How to Study for the CGE

DULA offers various review class in its MSOM program. Even though it is not a required courses for you to attend in order to graduate in MSOM program, it is HIGLY RECOMMENDED that you attend this class.

Following are the review classes that offered in DULA (all classes are opened to all 3 language program’s students, but the classes will be thaught in English language only):

  • Comprehensive Review Classes Level I – IV
    • Instructor: Byung Choi, L.Ac. and Adrianus Wong, M.D., L.Ac.
    • Each level will be offered as elective classes in every quarters. Please refer to the class schedule in English program for more information and to the class’s syllabi.
    • Each level will cover all review materials from OM, Herbs, Acupuncture to Biomedicine. Each level is equal to 3 units class (= 3hours lecture/week) and you may register this class through populi. The tuition is $125.00/unit.
  • Biomedicine Review Class
    • Instructor: Adrianus Wong, M.D. 
    • The class will review all the related Biomedicine subjects and to help students in understanding the materials in order to be more prepared when taking the CGE, State Board and National Exam.
    • The class will be held only if there is any request from group of students.
    • The tuition of this class is $25.00 covered for 1 quarter.
    • For more info, please contact
  • Academic Coordinator is always available for consultation in regards how to study and prepare MCE / CGE. OMC Director, Dean and Program Director are also may help with this consultation. Please email to to make appointment with Academic Coordinator in regards of this matter. 

The materials that are covered in your classes as well as your classes’ level of difficulty are various and may not be the same as what you will experience in CGE and even CALE/NCCAOM. The purpose of didactic classes and clinical training in DULA is to cover each specific materials. While in CGE, CALE and NCCAOM, you will be tested in simultaneously. The materials that are tested are comprehensive and it can be very challenging. Therefore in DULA, we offer various review classes in order to help your study. But in the end, it is you who are and have to be responsible with all the MSOM materials. There are so much materials that have to be covered in your test (CGE, CALE, NCCAOM) and yet so little time of in-person’s lecture. It is important that you are not just memorizing the materials but to really understand what you study. All the many classes that you have learned in your classes, it is now your responsibility to connect all the dots, deeply understand your materials, from basic theory to diagnosis and treatment, both in Oriental Medicine and Western Biomedicine. There will be a lot of case study questions in CGE, CALE and NCCAOM. This test is design to evaluate your knowledge and competency.

Studying from the review books are very helpful (e.g. Linda Morse’s review book, Erika Poulin’s review book, HB Kim’s review book, etc) but however, the test will cover the materials from textbooks. Therefore you have to read the textbooks. Furthermore, you need to adequately understand the materials, connect all the dots from OM, Herbs, Acupuncture, Western Biomedicine and even to the CNT, Public Health, Safety, Ethics and Law / Regulation (both California Regulation and National).

Here are some test-taking and study tips for the Comprehensive Graduation Exam (and your Board Exams). Please look over this when preparing for these tests.

The composition of the Comprehensive Graduation Exam (CGE) is based on the composition of the California Acupuncture Licensing Examination (CALE). In other words, there are the same number of questions about herbs, Western, etc. on the Grad Exam as there are on the CALE. Please refer to the CALE Prep Guide on the California Acupuncture Board’s site, as well as to get more detailed information regarding CALE. Their information can be seen in here. Any recent updates from the California Acupuncture Board can also be seen in here.

The CGE also covers the materials as in The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental medicine (NCCAOM). Which also means, there are number of questions about herbs, formula, acupuncture, Western Biomedicine, etc. that are not covered in CALE but covered in NCCAOM. As a graduate from DULA, you are eligible to sit either on CALE and/or NCCAOM, therefore it is DULA responsibility to also covers the materials in the exam that are included in NCCAOM. Please refer to the NCCAOM Exam Guidelines in here for detailed information.Please click on the the link for the information related to the applicant home, NCCAOM exam process and applicant resources. Any recent updates from the NCCAOM can also be seen in NCCAOM latest news and NCCAOM homepage.

What to Know

These are things that come up time and again on the Grad Exam, CALE, and Nationals

