How to Prepare for the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant Exam

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By the year 2030, the population of people over the age of 65 will outnumber the population of people under the age of 18.

Among other things, an aging population strains the labor force, government spending, and health care. That increased demand for health services will create a bigger demand for professionals in that field.

So if you’ve been thinking about taking the medical administrative assistant exam, there’s no better time than now. But before you sign yourself up for the certification, you should be prepared for what’s coming.

Keep reading to learn more about becoming a medical administrative assistant and how to prepare for certification.

What is a Medical Administrative Assistant?

Otherwise known as medical office secretaries and medical office assistants, a medical administrative assistant is a key role in any clinic or physicians office. They perform the many administrative tasks that keep an office running efficiently and effectively.

Some of the main tasks of a medical administrative assistant are:

  • Answering phone calls
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Greeting patients and arranging admissions
  • Updating and maintaining patient records
  • Updating and maintaining practice-specific information
  • Reviewing and answering practice-specific correspondence
  • Handling operation reports (i.e. time and attendance)
  • Handling insurance forms and payments
  • Coordinating laboratory visits and analysis

Medical administrative assistants also have a firm grasp on computer programs and medical coding needed to organize patients, paperwork, and practice correspondence. They may also be responsible for billings and payments as well as other administrative tasks such as sorting mail. And because they’re often the first to greet patients, they play an important role in patient experience.

What is a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant?

Medical administrative assistants can go through training and take an exam to become certified in their profession. After passing the exam, these professionals are called Certified Medical Administrative Assistants. The credential demonstrates that they’re certified by the National Healthcare Association (NHA) and it’s recognized across the country.

To be a medical administrative assistant, you don’t require certification. But it’s definitely a good idea to set yourself apart from other candidates.

It demonstrates to prospective employers that you’ve been trained in your field. It tells them that you understand both the scope of your role and how to fulfill your responsibilities in that role. The certification also shows that you have previous experience in the field and tells them that you’ll require very little training to get started in your position.

The Certified Medical Administrative Assistant Exam

The exam to become a certified medical administrative assistant is regulated by the NHA. They created the exam and are responsible for issuing certifications.

The exam tests the knowledge and skills of a medical administrative assistant. It consists of approximately 100 questions. The format is multiple-choice.

The questions in the exam are weighted. So not each question is worth one mark. Some questions are worth more marks than others and you are required to get a score of 390 or higher to pass the exam.

The test takes about one hour and fifty minutes to complete. You can take it at any one of the PSI Testing Centers that the NHA uses for administering the exam.

You may also take the exam through the training program, course, or degree program where you were trained. It can be written via an online portal or as a pen-and-paper exam. How yours is written will depend on the program through which you’re taking the exam.

The CMAA Exam Questions

The 110 questions on the exam fall under seven different categories. These are:

  • Scheduling
  • Patient Intake
  • Office Logistics
  • Compliance
  • Patient Education
  • General Office Policies and Procedures
  • Basic Medical Terminology

Under each of these categories are additional sub-categories. Below, we’ll explain each category in more detail so that you know what to be prepared for when writing the medical administrative assistant exam.


Making up 17% of the exam, the Scheduling portion has 19 questions. This category tests organization skills and accuracy in scheduling.

It covers everything from scheduling patients to dealing with missed, canceled, and follow-up appointments. Questions will also involve the types of patient scheduling and determining the right scheduling in relation to the needs of various health care facilities.

Patient Intake

Involving 18 questions, the Patient Intake category is worth 16% of the total exam. It reflects organizational knowledge around patient forms and insurance, and how to properly share that information with other healthcare workers.

The questions will ask about verifying, updating, and completing insurance forms with the correct information. There are also questions about encounter forms and how to prepare daily charts.

Office Logistics

Mostly covering how to file medical records, handle mail deliveries, and execute financial procedures, the Office Logistics section of the exam contains 12 questions. It’s worth 11% of the final grade.


Compliance is an important part of healthcare policy and applies to practices as a whole as well as patients. You have to know how to follow HIPASS, OSHA, and the Center for Medicare Services guidelines. The compliance section tests that knowledge with 16 questions that make up 15% of the final test score.

Patient Education

Subtopics in the Patient Education category include questions regarding the Patients Bill of Rights as well as their insurance policies. It will also ask about how to properly explain pre and post-instructions for medical tests and other procedures to patients.

This section contains 11 questions that account for 10% of the exam.

General Office Policies and Procedures

The penultimate section of the exam has 5 questions. 14% of the final grade will include questions about office processes. This includes:

  • opening and closing a medical office
  • greeting patients
  • proper telephone manner
  • proper correspondence

You’ll also be tested on how to use a computer for the purposes you would need as a medical administrative assistant.

Basic Medical Terminology

Medical administrative assistants must know how to speak the language of the industry in which they work. This way, they can better communicate with physicians as well as patients. That’s why they need to know the abbreviations and acronyms commonly used in the field.

This portion of the exam will test that knowledge with 19 questions that make up 17% of the exam.

The CMAA Exam Results

Within two days of completing your exam, you’ll be given your results. The NHA provides you with your results in your own personal account.

In order to pass, you will need to score 390 or better. The NHA will send a printed certificate within two weeks so you have documented proof of your certification.

Where to Study for the CMAA Exam

It’s possible to become a medical assistant after finishing high school, without any additional education. However, formal education in the field can set you apart from other candidates in your job search.

In order to take the exam, you must have at least a high school diploma or the equivalent. You must have at least one year of experience in the field as well. But completing a training program prior to writing the exam can increase your odds of passing.

Some candidates will have an associate’s degree in a related field. You might also consider taking an online training program with an NHA affiliate such as the ultimate medical academy. In both cases, you’ll likely write the exam at the end of your program.

These types of affiliate courses cover everything from how to greet patients to how to schedule appointments You’ll learn how to use medical coding and terminology and how to run an office on a day-to-day basis. Following an in-depth training program, you’ll have all of the knowledge you need to write the CMAA exam with confidence.

Why Get A CMAA Certification?

There are a number of reasons to consider a CMAA certification.

First, it’s an affordable upgrade on your education. The cost of taking the CMAA exam is only $105 for your first attempt.

That cost is minimal when you consider the potential for employment that comes with a CMAA certification. As mentioned, the demand for professionals in the health care industry going to boom with the aging population.

But this profession, in particular, is growing at a rate fo 21% between 2014 and 2024. And having your certification demonstrates to potential employers that you have the training and experience necessary to do the job right.

There are also a number of career paths to follow with the certification. For example, you might start at any number of entry-level positions including medical secretary, front office staff, receptionist, or customer service representative. Then, once you have your foot in the door, a CMAA certification can lead you along many different career paths in the medical field.

Medical administrative assistants also make relatively good salaries. You can expect an average salary of just over $35,000 annually. And your certification might make you eligible to earn more than that when compared to someone with just a high school education.

More Education News

The medical administrative assistant exam is a 110-question exam that tests the knowledge and skills needed to be a CMAA. Passing the exam means you’re certified in the field of medical administrative assistant. That certification comes with more job opportunities, an excellent salary, and an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of patients.

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