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  • Writer's pictureJohn & Jenny TCM College

How to Study Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine: Organizing your Notes to Excel!

In the blog series How to Study or Memorize for your Acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Exams?, we offered a blend of tried and true as well as emerging state-of-the-art contemporary study aides and methods to consider on your journey throughout your Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) education. By popular demand, we are happy to be back today with more on this topic! We understand, as evidenced in our blog posts on the topic of What is the best TCM School or Acupuncture School?, that prospective students seek to select educational institutions that care about students’ academic achievements in the classroom, and graduates’ successes in clinical outcomes and professional clinical careers. If you are looking for a tool that will aide you as a student of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture and empower you with an effective, efficient, and familiar clinical resource for reference, we’ve got you covered to excel (pun intended!) with (drum-roll): Spreadsheets!

Yes, you read correctly! Work smart, not hard by abandoning your Docs for Sheets!

As you venture into the vast realm of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, you'll encounter a plethora of theories, concepts, herbal formulas, acupuncture points, and diagnostic techniques. By leveraging the power of spreadsheets, you can systematically categorize and manage this wealth of information, making it readily accessible and easy to navigate whenever you need it. Here’s how to do this:


The first step in organizing your knowledge is to create dedicated sheets (or tabs) within your spreadsheet for each subject or topic. For example, you could have separate sheets for Acupuncture Points, Herbal Formulas, Diagnostic Techniques, Meridians, and much more. This separation allows you to focus on one area at a time, ensuring that you capture all the essential details without feeling overwhelmed.

Pro-tip: you’ll find that the tabs of your master reference spreadsheet will correspond to individual courses; consequently, you can take your own notes in class directly in your spreadsheet. As future courses expand on other courses (and you need to be able to recall that requisite knowledge in order to make sense of the advanced courses), your spreadsheet tab from those earlier courses can be augmented with information from the advanced courses! Here’s an example of one student’s Master Reference Spreadsheet:


With your dedicated sheets in place, you can begin structuring the information in a logical manner. Utilize columns and rows to establish a consistent format that aligns with your learning style. For instance, in an Acupuncture Points sheet, you might have columns for Point Name, Location, Indications, Needling Method, and Clinical Applications. In a Herbal Formulas sheet, you could organize columns for Formula Name, Ingredients, Actions, and Contraindications.

Pro-tip: Usually, your rows will correspond to the entities of the subject matter. For instance, the entity of study in a course on Acupoints would be the acupoints. The entity of study of a course in Herbology would be individual herbs. Your columns, however, normally correspond to any attributes of the entity of study that can appear on an exam or test. Here are examples of the power of these spreadsheets. 

An excerpt from one JJTCMC student’s Master Reference File’s ‘Symptoms’ tab.

An excerpt from one JJTCMC student’s Master Reference File’s ‘Acupoint Treatment’ tab.

An excerpt from one JJTCMC student’s Master Reference File’s ‘Formulae’ tab.

As evidenced by the above excerpts, students can make the complex study of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture easy through structured, concise, and well organized note taking that facilitates review and exam preparation while also being an excellent resource to be referenced throughout your clinical career – and spreadsheets enable us to do it all!


As you progress in your studies and gain new insights, don't forget to update your spreadsheet regularly. Spreadsheets are dynamic tools that can evolve alongside your understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. Set aside time each week to review and revise your master reference file, ensuring that it remains up-to-date and relevant to your current level of knowledge.

Pro-tip: As you attend various courses throughout your TCM and Acupuncture education, you may have eureka moments of clarity on a particular concept that may not be directly related to the subject matter of the course attended, or you may have started your student clinical observation and are struck with a moment of clarity on a stubbornly opaque concept. In both cases, you need the ability to quickly pull up the notes you have on that concept and correct them or clarify them. 


Your organized knowledge in the spreadsheet can serve as an excellent resource for review and reinforcement. Before exams or clinical practice, utilize the filter and sort functions to focus on specific topics or points that require additional attention. This focused approach to reviewing will strengthen your understanding and memory retention, setting you up for success in both your academic evaluations and future clinical applications. Let these truly sink in:

  • Through your use of spreadsheet note taking throughout your TCM and Acupuncture education, you have not only skipped the step of needing to convert your classroom notes into exam notes, but you have also created exam notes that are conducive towards flash card learning exercises, reviewing, and memorization. Simply cover columns of data and test your knowledge! Students should implement a practice of daily review which, throughout the week would span all of the essential content needed to be effective clinicians. The repeated use of the same spreadsheets for review and memorization increases one’s ease of recall of the material and can even lead to a visual member of your various charts throughout your master spreadsheet.

  • Imagine that you are in clinic and you don’t remember the best classic formula for your patient’s TCM syndrome. You consider searching online but that can be time consuming and the source of information cannot necessarily be trusted. Perhaps you next think to consult excellent sources of this information like your textbooks, but there are just so many formulas listed per syndrome it will still take you to much time to filter through all of these to determine which is best for your patient’s condition. If only you had a repository of structured notes, almost like a database, where you could filter through all of your notes or just your notes on classic formulas and it would reveal everything you need to know in a familiar format for you to quickly consume this information. You will thank yourself, and this blog post, for starting you on the path of creating an immensely valuable academic and clinical reference to support you through your TCM education and you professional clinical career.

By leveraging the full potential of spreadsheets as a studying tool and master reference file, students of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture can optimize their learning experience and future clinical practice. The efficiency in exam preparation, the ability to organize and analyze data, and the collaborative nature of spreadsheets contribute to the success of students and practitioners alike. Embrace the power of spreadsheets and unlock your full potential as a student and future clinician.

At JJTCMC, we encourage our students to embrace modern tools like spreadsheets, enhancing their educational journey and empowering them to make a positive impact in their clinical careers. As you prepare to embark on this remarkable path, rest assured that we are committed to your success and will be with you every step of the way!

As always, if you have any questions about anything Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, contact us!


We provide authentic clinic-oriented and affordable top quality Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture diploma programs, certificates, courses, and CEUs for all skill levels including but not limited to R.ACs, R.TCMPs, RMTs, PTs, D.Cs and the public.


To provide the highest level of authentic Traditional Chinese Medicine instruction in order to produce quality Traditional Chinese Medicine professionals and thereby, by virtue of producing efficacious Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, promoting Traditional Chinese Medicine use to the general public. In short, our objective is to make quality Traditional Chinese Medicine professionals accessible to all and we start by ensuring access to quality Traditional Chinese Medicine education is affordable and flexible.


The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.

Please consult your health care provider before making any health care decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. JJTCMC expressly disclaims responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury, or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site.

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