If you’re interested in becoming a certified medical assistant, passing the certification exam is a crucial step.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the CMA exam, including its content, format, and tips for success.

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Topics Covered on the CMA Exam

Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomy and physiology are essential subjects that are covered in the CMA examination.

Anatomy is the study of the organization and structure of the human body.

Physiology is the study of the processes and functions of the body’s organs and systems.

Certified medical assistants must display a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology. This is essential for helping healthcare providers.

This allows certified medical assistants to understand the interrelationships between body functions and structures. It also displays how the body can be affected by different medical conditions and diseases.

The anatomy portion of the CMA exam will usually cover major organ systems. It will go in-depth into their structures and functions.

  • Certified medical assistants will be expected to know:
  • Basic anatomy terminology
  • Naming conventions
  • The location of major organs and systems
  • The function of major organs and systems

The physiology section of the exam will explore bodily functions. These will include:

  • Metabolism
  • Digestion
  • Respiration
  • Circulation

Medical assistants must display a thorough understanding of each system’s individual role. They will also learn how systems work together.

Medical Terminology

The CMA examination assesses the competence and knowledge of students on their way to becoming certified medical assistants. They must understand the language used in a medical setting to describe the human body and its systems. They will also learn about medical conditions that can affect it.

Medical terminology ensures that CMA candidates have a thorough understanding of the terms used. The exam will cover medical terminology in the following disciplines:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pathology
  • Medical Abbreviations
  • Medical Acronyms
  • Pharmacology

Students must show an understanding of the meanings of the terms. The pronunciation and spelling of medical terminology are also essential.

A certified medical assistant will have to communicate effectively with other healthcare professionals. They must understand medical charts and records and be able to document patient information accurately. The medical terminology section of the exam will cover this.

Medical terminology is a nuanced and complex subject. CMA candidates will show they can apply its principles to various contexts.

Clinical Procedures

Medical assistants will typically provide a lot of clerical assistance in a medical setting. They will also support healthcare providers in clinical procedures.

The clinical procedure portion of the exam requires the student to display competence in a clinical setting.

Procedures that may be covered include, but are not limited to:

  • Administering Medication
  • Taking Vital Signs
  • Performing Basic Lab Tests
  • Assisting with Minor Surgeries
  • Performing EKGs (electrocardiograms)
  • Preparing Patients for Procedures

Sterile techniques and infection control are also essential for clinical settings. Maintaining a safe environment for patients and staff will be an important part of a certified medical assistant’s job.

Strong communication skills are required in clinical settings. This ensures interactions between colleagues and patients are as effective as possible.

Patient Care

Patient care will be an essential part of a CMA candidate’s role. The physical care of the patient is typically the primary concern in a healthcare setting. CMA candidates will also learn about the importance of the patient’s emotional and mental well-being.

Many areas are covered in patient care. These include:

  • Communication
  • Patient Assessment
  • Infection Control
  • Patient Education

Communication skills play a large part in the patient care portion of the CMA examination. Listening to patients and assessing medical histories and vital signs is essential to the role.

Certified medical assistants must also communicate clearly to educate the patient about disease prevention and self-care.

Infection control and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) will be covered in the patient care portion of the exam.

Office Management

A certified medical assistant will have a number of administrative tasks to carry out. Office management takes in a lot of the responsibilities that will be carried out on a day-to-day basis. These can include:

  • Insurance Claims
  • Patient Record Maintenance
  • Scheduling Appointments
  • Bill Management

Skills essential to the role include communication and organizational skills. This is essential to show the CMA candidate is prepared for an office management role.

Candidates must also display their proficiency with office equipment and technology.

Exam Format

The CMA (Certified Medical Assistant) exam is provided by the AMAA (American Association of Medical Assistants).

Having an understanding of the CMA exam format will benefit the candidate. It will allow for better time management and ensure there are no surprises when it is time to sit the examination.

Number of CMA Exam Questions

The exam is made up of 200 questions. The questions are multiple-choice and the test is split up into four segments.

Time Allotted

Each of the four examination segments is 40 minutes long. Students carrying out the exam will have the option to take a break in between the segments.

Question Types

There are 3 different categories for CMA exam questions. These include:

1. Clinical CompetencyThe clinical competency section of the exam is made up of 106 questions. The questions will cover:PharmacologyProcedures & ExaminationsSafety & Infection ControlClinical Workflow
2. GeneralThe general question section is made up of 38 questions. These will cover:Legal & Ethical IssuesCommunication
3. AdministrativeThe final part of the exam will explore the administrative responsibilities of the role. There are 36 questions that cover:Health Information ManagementScheduling AppointmentsInsuranceCodingBilling

7 Tips for Success

Preparing for your CMA exam is essential. Being prepared and understanding the test format will help to put your mind at ease and minimize the risk of test anxiety.

