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— updated 2023-02-13


Applying for admission — getting started —
guidelines for Level-1 and 1-H students

Certification program in Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences
Instructor: Roger W. Wicke, Ph.D.

Subtopics on this page…

Copyright ©2011-2023 by RMH-Publications Trust; all rights reserved.



      by Roger W. Wicke

Over the 25 years that I have taught Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences, my own observations about what educational methods work and which do not have evolved. Moreover, advances in technology and discoveries in educational psychology have exposed old-fashioned rote memorization, passive listening to college lectures, and watching educational videos as highly inefficient for acquiring comprehension and mastery. These methods persist only because institutional inertia and resistance to change prevents more effective methods from taking their place.

The HerbalThink-TCM course software includes numerous articles discussing some of the challenges of learning clinical Chinese herbology and how our software and our course curriculum has evolved to meet these challenges. HerbalThink-TCM has been in use at RMHI since the year 2000, and it is crystal clear from 15 years of student data that successful completion of the instructional texts, assignments, and interactive computer games correlates very strongly with later clinical effectiveness and ability. For more background on how the software was designed to overcome specific problems in learning TCM herbology, read:

Before the year 2000, our courses were designed like most other college courses, though with minor concessions to the advent of the Internet: textbook reading, written homework assignments submitted via postal mail or email, student email discussion groups, followed by one-week long seminars that began with a conventional multiple choice exam to test mastery of the prior term's material. In 2000, we first introduced the use of the TCM Herbal Tutor software, a module within HerbalThink-TCM, into our course. That year, half our students took advantage of our TCM Herbal Tutor software to prepare for the final exams. Every single student who used the software passed the written exam by a wide margin, in contrast to many of the others who were still struggling with basic definitions.

After that term, I concluded that TCM Herbal Tutor would become a required part of our curriculum, and, eventually, I jettisoned the idea of conventional multiple choice exams for several reasons:

  • Rote memorization and the "cramming" that are so popular among students as preparation for multiple choice exams does not generally lead to good comprehension of the course material, and, in fact, leads to a kind of TV game-show mindset, disconnected from the messy complexities of real life. Long-term memory retention of the factoids learned by this method is poor, as many college students can attest.
  • Conventional exams for which students either pass or fail sends a terribly dysfunctional social and psychological message, a type of permanent mark of judgment that simply does not reflect the proper motivations of real life — in real life, the people who succeed are often those who have failed at a task multiple times, but who persist and eventually succeed after learning from their mistakes. Students who do pass their exams and receive their diploma frequently suffer the delusion that their knowledge is sufficient, and that they never need read another book on their subject again.

Instead, the TCM Herbal Tutor software takes the place of conventional exams, and overcomes most of their disadvantages:

  • Making lots of mistakes at the beginning is a normal part of the learning experience; patience and persistence are rewarded, and if your scores fall short of the goal, that only means that you should keep working until you achieve that goal. As long as you eventually learn a concept, the software will acknowledge this in your score summary (Progress File), and it eventually forgives and forgets your earlier mistakes.
  • The software is capable of generating literally billions of random variations of problems similar to those seen in clinical practice, thus offering a more realistic experience to student users. No sequence of problems is the same, and the precise sequence of problems is tailored to the needs and the level of knowledge displayed by each user.
  • The syndrome identification games of TCM Herbal Tutor, while being some of the most challenging, are also the most important. Just as knowing the multiplication tables are a basic prerequisite to doing simple arithmetic, knowing the significance of random clusters of symptoms and clinical signs is the single most important skill in applying TCM successfully and designing herbal formulas that are tailored to a person's specific needs and that will work. Yet a significant portion of graduated, certified, and licensed TCM practitioners never master this skill. RMHI ensures that all its graduates know this material thoroughly and can apply it in practice.

Over the past 15 years, whenever a student graduates from one of our courses, I ask that student to give us feedback about how our software and our curriculum might be improved. The following sections outline guidelines for students that are closely based on what successful graduates of our courses have done in the past.


Our goal: helping you become the most effective practitioner you are capable of becoming

At no time did we ever add complexity to the requirements for this course merely to make it more academically impressive. (I'm probably the first person to squawk whenever I suspect some academic elitist is trying to impress me with esoterica of no practical value.) The primary and ultimate criterion for our curriculum design is whether or not it improves clinical results and outcomes. Here's my own personal experience: When we first created a usable version of the TCM Herbal Tutor, I resisted using it myself, because I thought I "knew it all". After all, I had been in practice for over 15 years at that time. However, Curt Kruse, my research associate, insisted that we both drill through the program from start to finish, just as we would later require of our students. It was a humbling experience for me. I gained insights about recognizing patterns that I had seen rarely or never, such as the severe Virulent Heat (Wen Bing Ying- and Xue-levels) patterns, and a few years later I was able to actually use this information successfully in several near-death cases; I also noticed that my clinical evaluation skills became sharper.

If you are seeking a quick and easy way to become certified, our school is not the right choice for you. However, if you have an aptitude for Chinese herbology and the motivation to become the most effective practitioner you are capable of becoming, we welcome your application for admission.


Checklist for getting started

Note: Requirements and features of Level-1 and Level 1-H (Family Health Educator program — intended for individuals primarily interested in improving their own health and that of family members) are identical except where indicated otherwise. See courses and certification options for a comparison of similarities and differences of these two programs.

