Select Page

Smarter MA | The #1 Prep Tool for the NHA CCMA®

How to Pass the NHA CCMA® Certification Test the First Time: The Ultimate Medical Assistant NHA CCMA Study Guide

Written by: Katie Miller, co-creator of Smarter MA

Passing your certification test as a medical assistant can be a challenging journey. That’s why you need an NHA CCMA Study Guide.

This free NHA CCMA study guide is going to teach you everything you need to study for and pass the CCMA test. 

Step 1 of your journey – follow the study guide below.

I’m here to support you if you have any questions, feel free to reach out. Let’s beat this test, together!

– Katie

Preparing for the NHA CCMA®?

Smarter MA is the most powerful resource available for medical assistants who are serious about passing the certification test the first time.

Table of Contents

  1. Why get certified in the first place? Why bother?
  2. What are the different options available for certification?
  3. Must know topics (direct from test takers)
  4. The three most common studying mistakes (and how to fix them)
  5. What you’ll struggle with the most
  6. Frequently asked questions about the NHA CCMA
  7. Conclusion

Why am I doing this? Why bother getting certified?

A medical assistant certification test is a test that assesses the knowledge of a potential medical assistant who wants to become certified. If you pass the test, you’ll receive a medical assistant certification (similar to how a physician has an MD certification).

Getting certified as a medical assistant opens up career opportunities in the medical field. 

Certification demonstrates to employers that you have the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to perform the job successfully. It also shows your commitment to professional development and excellence. 

With certification, you are more competitive in the job market and have access to higher wages and better benefits. 

Ultimately, certification will give you the confidence and recognition needed to excel in your career as a medical assistant.

What are the different options available for certification?

Certification tests are administered by many organizations but the four largest certifying bodies are:

  1. The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) – the guide you’re reading
  2. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) CMA®
  3. The American Medical Technologists (AMT) RMA®
  4. The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) NCMA®

The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) offers the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) test

  • Format of the NHA CCMA® test: Multiple choice
  • Number of questions: 180 (150 scored, 30 are pre-test and not scored)
  • Topics:
    • Foundational Knowledge and Basic Science (10%)
      • Healthcare Systems and Settings
      • Medical Terminology
      • Basic Pharmacology
      • Nutrition
      • Psychology
    • Anatomy and Physiology (5%)
      • Body Structures and Organ Systems
      • Pathophysiology and Disease Processes
      • Microbiology
    • Clinical Patient Care (56%)
      • General Patient Care
      • Infection Control
      • Testing and Laboratory Procedures
      • Phlebotomy
      • EKG and Cardiovascular Testing
    • Patient Care Coordination and Education (8%)
    • Administrative Assisting (8%)
    • Communication and Customer Service (8%)
    • Medical Law and Ethics (5%)
  • Amount of time to complete the NHA CCMA® test: 3 hours
  • Eligibility requirements:


    • Category 1: Completed a medical assistant training or education program within the last 5 years
    • Category 2: 1 year of supervised work experience in the medical assisting field within the last 3 years

Must know topics (direct from test takers who have posted this information on Reddit)

Smarter MA Pro-Tip: We cover every one of these topics (as well as other high-yield material) in the question banks on Smarter MA

Reddit user: CMA2019

  1. EKG lead placement and phlebotomy tube order & additives
  2. Conversions (ex: Fahrenheit to Celsius)
  3. Chain of infection
  4. Scheduling (Cluster, Wave, Open etc.)
  5. Diseases & procedures (memorizing medical terminology prefixes and suffixes ASAP will make this 100x easier)
  6. Normal vitals for adults, kids, & infants
  7. Normal lab results (Hgb, Hct, Fasting glucose, potassium etc.)
  8. The four quadrants
  9. Patient interactions, scope of practice, standard of care, customer service
  10. Insurance (coinsurance, managed care, Medicare etc.)
  11. Drug scheduling (narcotics)
  12. ICD-10 and CPT, differences and how many digits
  13. Disinfection, sanitization, sterilization, how long to wash hands, nail length, when to throw out biohazard bag, bleach/water ratio, when to use gloves/facemask
  14. Vaccines, what angle, what gauge needle, which one to inject slowly
  15. EKG placement for missing limb
  16. Fat soluble vitamins (ADEK)
  17. Stages of grief
  18. SV node, AV node, Purkinje Fibers
  19. Hepatitis
  20. FLATPIG hormones
  21. Hashimotos, Graves
  22. Anatomical positioning: superior, proximal, sagittal plane, tranverse plane etc
  23. Weber & Rinne test
  24. Snellen chart, what 50/20 vision means, Ishihara test
  25. Scratch test, how long and how far apart
  26. Betadine or Chlorohexadine for blood culture
  27. CC, pc, ac, qd etc.
  28. At what age and how often certain tests (colonoscopy)

