Taking your Certified Medical Assistant exam after you finish your training can be one of the scariest parts of starting a new career in medical assisting, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right preparation, you can pass the exam with flying colors and make yourself that much more desirable to potential employers.
Here’s the low down on different ways you can prepare for the test, including study guides with exam secrets to give you the extra edge.
Why Certification Is So Important
There are four organizations that offer either certification or registration to medical assistants:
- American Medical Technologists (AMT): registration for both clinical and administrative medical assistants.
- National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT): national certification for both clinical and administrative medical assistants.
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA): certification for clinical medical assistants only.
- American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA): certification for both clinical and administrative medical assistants.
You may have heard these credentials discussed in your class and wondered what the big deal was or even been tempted to skip them altogether. However, there are a number of important reasons why you need to become credentialed as a medical assistant:
- Certification may be required for the medical assistant jobs you wish to pursue out of school.
- Registration or certification tells employers you meet national standards for medical assisting. If you want to move to another state and work as a medical assistant, having national credentials makes this much easier.
- Being certified often means you can make more money as a medical assistant.
- You make yourself more competitive on the job market when you are certified or registered.
- You can be more confident with patients when you first start out working as a medical assistant, knowing that you’ve passed your certification exam.
- Certification is better for your patients’ health. Would you want to see a doctor who didn’t pass their boards to practice?
- Maybe you’ve already been working as a medical assistant and been provided training on the job by your employer. Now they want you to become certified to satisfy legal requirements at the facility.
If you are still in school, your training program may mandate that you complete certification with one of the agencies above before you can graduate, and with all the reasons above, you can see why.
How You Can Study for the CMA Exam
It doesn’t have to cost a lot to study for your exam. If you are one of the top students in your class, you may feel comfortable reviewing your class notes, making flashcards, and forming a study group with other high-performing students. You might also get an outline or study manual from your instructor, if your coursework is tracked to finish with the certification exam.
To be sure you cover everything on the curriculum, you may want to check out the American Association of Medical Assistants website. There, they offer a content outline for the AAMA certification exam, as well as “test your knowledge” questions on human anatomy and physiology.
Why not take advantage of free study aids like this when they’re available? You’ll be sure to study every category on the exam:
- anatomy and physiology
- patient examination
- diagnostic testing
- medical office management and general office procedures
- medical procedures
- medical terminology
- insurance processing
There are also super low-cost apps available for mobile devices. Some students find these are adequate on their own to help prepare for their certification test, while others use them in conjunction with other study aids. CMA Test Prep by iMobiApp is a popular option. This app allows you to both review material and answer practice questions, and you can construct practice tests as well. Your test scores can be tracked over time, so you know how much progress you’re making in preparing for your exam.
Did you find some of the material in your medical assisting course extra challenging? Were you out sick and missed some classes? In this case, a review course might be an option for you, even though it’s a little pricier than other study methods mentioned here.
Check with your local chapter of the AAMA or your area community colleges to find review courses that meet your needs.
What Study Guides Are the Best
Many medical assistant students also use published study guides to prepare for their certification exams. You might want to know which study guides are “the best,” but what you should really be asking is which guides are the best for you.
Each one is organized a bit differently and uses various methods for helping you retain a large volume of material. But the best guides should all have a few things in common:
- They should cover all the material that will be on the certified medical assistant exam.
- They should have some practice questions to help you test your memory.
- They should give you the reasoning behind the correct answer to every question.
- They offer critical thinking skills to help you on the toughest questions.
Some of the top ranked study guides for medical assistants are:
- Medical Assistant Exam Review by Kaplan Medical
- Comprehensive Medical Assisting Exam Review by J.P. Cody
- Medical Assistant Exam Success by Kris Hardy, CMA
- Medical Assisting Exam Review for CMA, RMA & CMAS Certification (Medical Assisting Exam Review for CMA and RMA Certification) Third Edition by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Why Exam Secrets Give You an Extra Study Boost
There are two study guides for the medical assistant exam that have extra “secret” material not found in other guides and may be worth a look. National Certified Medical Assistant Exam Secrets Study Guide: NCCT Test Review for the National Center for Competency Testing Exam and Certified Medical Assistant Exam Secrets Study Guide: CMA Test Review for the Certified Medical Assistant Exam by Mometrix both offer test prep above and beyond regular study guides.
Students who have used these books for a host of reasons:
- You don’t waste time studying the wrong material.
- The material was presented in a clear, orderly manner.
- The guides keep you on track to cover all the material by the date of your exam.
- The practice tests (see below) clearly related to the material in the study guide.
- All the information presented was factually correct.
- The guides offered valuable tips on test taking.
This last point is something that most students taking the certified medical assistant exam can really use. The test is timed, so strategies that don’t leave you with unanswered questions at the end are extremely helpful. Learn how to narrow down possible answers, read questions for tricky wording, and find all the information you need within each question with these guides.
If you’re someone who gets tripped up with how questions are worded or wastes their time on answers that couldn’t possibly be correct, these guides are a good resource.
The guides also provide information and study tips for important exam topics like:
- organ function
- normal lab values
- pediatric conditions
- all the bodily systems
- pathological conditions
- grieving and psychological issues
- common acronyms
- office procedures, like telephone protocol and computer system management
The Mometrix guides teach the material, but they also teach the test, which is equally important. At a price point comparable to other guides, these volumes may be well worth their cost in your exam preparation process.
How to Complete Your Study with Simulated Exams
To complete your study for the medical assistant registration exam or certification exam, simulation tests can tell you if you’ve really learned the material or not. While most study guides offer one or two practice tests, you may want to take tests regularly while studying for your exam, in which case online resources may be your best choice.
At Tests.com, you can try one free 40-question practice test and if you like it, purchase their Medical Assistant Practice Exam Kit. This kit satisfies the outlines for several different types of exam from various credentialing agencies.
You can also try a practice test for free at CMATestPrep.com by Exam Edge. They have more exams available for purchase on their site for multiple attempts. A review guide provides the rationale behind every correct answer.
If you like the idea of a 100 percent passing guarantee, MedPreps practice tests are another place to find simulated exams.
The process to become certified as a medical assistant is really quite straightforward when you break it down: 1) find the certification that’s right for you; 2) register for the appropriate exam; 3) study your course material until you know it backwards and forwards; 4) learn test-taking strategies to help you on your exam; and 5) take the exam and ace it!
If you follow the tips above, you have a good chance of passing on the first attempt and going on to put all your studying to work with real patients.
- For more articles like this, please check out Medical Assistant Professional.
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