To prepare your admission application, complete the following steps:

  1. Read the following article to determine whether RMHI's educational philosophy will be appropriate for you: Why should you choose RMHI to help you learn Chinese herbology?
  2. Follow all the instructions in the Tutorial series, which includes submitting your online application and downloading and installing the HerbalThink-TCM software.
    There are now NO prerequisites, except the requirement of passing our self-administered admissions aptitude test, which is included in the Tutorial series. Anatomy, physiology, and misc. biomedical topics are integrated into the Level-1 curriculum on a self-study basis, with instructors available to answer questions.
    We have over 15 years of student performance statistics to prove that our aptitude test is far more predictive of your ability to successfully apply the knowledge you will learn than any college degrees or formal academic achievement. We have had people of widely varied backgrounds complete our courses, from gardeners, homemakers, carpenters, massage therapists, physicians, computer programmers... Like some major corporations, we are now "college-neutral" and place far more importance on your life experiences, ability to solve practical problems, natural pattern-recognition abilities, etc.

Begin at any time.

After being accepted for admission, paying the tuition fee, and your enrollment term in Level 1 or 1-H begins, you should have:

  • Activated the Pro version-option of HerbalThink-TCM (a minimum of the Basic version-option is required for the Level 1-H program).
  • Familiarized yourself with all the features of RMHInet, including those features only for RMHI enrolled students/alumni.

You are welcome to arrange an audio/video call if you have any questions about the above; or email us.


Follow the Lesson Plans

It is important to follow the instructions in the Lesson Plans in in your HerbalThink-TCM software, as we have found that this sequence works optimally for most students, though you are also encouraged to skip around and follow where your curiosity leads you.

Most students are able to complete Level 1 within a year, though you are welcome to take longer if necessary; you would simply pay the then-current annual tuition fee if you need an additional year.


Submit your Progress File by the due dates

In the Level-1 and 1-H courses, your single most important task is to submit your TCM Herbal Tutor Progress File by the due dates, normally at the end of each quarter (Jan 01, Apr 01, Jul 01, Oct 01). Email reminders will be sent during the week before each due date.

Because of the importance of regularly playing the TCM Herbal Tutor games and submitting your Progress File, we are now requiring submission of the Progress File as part of the admissions application. In the following article we explain how this requirement will help you discover whether you have a natural aptitude for Chinese herbology:

Before 2010, I was relatively lenient about demanding Progress File submission from students, and now recognize this to have been a mistake. From questioning students, I discovered that too many of them were still stuck in the mental mode of preparing to "pass the exam", and these students kept delaying use of the TCM Herbal Tutor games, because they were postponing playing until they thought they knew enough to "pass the exam". That's not how it works. You should start playing the games immediately after you have read the relevant textbook chapters even once. Think of them as games, because that's what they are.


Submit brief monthly reports

Level-1 students who have not yet taken formal courses in anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry (especially nutritional biochemistry) should, for each month of their first enrollment year, choose a topic that interests them related to these subject areas and which naturally arises in the course of their lives or Internet reading.

Level-1 students who have already completed formal courses in anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry should choose topics that expand their knowledge of these subjects beyond that of conventional mainstream medicine. (It has become common knowledge, for example, that conventional physicians receive merely cursory education in nutritional biochemistry, and much of this information is outdated.)

RMHI Forums (see the 'rmhicert' group for enrolled students) contains more specific guidelines for what each report should include. By writing brief, concise articles on health topics will prepare you to effectively use the Internet for research and to establish your credibility with the public and with your future clients.

Additional comments:

Article needs to be specific, concise, and informative. With practical information. Ideally, choose a topic that you are genuinely interested in and would like to know more (anatomy/physiology, biochemistry, environmental health issues, use of specific herbs/foods, best ways to increase your intake of certain vitamins, etc.), for example to help yourself or a client. One purpose of this exercise is to get you used to using the Internet in a discriminating manner so that you learn to sift the bullshit out. And there is a lot of it everywhere, including from mainstream institutions and government.

What I am not looking for: vague generalities that read like a sales brochure or advertising promo. Besides, marketing people have shown that such marketing hype does not even work anymore. People are actually turned off by vague generalities, especially younger people. They have grown so immune to corporate marketing hype that it often has the opposite effect. If you have a blog where you can post occasional short articles, people will be impressed by something that originally interested you enough to spend time researching it.

The typical short articles that I often include in weekly reading from Mike Adams of Natural News are good examples, but should be tailored more to TCM criteria, if possible. His stuff, as with most articles on Internet are too vague and follow the this-herb-for-disease-X that has become so tiresome. Try to delve a bit deeper.

Mercola’s articles are the best, but I don’t expect you to come up with that quality/depth each month. But do consider using them as references. Be concise, logical, outline specific details.

Here is an example that I came up with recently. Very practical. Need only be a few paragraphs in length. But concise, informative, with Internet or other references that you accessed to help you answer question or come to your conclusion.

  • Recently, I wanted to know how to best use chocolate to prevent age-related mental decline, taking into account my specific TCM patterns and contraindications. What type of chocolate best? What dosage required for seeing effects? (The most useful and highly specific info I found on ) How to combine with other herbs for my patterns and still make a good-tasting recipe?
  • A student wants to figure out how to reduce his total microwave exposure from cell phones below the Russian safety standards, which are prudently 100x stricter and more reasonable that US. How does he/she achieve this? How to calculate total exposure, problems in measurement or at least estimation of exposure magnitude?

Participate in RMHInet

Beginning in 2011 November, all Level-1 and 1-H students are required to actively participate in RMHInet, which includes online forums and other communication tools for members. Learning Chinese herbology is like learning a new language, you can memorize the grammar and vocabulary of a language, but until you engage in real conversation with others, you will never really understand it well. Engaging in conversation with others will make the course material far more interesting and relevant, will help embed the material you have learned into long-term memory, and will increase your comprehension. Just as learning a new language requires actually speaking and writing it, to learn TCM well you should practice speaking, writing, and thinking it. It doesn't matter if you make mistakes, it's the regular practice that counts.

Please read:   RMHInet — orientation for new members