Reddit user: ContentTill311

  1. Tourniquet must be how many inches above the venipuncture site?
  2. Infant urine collection- how to wipe infant before collecting urine
  3. Codeine – what are the side effects?
  4. Which food has more iodine?
  5. Positions- what position is used for an abdominal exam? What position if a patient has COPD and needs an abdominal exam?
  6. Capillary collection: how to collect from an infant?
  7. When should you check insurance benefits for a patient? When scheduling them or when they first check in to the appt?
  8. What do you use to keep track of the inventory of clinical supplies? maintenance log or spreadsheet
  9. Patient has hyperglycemia. Where can they go to find more info? American Diabetes Association
  10. Where can a person who has a disability go for more info about work accommodations? OSHA or Americans Disabilities Act?
  11. What bacteria causes syphilis? What bacteria causes thrush?
  12. How to collect throat culture? Does the patient just open their mouth wide, or do they need to flex their neck or cough?
  13. Venipuncture- Does the patient need to make a fist and pump their hand once, twice, with no pumps?
  14. Patient has ABN (Advance Beneficiary Notice) and requests a test. If the test coverage is denied, what happens next? Does the patient pay the bill?
  15. Pandemic- does it occur in one geographical area, low mortality, little to no disease immunity?
  16. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs- spontaneity: which level is this?
  17. Before buying supplies, you should fill out what? Purchase order, invoice, or packing slip
  18. Breastfeeding is what kind of immunity?
  19. What body system is in charge of homeostasis chemicals?
  20. PT/INR is what additive and what tube?
  21. How many mL in a teaspoon? in a tablespoon?
  22. What fever comes and goes?
  23. Acetone odor. What disease is related to this?
  24. Importance of ensuring that the centrifuge is balanced

Reddit user: Bluedragon6745

  1. Be able to describe each procedure from start to finish as if you have done it yourself. Watch videos for all of them, all CLIA-waived tests, all ways of taking blood, capillary, venipuncture, injections, allergy tests, and each way for each age group.
  2. Know what position to be in for every procedure and in what circumstances do you change into what position.
  3. Understand the supplies you would need for a test or procedure. Ex: suturing, removal of sutures, CLIA waived tests, cryosurgery, physical exam.
  4. Know different surgical tools (forceps, probe, scissors, etc.) for surgical procedures.
  5. Medical Terminology:
  6. Use your medical terminology to describe a disease given the meaning of suffix and prefix. Understand what a suffix and prefix is. Use medical terminology to figure out if a given surgery is the removal of, creation of, etc.
  7. Know vitamins and minerals, what food you would get them from, and their purpose. Ex: Would you get more fiber from fruit or cereal? What mineral/vitamin/diet would you recommend for someone who has xyz disease?
  8. Understand what kind of doctor sees xyz disease. Know what pathogen causes a disease, if that disease is contact, bloodborne, airborne, what PPE you would need, and what each disease’s symptoms are. Understand fungal/bacterial/parasitic/viral infections.
  9. Know each quadrant and what organs are in each quadrant (RUQ, LUQ, RLQ, LLQ), anatomical positions, planes, and what organ belongs to what system. Understand when vitals are bad.:
  10. Understand how to give CPR, how many compressions, breaths, etc. Know what organization governs emergencies. Understand RACE: Rescue, Alarm, Confine, Extinguish.
  11. Study administrative section- questions tend to be random and not all the information can be found in the NHA study guide.
  12. Understand the purpose of ICD-10 vs CPT, all about coding. modifiers, fraud, how many letters and alphanumeric items are present in each place.
  13. Understand Upcoding (code creep, overbilling, overcoding), bundled coding, usual fee, customary fee, reasonable fee, capitation, category I, II, III codes, phantom billing.
  14. Know who to report to for fraud and for unsecured HPI.
  15. Know the difference between eHPI and HPI and who governs both. Understand legal terminologies.
  16. Know different organizations and their target population. HHS, CMS, OSHA, Red cross, legal aid society, TJC, Hospice, Meals on Wheels, NAACLS, ACS, AHA to name a few.
  17. Understand ACO vs PCMH. Know at what age and how often routine exams are done. Understand SOAP notes, CHEDDAR, POMR.

