I play a collection of softer songs from some of my favorite artists.
Almost everyone has a smartphone these days, and with it comes the ability to rock out to music whenever the mood strikes. Pandora has a comprehensive and frequently updated genre list that you can browse to get started.