  • For herbs and formulas: The Graduation Exam will cover herbs and formulas that are on the CALE and NCCAOM (Please refer to CALE Prep Guide and NCCAOM Dip.OM Exam Guideline). Know how to build a correct TCM diagnosis. Eight principle (excess, deficiency, hot, cold, exterior, interior, yin, yang). Know the tongues and pulses that correspond to the formulas. This is a great way to narrow down an answer. Also know formula functions, indications, and category.
  • Know your signs and symptoms. If someone says, “Sp qi deficiency,” you should be able to rattle off the key signs and symptoms of that pattern (fatigue, shortness of breath, loose stools, etc.). Know this both ways. In other words, if someone says “shortness of breath,” you should be thinking that it could be a Sp or Lu pattern (or possibly a K pattern–failure to grasp qi). You need to know this information without thinking, almost as a reflex.
  • Know the Big Picture. This includes everything on the Big Picture page of HB Kim’s book or Linda Morse’s review book. There will be questions like, “What is the location of the He Sea point of the Hand Yang Ming?”. Even if you don’t know what a Window of Sky point does, you need to know which points are included in that category. Here is an example of the Big Picture chart I used. You need to write this out every day. At least once, but more is better.
  • 10 Asking Song: Know what different responses to the 10 Asking questions mean and how they hone in on a diagnosis. Know your 5 Elements: Know the correspondences (season, color, etc.). Also understand the generating, controlling, and insulting cycles. These are all covered in Maciocia, G., The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists (3rd Edition).
  • Know the Hepatitis chart in the CNT manual. What are the incubation periods? Is the onset abrupt or insidious? Is there a vaccine? Does it become chronic? What is the mode of transmission? I can almost guarantee that there will be at least one (sometimes more!) hepatitis question on the grad exam and your boards.
  • Know the different names of the (same) pulses.
    • floating = superficial
    • empty = deficient = weak
    • full = strong = excess
    • thin = fine = thready
    • slippery = rolling
    • choppy = rough = hesitant
    • wiry = string-taut
  • Pay close attention to the point location of GB 34 through GB 39. Which points are on the posterior border of the tibia and which are on the anterior border of the fibula?
  • There are questions on the Boards (and therefore on your Grad Exam) about “Auxiliary Treatment”. This includes cupping, moxa, e-stim, guasha, plum blossom, seven star needle, press needles, techniques like Setting the Mountain on Fire, etc.. KNOW CUPPING AND MOXA INDICATIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS. This includes indirect moxa with garlic, salt, Fu Zi/monkshood/aconite, and ginger. Sixteen questions is a lot. Don’t miss these. Learn about ELECTRO STIMULATION, the question can ask what is the indications, contraindication, what type of waves, frequencies, intensities you want to use in order to to treat certain conditions using electro acupuncture stimulation.
  • There are many other things that I cannot specifically mention in here. Please refer to MSOM catalog for the breakdown percentage of each contents that will be tested in your CGE. Please also read the CGE guideline in here for more information.

Study Tips

  • In general, don’t try to memorize a million things (especially do not try to memorize any past test questions you remember or have been given). To succeed at this exam and especially the CALE and NCCAOM, you need to UNDERSTAND the underlying concepts. Know the fundamentals in very important. In the same vein, if you come across something you don’t know or understand, go back to the books and relearn it.
  • Find what works for you in terms of studying. Having a study buddy is extremely helpful. So are flashcards. Ask your classmates how they study if you haven’t found a way that resonates with you yet. Ask your classmates that have passed CGE to learn how did they study.

Test Taking

  • When you get to a TCM case study question, go to the end of the question to see what is actually being asked. In the example below, the question asks about the current problem, even though most of the signs and symptoms given refer to a past problem.
  • When you read a TCM case study question, do not panic or confuse. In the future, as a practitioner, you will encounter many patients that present with complicated symptoms. Read the question carefully and build your TCM diagnosis. No matter what it is, break it down your assessment process from excess / deficiency, hot / cold, exterior / interior, yin / yang. Some case can be a mixed condition (e.g. excess and deficiency, etc.). Then assess which organs that are affected in your case (Zang Fu – 5 Zang organs and 6 Fu organs), then assess what substances that are involved (qi, blood, yin, yang, body fluids, jing/essence). Then assess what are the evils. Assess if the case is involving the channel problem or no. Then based on all of these, your conclusion will be our TCM diagnosis.
  • Another quick way can also be like this:
  • Scan the question for the tongue and/or pulse. IMMEDIATELY go to the answer options and cross off anything that doesn’t fit with the tongue/pulse. Do not assume that there is more to the tongue or pulse than is given in the question. Everything you need to know is there. In other words, just because it says “red tongue,” do not assume scanty coat (remember you can have all kinds of coats on a red tongue).
  • As you go through a case study test question, you should underline signs and symptoms and make a note of the patterns they might point to. See above for an example of this.
  • Know your tongues and pulses! A red tongue means that it CAN’T be a cold syndrome. A wiry pulse strongly (not always!) points to a Lv issue. Cross out answer choices that do not fit the tongue and pulse given.
  • In general, think about 8 Principles: are there heat signs? Then the answer probably isn’t “cold” (obviously this does not hold true in mixed conditions). But if you are answering “damp heat,” make sure that there are clear heat (and damp) signs. It’s also good to think about excess vs. deficiency and internal vs. external.
  • If you’re stuck on a question, circle it and move on. Come back to it when you’ve finished the rest of the exam.
  • Please be noticed that this quick method may not always works. Some questions may not even provide you with tongue and pulse information.
  • It is important that you are able to build the correct TCM diagnosis. In the end, this is what this 4 year MSOM program is for you. You have learnt day by day in the last 3-4 years in this MSOM program, everyday you are talking about TCM theory and principle. These all lead to your understanding in building this TCM diagnosis. Therefore, as important it is to memorize, you are learning not just to memorize but also to understand this amazing medicine.
  • If you have no idea what the answer is, take a breath, step back, and look at what you *do* know. Does what you do know (for example: there’s heat in the question, but not in the answer) help you to eliminate any of the answer choices? If so, cross off that choice!
    • Look at a question logically–are three of the answers similar and one is different? For example, are three answers in one general area of the body and the fourth answer is in a totally different part of the body? If so, that’s probably your answer.
  • ​Don’t overstress. Get a good night’s sleep before the exam and eat a light, healthy breakfast that day.

Time Table Tips for CGE

Prepare to study in advance for studying CGE. It is better to take CGE not in your last quarter of the study, plan ahead to take CGE in your last 3 quarter before you graduate. This may help you as well in preparing for CALE and NCCAOM later. Study everyday and balancing with rest and light exercise. Remember to eat light and healthy food and enough sleep in the night. And don’t be stress, enjoy the study and process.

This time schedule tips only serves as recommendation, remember you know yourself better than anyone, therefore creating your own schedule that fit you is always welcome.