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How to Pass the CCMA Exam

Advance Your Medical Assisting Career by Earning the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Certification

Female healthcare worker with glasses

Medical Assistants (MAs) can often find better jobs and advance their careers by earning optional certifications. Certification can demonstrate to potential healthcare employers that they possess the knowledge and skills needed to excel at their job. Some employers require these credentials for all new MAs.

The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification is the certification many MAs choose when they plan to work in a clinical setting. We recently featured this certification in our article about the five best Medical Assistant certifications for your career. It provides an overview of certification options and some of the advantages of each.

The CCMA exam is offered through American Medical Technologists (AMT). This article serves as a CCMA exam study guide that includes more detailed information on the format and content of the exam, as well as valuable CCMA exam tips and study suggestions on how to pass the CCMA exam the first time.

What Is the CCMA Exam?

Passing the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam certifies Medical Assistants and helps them access better career opportunities with a stronger clinical focus. The CCMA certification is geared toward Medical Assistants who wish to be more involved with clinical procedures than with overall office administration. This certification is offered through the National Healthcare Association (NHA).

The NHA is the largest allied health certification agency in the United States, with over 1 million certifications awarded since 1989. Healthcare institutions are experiencing a strong need for employees with validated, nationally recognized certifications. An NHA credential shows that you are dedicated to your chosen field, demonstrating a proven level of knowledge and a desire for excellence.

If you’re not yet enrolled in a medical assisting program but would like to know more about getting on the path to a new career as a Medical Assistant, you can read more about How to Become a Medical Assistant.

Is the CCMA Exam Hard?

You may be wondering whether the CCMA exam is hard. For those who prepare, the exam may feel challenging but should not feel overly difficult. Those who put in a dedicated effort to prepare are most likely to find success in passing the exam on their first attempt.

One Reddit commenter said it this way: “Is it hard? Yes and no. Yes, because I used all 3 hours and thought I failed when I hit submit, and no because everyone in my class passed. Bottom line, if you study, don’t stress. You’ll pass.”

To give you an idea of its level of difficulty, the CCMA pass rate for exams taken in 2021 was 77% (that’s nearly 8 in 10 who passed). There are currently more than 156,500 active, CCMA-certified Medical Assistants.

How Many Questions Are On the CCMA Exam?

The CCMA certification exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions that are scored, plus 30 unscored pretest questions. The exam is based on in-depth employer insights, the latest industry trends and data, and collaboration with subject matter and technology experts. The exam time is 3 hours.

What Score Do You Need to Pass the CCMA Exam?

NHA exams are scored using a scaled score method. The scaled score for the CCMA exam considers the exam’s difficulty and weights the questions accordingly. The scaled scores range from 200 to 500, and the passing scaled score is 390 or higher.

Group of students at a medical university

What Is on the CCMA Exam?

The CCMA exam tests Medical Assistants on their knowledge of basic science, anatomy and physiology, clinical patient care and coordination, administrative assistance, communication, and medical laws/ethics. But more specifically, here’s how the content breaks down by category:

Foundational Knowledge and Basic Science: 15 Questions (10%)

Anatomy and Physiology: 8 Questions (5.3%)

Clinical Patient Care: 84 Questions (56%)

  • Patient Intake and Vitals (14 questions)
  • General Patient Care (28 questions)
  • Infection Control and Safety (15 questions)
  • Point of Care Testing and Laboratory Procedures (9 questions)
  • Phlebotomy (12 questions)
  • EKG and Cardiovascular Testing (6 questions)

Patient Care Coordination and Education: 12 Questions (8%)

Administrative Assisting: 12 Questions (8%)

Communication and Customer Service: 12 Questions (8%)

Medical Laws and Ethics: 7 Questions (4.6%)

Sample Practice Exam Questions

Following are a few CCMA exam sample questions similar to those you might find on the CCMA Online Practice Test. This gives you an idea of the question format (see answers at the end of the article). Note that none of these sample questions will appear on your CCMA exam, and answering them correctly does not guarantee that you will pass the exam.

