I have been teaching NCCAOM preparation courses for the past six years. I would like to share some tips on how you can pass the NCCAOM licensing exam on your first try, based on my teaching experience. I hope that you can benefit from the following tips.
Develop A Study Plan
According to the level of your foundation and your day to day life, develop your own study plan that is most suitable for you. I recommend starting your studies for each module within four weeks prior to the real exam. Spend three or more hours per day, seven days per week. Within four weeks, review/refresh your knowledge while developing self confidence in all the test items you know. I recommend you choose three sources or references as your study tools, although NCCAOM provides a long list of recommended texts. Three sources that are highly recommended are: Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, and Handbook of Oriental Medicine. Break down the NCCAOM exam contents outline for your weekly study topics. Finish weekly topics by reading, making notes and doing practice questions within three weeks. Your review notes should focus on unfamiliar or new facts. In the fourth week, focus only on your review notes and questions you got wrong from previous practice questions, rather than trying to remember new facts and doing more new questions. At the same time, do comprehensive tests in the week to identify areas of weakness and to determine mastery. The four weeks of study is never easy. Being committed to your study schedule is the only way to guarantee that you can accomplish the board exam preparation journey. The better prepared you are, the easier it will be to remain confident. Don't devalue your abilities. Always believe in yourself.
Download the NCCAOM test content outline depending upon which exam you are taking. Then decide which areas you are weak in. Your study plan should comply with the outline contents depending on each module exam. Choose a few comprehensive exams to refine your identification of strengths and weaknesses. Take use of the official outlines and break them down (not sure what you're trying to say here by readable) or study areas that easily relate to your weak areas identified in the comprehensive tests. Moreover, keep track of your test scores on each comprehensive test, allowing you to identify areas where you need to focus more.
When you review or do practice questions, do not assume that you know a particular area or topic very well, then you won't want to spend any time on it. You have to know all the content areas of the exam which have been assigned in the NCCAOM exam outline. This is called a comprehensive review. Some students who have failed the exam always tell me they didn't study the areas they thought they were stronger in, and then couldn't solve the related questions correctly.
Significant Repetition, Specific Test Taking Skills
I recommend repeating each practice question and home assignments until you get an average score of 85%. Do not use practice questions just for the sake of taking and passing them. Instead, make it your goal to expand your knowledge base by looking up the information in the source books when you get a question wrong. Try to understand the reason why you got it wrong. Don't just repeat the questions to memorize the right answer, so that next time you get these questions right. Look up the reference to learn why you got the answer wrong.
Remember, test taking skills require reading and re-reading the question until you completely understand what it is asking. Then try to rule out each option to see if it fits. Cross out all the wrong answers you are sure about. Then try out the remaining answers to see which one is the best.
I also suggest you and your classmates can make a study group to discuss difficult or questions of concern during every meeting. By doing this, you all will know the weaknesses of each other and held benefit each other eventually. If the study group doesn't help the tough questions or difficulty topics, do not feel shy to ask your teachers. They would like to help you. In my previous class, I tested students on the previous weeks review contents to determine their mastery. Discuss the concerning or difficult questions in the class meeting. This also helped them improve their test taking skills. Through these beneficial discussions, their inductive and deductive reasoning mind had improved significantly. I strongly believe that your study group can do the same thing.
And finally, best of luck in your preparation.
Dongcheng Li is a Florida licensed acupuncture physician. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine from the National Certifi cation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Dr. Li has practiced acupuncture and oriental medicine for more than 15 years in China and the U.S. He has two private practice in South Florida. He is specialized in pain management, sport medicine, internal diseases, gynecological diseases and geriatric diseases. For more information, visit www.globaltcm.com.