Certified Medical Assistant Exam

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Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)


The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) was formed in 1956 as a professional membership organization dedicated to providing quality health care related services. A special certification board was formed within the AAMA, and in 1963, the first Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) examination was given to 112 candidates. The initial test was developed by the AAMA with the help of the American Medical Association (AMA). Later, the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) began consulting on test development. Over the years, exam eligibility criteria have been refined. In 1998, the AAMA began requiring candidates to have completed an accredited medical assisting training program, and in 2003 a requirement to recertify was added to maintain currency of the credential. To keep pace with a growing demand, an additional testing period was added to make the exam available 3 times a year during January, June and October.[1] Today, the exam is available on a rolling basis throughout the year.[2] As of the end of 2013, the AAMA had granted the CMA credential to close to 75,000 medical assistants.[3]

Function of the Test

CMA Study Guide

The CMA exam is a rigorous test of professional capability with less than a 70% pass rate.[4] The exam sets a standard of competence in the field that assures employers and consumers that certificants have achieved an appropriate level of knowledge and skills in the medical assisting field. Many employers require medical assistants to be certified, and a recent survey showed that CMAs earn more, on average, than medical assistants who were not certified.[5] Candidates who have not been previously certified must either be about to graduate, or have graduated from an accredited medical assisting program. Candidates who are still in school must wait until 30 days prior to graduation before they may take the exam. Those who have graduated on or before January 1, 2010 have 5 years (60 months) post-graduation in which to take the exam; after that, they are no longer eligible.[6]

Test Administration

CMA Flashcards

The cost to take the exam is $125 for student candidates, for those who take the exam within one year of graduation from a medical assisting program, and for AAMA members. The fee for nonmembers who take the exam more than a year after graduation is $250.[7] Approved candidates have a 90-day window in which to take the exam, based on the start date they selected in their application. Testing windows begin on the 1st and 15th of every month throughout the year.[8] Candidates who have received their testing permit can schedule their exam date online or by phone with Prometric, the authorized testing vendor, at any one of their testing centers located across the United States, Canada, and US Territories.[9] Special accommodations for candidates with disabilities are available on request. Requests must be made at the time of application by filling out a “CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination Request for Special Accommodations Form” and submitting it along with supporting documentation detailing the diagnosed disability, the candidate’s limitations due to disability, and the nature of requested accommodations.[10] Candidates who do not pass the exam may reapply at any time as long as they meet current eligibility criteria. A new application and examination fee must be submitted when applying to retake the exam. A maximum of three attempts is allowed. There is no mandatory waiting period between attempts.[11]

Test Format

Sections of the CMA Test
CMA Test Subject Areas # of Questions Percent
General 50 28%
Administrative 45 25%
Clinical 85 47%
Total 180 100%

Test Environment

The computer based Certified Medical Assistant takes place at Prometric testing centers. There, test-takers will be required to present a government issued, photo ID for admission. No personal items are allowed in the exam room. A locker will be provided to store all electronics, outerwear, and other personal items. The test allows two and a half hours to answer all 200 exam questions. With the combined tutorials and breaks, the testing session will be about three hours and fifteen minutes.[12]

Test Structure

The Certified Medical Assistant exam covers a broad range of topics that fit into three categories. The first is General, which deals with psychology, communication, professionalism, ethics, terminology, and other topics. The second is Administrative, which deals with Medical Reception, Medical Business Practices, Scheduling Appointments, Practice Finance, Patient Navigation, and Establishing Patient Medical Records. The last topic is Clinical, which deals with many topics, including Anatomy and Physiology, Infection Control, Patient Intake and Documentation of Care, and Pharmacology. Combined, there are a total of 200 multiple choice questions, twenty of which are unscored, pretest questions.[13]

Sample Questions

More free CMA practice test questions.


The AAMA applies reference-based scoring for the exam. The total number of correct responses is calculated and converted to a scaled score that normalizes the score value based on the performance of a “reference group” of first-time test-takers. Because only correct answers are counted, there is no penalty for making an educated guess on any given question. The minimum scaled score needed to pass the exam is determined by the AAMA Certification Board. This score is reevaluated every three years against current competency standards in the field and adjusted as needed. At this time, candidates must achieve a scaled score of 425 or higher in order to pass the exam.[14] Pass/fail results are given on-site once the exam is completed. An official “Score Report” will be mailed to the address of record within 10 weeks, indicating pass/fail status and percentile ranking. Those who pass the exam will also receive their official CMA Certificate at this time.[15]


  1. ^ 50 Years of Caring February 13, 2015
  2. ^ Exam Application Steps February 16, 2015
  3. ^ FAQs on CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification February 15, 2015
  4. ^ FAQs on CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification February 15, 2015
  5. ^ 2014 Medical Assisting Compensation and Benefits Report February 15, 2015
  6. ^ Exam Eligibility Requirements February 15, 2015
  7. ^ Exam Application Steps February 15, 2015
  8. ^ Candidate Application and Handbook February 16, 2015
  9. ^ New Appointment: Information Review February 16, 2015
  10. ^ CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination Request for Special Accommodations Form February 15, 2015
  11. ^ FAQs on CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification February 15, 2015
  12. ^ CMA Content Outline 04 April 2015
  13. ^ CMA Content Percentage Outline 04 April 2015
  14. ^ FAQs on CMA (AAMA) Certification February 15, 2015
  15. ^ Candidate Application and Handbook February 16, 2015

External Links