  1. What does the term edema mean? 
    • a. Rash
    • b. Swelling
    • c. Within
    • d. Vomiting
  1. What is the appropriate way to take a radial pulse? 
    • a. Place your index finger and middle finger on the wrist, under the thumb
    • b. Place your index finger and middle finger on the wrist, under the pinky finger
    • c. Place your thumb on the side of the neck, next to the trachea
    • d. Place your index finger on the inner side of the upper arm, about halfway between the shoulder and the elbow
  1. A patient is anxious and begins hyperventilating. His hands and lips start to feel numb and tingly, and he feels lightheaded. What is the physiological cause of his symptoms? 
    • a. Excess carbon dioxide in the blood
    • b. Excess oxygen in the blood
    • c. Lack of oxygen in the blood
    • d. Lack of carbon dioxide in the blood
  1. Which of the following is NOT one of the five stages of grief as described by the Kübler-Ross model? 
    • a. Denial
    • b. Anger
    • c. Bargaining
    • d. Delusions
  1. Which of the following is tracked on a standard growth chart for patients ages 2 to 20? 
    • a. Age, weight, BMI
    • b. Age, head circumference, height
    • c. Age, height, and weight
    • d. Age, head circumference, weight, height
  1. A patient is upset and angry after an appointment. She is distraught and unable to pay attention when you tell her what dates are available for her follow-up appointment. This results in some confusion, and the patient accuses you of not listening. What form of defense mechanism is this patient likely demonstrating? 
    • a. Reaction formation
    • b. Projection
    • c. Displacement
    • d. Denial
  1. You are asked to give a three-year-old child a dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol). The child weighs 15 kg. The medication order says to give the child a dose of 15 mg/kg. The oral solution concentration is 160 mg/5 mL. What dose of the oral solution should you give the child? 
    • a. 7 mL
    • b. 2 mL
    • c. 5 mL
    • d. 9 mL
  1. You have finished all of your assigned tasks and are thinking of leaving a few minutes early for your lunch break when the doctor approaches you and tells you that there are patients waiting to be seen, but the exam rooms have not yet been cleaned after the last patients. You know that this is the responsibility of another medical assistant in the office, but she is on the phone dealing with an important personal problem. What should you do? 
    • a. Reassure the doctor that you will take care of the problem, and then quickly clean the rooms yourself
    • b. Ask someone else in the office to clean the patient exam rooms
    • c. Wait until the other medical assistant is off the phone, and then tell her that the rooms need to be cleaned quickly
    • d. Explain to the doctor that cleaning the patient exam rooms isn’t your assignment today, and tell the doctor where to find the appropriate medical assistant
  1. How should you position yourself in an exam room with a patient who seems angry and potentially aggressive? 
    • a. Position yourself with a desk between you and the patient
    • b. Position yourself seated next to the patient
    • c. Position yourself as far as possible away from the patient
    • d. Position yourself between the patient and the door
  1. You witness a patient suddenly collapse in the office. You run to the patient and realize she is unconscious, does not have a pulse, and is not breathing. While someone else calls 911, you and your coworkers begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). At what point should you use an automated external defibrillator (AED)? 
    • a. As soon as possible
    • b. If the patient still has no pulse after five minutes of CPR
    • c. As soon as emergency medical help arrives
    • d. After one round or two minutes of CPR have been performed

Close up of smiling woman in the operating room

Who Is Qualified to Take the CCMA Exam?

To be eligible for this exam, you must complete one of the following:

  1. Education: You must have successfully completed a medical assistant training program within the last 5 years (plus a high school diploma or GED equivalency).
  1. Experience: You must have 1 year of work experience within the Clinical Medical Assistant field within the last 3 years (plus a high school diploma or GED equivalency).
  1. Apprenticeship: You must have successfully completed a Registered Apprenticeship Program as a Clinical Medical Assistant (program must be registered with the US Department of Labor).
  1. Teaching License: You must have a current state-recognized teaching certificate, license, or at least 3 years of full-time teaching experience in health care or health science.