  1. Reading through your course material and examining study guides will help you understand the topic.
  2. You should then take a practice test to give you a better idea of what areas you need to concentrate on. Another benefit of taking practice tests is they prepare you for the type of questions you can expect to answer in the CMA exam.
  3. Going over topics that you scored poorly on will help you raise your score in those sections of the exam.
  4. Many online tests will also have explanations for questions. Going over your answers and reading these will help to give you a firm understanding of the topic.
  5. When you first start taking practice tests you should try with no time limits. As your study improves, you can start to time yourself so you get a better idea of how long to spend on each question.
  6. Simulating exam conditions can also help prepare you for the day and reduce anxiety.
  7. Ensuring you arrive at your test in plenty of time will also help to reduce stress. If you are taking public transport, try to get there earlier in case of delays.

Taking the CMA Exam

If the CMA examination will provide the right certification for your desired career path, take a look at the following information for eligibility and registration.

Registration and Scheduling

There are three categories of eligibility to sit the CMA exam:

CMA Exam Eligibility Category 1

You can sit the CMA exam within 30 days of completing a medical assistance program. The medical assistant program must be accredited by the ABHA (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education) or CAAHA (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education).

In some cases, a postsecondary college-level medical assistant program may be sufficient.

CMA Exam Eligibility Category 2

Non-recent medical assistant program graduates will be considered. Applications must include an official transcript provided by an accredited MA program.

CMA Exam Eligibility Category 3

Those that take and pass the certified medical assistant exam must recertify every 60 months.

You must provide your most recent certification date and certificate number when applying.

To register you must submit your candidate fee and all required documentation to obtain the exam scheduling permit.

It will typically take between 5 and 10 days for this application to be processed. An email will then be issued with a testing period of 90 days outlined.

You can then use your scheduling permit to book your exam by calling or using the online registration site.

Doing this as soon as possible is advised as tests are issued on a first-come-first-served basis.

The fees for the CMA exam are $125 for all the categories mentioned above as long as you are an AAMA member. Categories 2 and 3 are $250 for non-members.

Test Day

Candidates are advised to arrive a minimum of 30 minutes before the test is scheduled. Late arrivals may not be admitted.

If you arrive late for your exam appointment and are not admitted, you will forfeit your fee and have to apply again.

On arrival, candidates will present their ID and sign in to the test center. Personal items can be stored in the lockers provided. It should be noted that the lockers are typically small so only bring what is necessary.

Your scheduling permit will be taken and you will be photographed prior to the exam.

The staff will advise you on how the computer software works. You will also be provided with a dry-erase marker to take notes down.

Talking is not permitted during the test. Breaks will only be allowed during designated times between test sections.

If you fail to follow the rules outlined at the test center, your test may be canceled and the fee forfeited.

The exam is scored in a range of between 200 and 800. This is based on the number of correct responses you submit in the time allocated.

The minimum pass score for the certified medical assistant exam is 405.

You will be notified whether you have passed or failed immediately after the exam. Those that have completed all the requirements of the application process will receive their certification within three weeks.

The report you receive will give you a breakdown of your scoring. This will show you which areas you performed strongly in, and which areas require further study.


The certified medical assistant exam is designed to test the candidate’s knowledge and understanding of essential information related to the role.

Certified medical assistants will have significant responsibilities within a healthcare setting. Because of this, the exam covers a range of topics.

You will be tested on anatomy and physiology, as well as patient care. The role of a medical assistant also involves a lot of administrative work. It is essential that you show an understanding of what is required and can carry out tasks efficiently and accurately.

Researching what is expected of you during the exam and carrying out the relevant study should prepare you for your exam.

It is perfectly natural to feel nervous before taking an exam. Ensuring you have carried out adequate preparation will help to calm your nerves and ensure you are ready for the assessment.

Related FAQs:

How long is the certified medical assistant exam?

The time limit for the certified medical assistant exam is 160 minutes.

What is the passing score for the certified medical assistant exam?

Candidates must score a minimum of 405 to pass the certified medical assistant exam.

Can I retake the certified medical assistant exam if I don’t pass the first time?

Candidates can resit the test a maximum number of two times. This makes a total limit of three attempts at the CMA exam.

What study materials are available for the certified medical assistant exam?

Study guides and online test examples are the best ways to study for the certified medical assistant exam.

How much does it cost to take the certified medical assistant exam?

The cost of the certified medical assistant exam is $125 for AAMA members or recent graduates of an ABHES or CAAHEP program. The cost is $250 for other test-takers.