The three most common studying mistakes while using an NHA CCMA Study Guide (and how to fix them)

1. Not starting early enough

These tests cover a wide range of topics, and require a significant amount of knowledge and understanding. By not starting your studies early enough, you’re going to put yourself under unnecessary pressure to move quickly. 

Rushing through the materials and cramming information will not only lead to ineffective learning, but also to exhaustion and burnout.

2. Not using the right resources

Knowing what to study is as important as how you study. If you’re using a study resource that is outdated, inaccurate to the exam, or is insufficient, you’re setting yourself up for either wasted time and effort, or worse, failure. Resources you use must be up-to-date, relevant and comprehensive. You should also solve practice questions to help you prepare.

3. Doing it alone

Studying for a major test is going to be challenging and overwhelming, no matter what. But if you have support, both from peers and knowledgeable tutors, you’re going to be in much better shape. They can offer you guidance, direction, and help when you’re stuck. It’s critical that you have people in your corner who are available to help you.

What you’ll struggle with the most

Endurance is the hardest thing about a test like this. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. This isn’t your typical test that you study for in a month. Most are going to study for 1-3 months. And fatigue and burnout are real risks. Especially if you feel like you’re not progressing or you’re struggling with material. 

If you’re struggling, it is important to reach out for help. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your classmates, teachers, friends, and study resources. 

For example at Smarter MA if you have any questions about anything, whether questions on test content or just study advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to us by hitting the chat icon in the bottom right of the screen!

It also can be difficult to study for the test alone. That’s why it’s important to join a study community. The subreddit Medical Assistant Path is a great place to get advice and support from other medical assistants who are preparing for the test.

How to apply for the NHA CCMA®

You can apply for the NHA CCMA® through the National Healthcareer Association’s website.

Frequently Asked Questions about the NHA CCMA®

How to study for the NHA CCMA exam?

1. Start early

Depending on your background and freshness with the material, most students need 1-3 months to prepare for their test.

We recommend you do a bit of initial prep work before you schedule your test, so you have an idea of what you’re up against. Don’t book the test too early and not give yourself enough time. 

When in doubt, it’s always better to start preparing earlier than later so you give yourself more time. 

2. Create a study schedule 

Start by setting aside specific times each day to study for your certification test. Create a routine for yourself of when you plan to study and for how long each day. 

By committing to timing, you’ll hold yourself accountable and make sure you’re sticking to a plan. Remember, failure to plan is planning to fail!

Be sure to include breaks in your schedule to avoid burnout. For example, go for a walk, exercise, or reward yourself by browsing the internet after a 90 minute study session. Then get back to studying for another 90 minutes. 

For most people, studying more than 3-4 hours in a day loses its effectiveness. Although how long you study each day is going to depend on your schedule and how many weeks/months you set aside for studying. Taking care of your physical and mental health will help you stay focused and perform your best on the test.

Then, use a day-by-day study schedule. We’ve created one at Smarter MA that will make sure you get through all the content you need to in the right amount of time, and page the first time. You can find the Smarter MA study schedule here. 

It is also important to find a good study environment, such as a quiet place with minimal distractions to make sure you’re doing focused work. 

3. Identify your strengths and weaknesses 

CCMA practice tests are the #1 best way to prepare for the real test. 

If you’re reading a textbook or just doing flashcards, it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you “know” the material. 

Use practice questions to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you focus your study efforts on the areas where you need improvement.

And make sure you come back and review the questions you’re struggling with.

4. Utilize study resources and stay organized 

With Smarter MA you’ll have access to a comprehensive, high-yield question bank and practice tests

Smarter MA has 1,000+ hiigh-yield questions to practice and learn from. We constantly update the material and are obsessed with making learning easy

And with question tagging, we’ll help you to stay on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Review questions you’re struggling with frequently using the tagged questions feature to move content you don’t know into content you do know.

Smarter MA has everything you need and nothing you don’t to help you pass your certification test.  

Plus, we offer a 100% pass guarantee or your money back: if you don’t pass your test for whatever reason, we’ll either give you more free time with the program or we’ll give you a full refund. 

We even offer a free CCMA practice test with detailed explanations that you can get started with, at no cost.

