Test Anxiety and Overwhelm: Why I'll Be Writing
Fewer Articles until Jan 22nd
[Ok, let's be honest; I'll try to write less. But whenever my
wife's not looking, I might be sneaking off to write Pulse articles!]
The California State Board test for licensing in Acupuncture
and Oriental Medicine is intimidating. After 4 years at a school
with one of the highest pass rates, I am still intimidated. Even
though I am one of the better test-takers I know, and have a semi-photographic
memory, I am still anxious.
Can I tell you why? Because I put all the books we have to know
(by heart) next to each other (as if on a book shelf), and they
measured 3 feet long.
We have to know:
- 160 single herbs, each with several functions (and
specific indications under those), entering channels, taste
and temperature, cautions and contraindications (12 x 160 =
1920 pieces of info)
- 63 herb formulas, their individual herb ingredients
(5-15), dosages, common modifications, functions, indications,
cautions and contraindications (63 x 40 = 2520 pieces of info)
- 400 or so points, their locations (and nearby bones,
muscles, nerves, and blood vessels), functions and indications
(400 x 12 = 4800)
- The theory behind points- various types of points,
and for each meridian the well, spring, stream, source, river,
sea, luo, and xi-cleft, and several other groupings of points
like the upper and lower meeting points, 8 extra channel points,
upper and lower he-sea points, etc (12 x 7 = 84 + 4 + 8 + 12
- 151 diseases like common cold and asthma, their typical
pattern differentiations, and acupuncture and herbal formula
treatment for each (151 x 4 x 10 = 6040)
- Western medicine information- one of our reference
texts is Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. Harrison's
contains specialty-level biomedical information- stuff only
specialists know! We were not taught from that book, unfortunately;
even the Merck Manual, which is much simpler and more accessible
than Harrison's, would be a challenge to learn in its entirety.
(Hard to quantify!)
- Even more info on pharmacology, biomedical anatomy,
physiology, pathophysiology, correspondences between herbal
formulas and point formulas, modifications of the 63 required
- Two-thirds of the questions are case studies. This
means integrating diagnosis with treatment.
And to top it all off, we will only be asked a total of 200 questions.
That means, for example, about the at least 4440 pieces of info
we need to know about herbs, we will only be asked 34 questions.
So even if we learn all of those pieces of info, we won't be tested
on 99.3% of it. Those who pass have proven they have an encyclopedia
of info in their heads, at least for 24 hours.
Which brings up the topic of cramming (last-minute short-term
memorizing). It isn't really possible to cram that much information.
Fortunately, we are not required to recall the info (fill in the
blank), simply to recognize it (multiple choice). Recognition-learning
is a much easier task... however, I've always been the kind of
learner who learns to recall and then can fly through a multiple
choice test faster than anyone else. In this case, it is impossible
to memorize everything that well. So, I'm going through all the
info with a highlighter; the highlighter illuminates info I didn't
know or that doesn't proceed logically from other things I already
The amount of info is gargantuan, monstruous, scary. I have a
bunch of notes, comparisons, charts, etc. based on the required
texts- those notes fill about 6" of binders.
Enough complaining- I just want to give you a sense of what we
have to know in CA to get an acupuncture license. I think it's
good, actually. I just wish that medical acupuncturists (not to
mention acupuncturists at a national level) were held to this
level of knowledge. Then they could all suffer like me! ;-)
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