How Do You Study for the CCMA Exam?

Following are some suggested tips on how to pass the CCMA exam—including the study aids suggested by the NHA. The best CCMA exam strategies include familiarizing yourself with the exam format, studying the categories and topics identified in the content outline, and taking practice exams. You can also supplement your studies with other resources, such as current medical assisting publications and textbooks.

1. Create Your CCMA Exam Study Plan

Passing the CCMA exam the first time is much more likely with focused and consistent study. A great way to study is to create a study plan. Identify the time of day and the number of hours you plan to study each day/week. Then identify which topics or resources you will review during each study period. Once you make your plan, sticking to it becomes easier.

2. Review the Exam Content

The first thing you should review is the CCMA Test Plan. This document includes a detailed outline of the topics covered on the exam, as mentioned earlier in this article. It also adds task and knowledge statements that reflect the duties a candidate will need to understand and know how to perform.

3. Review the CCMA Study Guide

For an interactive method of study that’s both engaging and informative, you should consider purchasing the optional CCMA Online Study Guide (cost is $83). The guide provides various learning tools, including interactive games, topical quizzes, flashcards, and professionalism tips from experts in the field. You also have the option of audio narration for each page and video.

4. Study with the NHA Mobile App

If you want to supplement your studies with some interactive learning, the NHA provides a study aid app for mobile devices (available in the Apple or Google Play app stores). The app engages students with flashcards to help them prepare for the CCMA exam by reviewing content aligned with the exam. The flashcards include content from the CCMA Study Guide.

5. Take the CCMA Practice Test

Perhaps the most helpful part of your plan is to take the CCMA Online Practice Test. When you purchase the test, you get a set of three different 150-question practice tests, with two attempts allowed for each test (for a total of six attempts).

6. Rest and Be Refreshed for Exam Day

When you follow a study plan, you’ll not only master key content you’ll need to know on exam day, but you’ll also arrive feeling confident and prepared. Because you are prepared, you won’t have to cram the night before and can get plenty of rest the night before your exam.

Healthcare professional typing on a laptop

How Do You Register for the CCMA Exam?

After you’ve learned some tips on how to pass the CCMA exam, the next step is to register for your exam. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Apply for your exam: When you apply online, you’ll be asked to create a free NHA account and submit your CCMA exam application through your account portal.
  2. Set your exam date: Next, you’ll be asked to choose your CCMA exam test date. You can take the exam online or in person. You’ll schedule your exam at your school, at a PSI testing center near you, or through live remote proctoring at the location of your choice.

Once you register for the exam, remember to follow through with your study plan until your exam day arrives.

How Much Does It Cost to Take the CCMA Exam?

Your CCMA exam cost for taking the test the first time is $155. The cost for recertification is $169.

How Many Times Can You Take the CCMA Exam?

If you don’t pass the exam the first time, you can retake the exam 30 days after your initial attempt. CCMA exam requirements state that the candidate will be required to wait one year before attempting to retake the exam for each repeated failure after the third attempt. For each retake, candidates must re-register and pay the full exam price.

Once certified, you must renew your CCMA certification every two years. As part of this process, you must complete 10 continuing education credits and pay the recertification fee. NHA’s continuing education courses are provided free to currently certified Medical Assistants.

Why Enroll In a Medical Assisting Program?

To prepare for taking and passing the CCMA exam, enrolling in a program like the medical assisting program at Brookline College provides you with a solid foundation for taking and passing the CCMA exam.

Completing a program accredited by an approved regional or national accreditation agency not only helps you qualify to take the CCMA exam, but it’s also the best type of CCMA exam prep and—combined with creating a study plan—can help you pass the exam your first try.

Brookline College’s Phoenix, Tucson, Tempe, and Albuquerque campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).



Answers to sample practice exam questions shown in this article:

1) B 2) A 3) D 4) D 5) C 6) B 7) A 8) A 9) D 10) A