While not as prestigious sounding as a doctor, medical assistants are often the heart and soul of any medical organization. These are the ones who often come into your room to take your measurements and vitals and ask about your general health. Afterward, medical assistants relay all the information to your doctor.
But how can someone qualify to become a medical assistant? The first step would be taking your Medical Assistant Certification Exam, also known as the CMA. However, to obtain this certification, you must successfully pass the examination. Hence, this article discusses all the details you need to know about sitting for the exam and passing it successfully to become a medical assistant.
What is the Medical Assistant Certification Exam?
The certification is issued by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The credential, CMA, stands for a Certified Medical Assistant. It signifies that the Certifying Board of the AAMA has credentialed you. You must pass the examination to receive the credential.
This certification is internationally recognized and will enable you to be known as a medical assistant anywhere. Keep in mind that not all organizations and employers will require this certification. However, you’re increasing your chances of being recognized and accepted if you receive the certificate.
For instance, the AAMA receives over 100 daily requests from multiple places to verify certificates. Hence, you’re most likely to have to qualify for the job position by sitting for the CMA examination.
The exam consists of 4 different parts. Each of them has a time limit of 40 minutes to complete. The total amount of questions you’ll have to solve is 200 questions. However, they’re all multiple-choice questions, which eases the matter slightly.
The exam content circulates the following topics:
- Administrative: Billing, coding, and insurance. You also need to learn to schedule various appointments and take health information. There are 36 questions in the executive segment that makeup 20% of the questions.
- General:Legal problems, ethical issues, and communication. The general section consists of 38 questions, making up 21% of the questions.
- Clinical Competency:Clinical workflow, safety control, infection control, procedures, pharmacology, and examinations. This section includes 106 questions, making up 59% of the exam.
While the total amount of questions is 200, only 180 of these will be graded, and 20 are set aside for pretesting.
For eligibility requirements, you need to fulfill one of three categories:
- You must be nearing your graduation or have already graduated from a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assisting program.
- You must have graduated from an ABHES or CAAHEP program but have exceeded the 12 months. You can still apply for the examination but not as a fresh graduate or a continuing student.
- Being a CMA recertificant happens once you need to renew your certification; hence, you sit for it again.
Note: As of July 12th, PSI (PSI Services) will be replacing the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and Prometric. They’ll be providing the same developmental and administration services.
What are the Types of Medical Assistant Certification Exam?
Aside from the CMA Medical Assistant Certification Exam discussed above, various other exams can advance your career as a medical assistant. While the certification is often optional, it opens up multiple prospects for those holding the official credentials.
Hence, once students graduate, they’re often confused about which path to take and which certificate to pursue. Selecting the right one for you is necessary, as it will determine the route you’ll take in the future.
Below is a thorough discussion of the top 4 medical assistant certifications:
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
- Requirements: Must have a degree from a one-year or a two-year medical assisting program. You must also pass the CMA Certification Exam to receive your official credential.
- Renewal policy:the CMA certificate must be renewed every five years.
- Cost:ranges from $125 – $250.
- Exam outline:psychology, ethics, safety, communication, professionalism, terminology, administration, and more.
- Exam composition:4 sections, each 40 minutes long that span 200 questions.
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
- Requirements: Graduate of a medical assisting program that has been approved by the US Department of Education, AMT board, or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation.
- Renewal policy:you must earn a certain number of Certification Continuation Program points (CCP) every three years to maintain your credential. You can do this by taking courses, working under an employer, or participating in medical-related committees.
- Cost:ranges from $120.
- Exam outline:anatomy, physiology, administrative assisting, clinical assisting, and clinical interaction. Various topics fall under those sections, which you can find here.
- Exam composition:number of questions varies between 200 – 210 questions, which you must complete in 3 hours.
National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
- Requirements: You must either have satisfied one of the following: graduated within the last ten years; a foreign RN or physician with equivalent certification; a medical assistant instructor with more than ten years of experience; a US Military who has completed a medical program; or more than two years of experience in the field.
- Renewal policy:the certification must be renewed once a year. You must pay $77 and show proof of 14 days or more educational hours.
- Cost:ranges from $90.
- Exam outline:Pharmacology, clinical procedures, patient care, phlebotomy, diagnostic tests, general practices, and much more.
- Exam composition:you have 3 hours to finish 150 questions.
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
- Requirements: high school diploma, and then one of these three requirements: graduated from an accredited medical assisting program; completed an apprenticeship program (must be approved); completed a program with the US Military; or more than one year of experience in a Medical Assistant.
- Renewal policy:you must renew it every two years by paying a fee of $169 and having proof of continuing your education with at least 10 hours.
- Cost:ranges from $155.
- Exam outline:Medical ethics, communication, customer service, administration, patient care, education, and much more you can find right here.
- Exam composition:you’ll have three hours to complete 150 questions and 30 pretest ones.
Is the Medical Assistant Certification Test Hard?
So, how difficult is the Medical Assistant Certification exam? The examination itself is not that difficult. For instance, in the 12 months spanning July 2019 and July 2020, 67% of the 7482 examinees passed the exam. While that might seem like quite a low percentage, most people who fail are ones who have not provided enough time for preparation.
So when asking how hard the CMA exam is, you should not worry about the exam itself. The AAMA focuses on telling their examinees to solve as many practice tests as possible to avoid facing any difficulties through the exam.
Are you wondering how hard is CMA exam? It is not difficult. You have 200 total questions to answer, 20 of which are pretests. To pass the exam, you’ll need to score the average score of 430 out of 800. The AAMA reevaluates the passing score every three years. The scores will range from 200 to 800.
Hence, if you’re still asking if the medical assistant certification exam is hard, you’re probably stressing about it because you haven’t provided enough preparation before the exam.
For instance, if you feel like you’re struggling through the exam, use the method of elimination to get rid of absurd answers that would never be correct in the specific context. Then, start working your way up. When you face a difficult question, you’ll increase your chances of getting the correct one.
What Should I Do to Prepare for the Exam?
The most important aspect to cover when preparing for the medical assistant certification exam would be the practice exams. Hence, focus primarily on that. However, here are our five tips to pass the CMA exam:
- Don’t memorize: you should fully understand the topics beyond memorizing terminologies instead of learning passively.
- Take a review course:the AAMA has various review courses for their programs and certificates. You can find your local chapters through their website or check this guide for a list of the best medical assistant exam review material.
- AAMA Practice Questions: you can find practice questions under the AAMA on anatomy and physiologyand medical terminology.
- Practice test: find the best medical assistant certification exam practice tests. AAMA has an official practice examthat requires you to log in to access.
- Study resources:you can use multiple study resources for your CMA exam, including Quizlet, Chegg Flashcards, and YouTube. These are resources you can use for revision purposes.
Wrapping Things Up: How Difficult is the Medical Assistant Certification Exam?
Overall, the Medical Assistant Certification Exam is not as difficult as most make it out to be. While things might get tricky, as the exam is extensive, you won’t have to worry too much about it. Keep in mind that it’s well-known how rigorous the exam is, and it often exhausts students.
However, you need a proper study plan and ample amounts of revision and studying. Hence, compile a list of topics you must prepare for and start working your way up from there. Also, keep a piece of paper on the side and write down any complex issues you face.