What's in the Medical Assisting Exam? An Overview

Daunted by the final medical assisting exam? Here's everything you'll be tested on so you can get fully prepared...

When you finally get through medical assisting school, you still have one more exam to take - the medical assistant certification exam.

Administered by the Certifying Board of the American Medical Assistants Association, the Certified Medical Assistant credential, or CMA, is the most prestigious credential you can obtain as a professional in the field.

It's often required by employers in this job market to identify applicants who are highly desirable.

Luckily, the web site for the governing body has a detailed outline showing you exactly what's on the test and what you need to study. If you're going to take the certifying test and need a road map, look no further than this helpful study guide. We've condensed this outline for you below...

General topics

Medical assisting terminology leads off the general topics category. You should focus on word building, definitions, and specific uses of medical terminology in your work as a medical assistant.

The anatomy and physiology topic looks at the body as a whole, each individual system, and common diseases and pathology that a medical assistant would encounter.

In psychology, you examine the basic principles of this medical specialty, developmental stages, and defense mechanisms.

The professionalism topic examines your attitude, seeking employment, and how to work as a team member. Communication encompasses how to talk to those with communication impairments, how to read body language, and professional communication and behavior.

You'll also study patient interviewing techniques for taking patient histories, how to receive and organize data, telephone techniques, and how to write effectively.

In the medicolegal realm, you need to demonstrate proficiency in your knowledge of licenses, legislation, documentation, and reporting. Also important are how to release patient information, the doctor-patient relationship, maintaining confidentiality, and what your ethical boundaries are in the performance of your job.

Administrative topics

Administration is a big topic in the medical assisting exam

You need to know about data entry, which includes keyboarding, document formats, and proofreading.

Under the equipment subheading, you'll need to know about how to use certain office equipment, simple maintenance, and safety.

In computer concepts, you'll demonstrate knowledge of computer components, computer applications, and the internet.

With records management, you'll need to understand the needs, purposes, and terminology of filing systems. You'll also need to know about filing guidelines and the ins and outs of medical records, both paper and electronic.

Screening and processing mail is an important part of a medical assisting job. You have to know about the U.S. Postal Service, the postal machine, how to process incoming mail, and how to prepare outgoing mail.

Scheduling appointments takes up a great deal of a medical assistant's time - you'll need to have a firm understanding of appointment schedules and types, appointment guidelines, and appointment protocol.

You'll need to know resource and community service information so that you can effectively advocate for your patient.

Medical assistants are also responsible for maintaining the office environment. This includes managing the physical environment, keeping inventory, maintaining liability coverage, and time management.

You'll also be responsible for policy and procedures manuals, patient handbooks, and personnel manuals.

Medical assistants are in charge of all the finances for the practice they work in. Because of this, they must demonstrate skill in bookkeeping, coding, third-party billing, accounting, banking procedures, and employee payroll.

These are all the administrative skills you need to demonstrate proficiency in to pass the medical assisting exam - quite a lot, but it's worth it!

Clinical topics

The medical assisting exam also has clinical topics

To put the "medical" in medical assistant, you need to have clinical topics as well as all the administrative topics.

At the top of the list is infection control procedures, including medical asepsis and surgical asepsis.

You should know the disposal of hazardous materials and universal precautions.

For the treatment area, you must know the principles of equipment operation, how to restock supplies, how to repair and maintain a treatment area, and safety precautions.

You'll help the doctor and prepare the patient, so you'll need to know how to collect vital signs, assist with examinations and procedures, and provide patient education.

One of the biggest jobs of a medical assistant is conducting patient history - you'll need to conduct patient interviews, which include knowing the components of a history and the general guidelines for taking one.

Medical assistants collect specimens and run diagnostic tests on them. They need to demonstrate abilities in collecting specimens, such as blood from the vein and the capillary, but from other sources, as well, including urine, stool, and sputum.

You need to know how to process specimens, perform quality control, and perform selected tests. Other procedures that medical assistants perform include EKGs, vision testing, hearing testing, respiratory testing, and medical imaging.

For the medications section, you need to know about pharmacology, administration routes, immunizations, and prescriptions.

Medical assistants have to be prepared for emergencies and need to know the preplanned actions for emergent situations, assessment, triage, and preparedness protocols.

First aid is important in this certification exam, including CPR and rescuing a victim from choking. Finally, medical assistants need to demonstrate proficiency in nutrition and know not only the basic principles but special needs diets, as well.

Passing the medical assisting exam

Passing the medical assisting exam

The best way to pass the medical assisting certification exam is to take this detailed outline and ensure that you know all the details for each subtopic.

The outline provided on the AMAA website is even more detailed, and can give you more information about what's on the exam.

You can also take the practice exams on the website to get a feel for how the questions are asked and to practice answering questions on a computer.

Sometimes it's different for students to transition from answering questions on paper. The AMAA has local chapters that offer review courses for a fee that can help you review all this information and bring it together for the exam.

You are trying to condense 14 months of learning into a small window of time - it may be stressful to study that much information for one test. You can also join the AMAA and connect with students nationwide to form study groups to meet your goal of passing this exam.

With all the help the AMAA gives you, you should have no trouble passing the exam and becoming a certified professional in your field. We wish you the best of luck!

Click to see the full AMAA medical assistant certification examination content outline.

More tips on getting your certification.

After you've passed the exam, you may be wondering where to find jobs as a medical assistant. Click the link to see our short guide...

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