Surviving exam season with Jake Spinnato


Kaylan Waldron

Bioengineering academic advisor Jake Spinnato
Bioengineering academic advisor Jake Spinnato

Jake Spinnato, the new bioengineering academic advisor who started in the fall semester, shared with us his journey to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and his study tips for surviving the exam season. Spinnato is from Elgin, Illinois and started his college career at Elgin Community College. After taking a psychology class, he decided to pursue this career path and shadowed his school counselor. Spinnato then attended Eastern Illinois University where he received a bachelor's degree in psychology, and studied school counseling as a part of his master of science program. 

“What led me to becoming an academic advisor at the University of Illinois was my graduate assistantship position I had at Eastern Illinois University. I worked two years at the Student Success Center at Eastern Illinois University,” said Spinnato. The goal was to help students develop educational plans that can make them lifelong learners and be successful in their education and future careers.

Spinnato is no stranger to exams himself and has extensive experience with guiding students. Here are his top tips to help students survive the dreaded exam season. 

1. Practice interval studying 
According to research, studying is best done in intervals. Your brian is like a muscle, when it gets too tired you are not able to perform as well. This means that breaks are important while studying, and gives you a better chance to digest the information better. Interval studying gives your brain time to rest especially when your attention span is starting to break. An example of an interval study session could be 30 minutes studying, 5-minute break, 30 minutes studying, and then complete the study session after about two hours. 

2. Start studying at least 2 to 4 days before an exam 
Studying 2 to 4 days for two hours at a time in advance for an exam helps your brain retain information better. Your brain can only process and retain so much information and ideally, you want to spread out learning as much as possible. Over-studying and cramming is a huge factor that leads to test anxiety and the feeling of “blanking” on exam day.

3. Study in a quiet and productive environment 
It is best to study in an environment where you can focus your attention on the material you are studying. You do not want to study where you typically entertain yourself as it tends to be harder to focus if you don’t study in an environment where you are used to paying attention and focusing on your work.

4. Find the right study tools 
Each person has a different study tool that helps them the most while studying, finding the right one is essential. For Spinnato, he used Quizlet often to make note cards and track his studying progress. But, he says the most effective way he learned is through writing out study materials and reading them out loud.

5. Get good sleep! 

Thank you Jake Spinnato for sharing your tips and letting us get to know you better!