What is a passing score of the NHA CCMA exam?

A passing score for the NHA CCMA exam is 390 out of 500​, which corresponds with 78% of questions correct.

What is a perfect score for the CCMA exam?

A perfect score on the NHA CCMA exam is 500.

How long is the NHA CCMA?

Candidates are given three hours to complete the NHA CCMA, with no breaks.

How much does the NHA CCMA cost?

The cost to write the NHA CCMA is $160 for each attempt.

Is the NHA CCMA test hard?

The difficulty of the NHA CCMA exam can vary depending on your preparation and background knowledge. The exam covers a wide range of topics and requires a significant amount of knowledge and understanding.

However, with the right preparation and study resources, such as Smarter MA, the exam is very manageable. Smarter MA’s platform offers a comprehensive question bank that covers every topic in the exam. With proper preparation and mastery of the material, the NHA CCMA exam is very beatable​.

How many questions are on the NHA CCMA exam?

The NHA CCMA exam consists of 180 questions. Among these, 150 questions are scored, and the remaining 30 are pre-test questions which are not scored.

Pre-test questions are essentially “trial” questions that the exam board is considering for future exams. These questions give the NHA data on how well these questions perform, i.e., how many people answer them correctly. These pre-test questions are indistinguishable from the rest of the exam, so you should answer all questions to the best of your ability. However, your responses to these pre-test questions will not impact your final score​​.

How many times can you fail the NHA?

As per the NHA’s policy, you can take the exam up to three times in a calendar year. After a failed attempt, you must wait at least 30 days before retaking the exam (source needed).

Which section of the CCMA exam has the most questions?

The section of the CCMA exam that has the most questions is the Clinical Patient Care section, which constitutes 56% of the exam​​.

Can I take the NHA exam at home?

Yes, you can take the NHA exam at home. The NHA offers remotely proctored exams where you need to supply a computer with a camera, microphone, a stable internet connection, and the ability to install a lightweight app prior to the exam event​​.

Keep in mind, some student who have taken the NHA CCMA at home have had mixed feelings about it.

One student recently said,

I took mine online at home and I would have rather taken a proctored one. They were so strict on what you could have around you and could not have around you. absolutely no water or food for three hours during the test. You were not able to leave the view the camera if you did they stopped the test. Absolutely no one could be in the house with you including pets. I had more anxiety because they could not read my ID (you have to show your photo ID through the camera) and so they kicked me out of the exam and I was an hour late getting started.”

What happens if I fail my NHA exam?

If you fail the NHA exam, you are allowed to retake it after a waiting period of at least 30 days. However, you can only attempt the exam three times within a calendar year.

That said, if you use a resource like Smarter MA, which has a 100% pass guarantee, you can focus on passing the first time.

How do I study for the NHA exam?

To study for the NHA exam, start your preparations early, ensure your study materials are up-to-date and sufficient, and focus on the major topics that the exam covers, including foundational knowledge and basic science, anatomy and physiology, clinical patient care, patient care coordination and education, administrative assisting, communication and customer service, and medical law and ethics​​.

If you prepare with Smarter MA, work through all of our practice questions from the NHA CCMA Classroom and learn from the explanations, and you know the material in our questions, you will pass.  We have a 100% money back guarantee, that’s how confident we are.


Preparing for the CCMA certification test can be a challenging journey, but with the right preparation tools and study habits, you can pass your test. Using an NHA CCMA Study Guide like this one will help immensely. 

With Smarter MA, you have everything you need in one place to pass the test the first time. Plus, we offer a pass guarantee or your money back. 

So what are you waiting for? Start preparing with a free NHA CCMA® practice test today!

Smarter MA is your secret weapon to pass the NHA CCMA® the first time

Any questions?

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out 👋


Fill out the contact form or use the chat app by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. is not affiliated with or endorsed by the American Association of Medical Assistants, the American Medical Technologists, the American Education Certification Association, the American Medical Certification Association, the California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants, the National Center for Competency Testing, and/or the National Healthcareer Association. CMA AAMA® is a registered trademark owned by the American Association of Medical Assistants, CCMA CCBMA® is a registered trademark owned by the California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants, CMAC AMCA® and MAC AMCA® are registered trademarks owned by the American Medical Certification Association, NCMA NCCT® is a registered trademark owned by the National Center for Competency Testing, NRMA AECA® is a registered trademark owned by the American Education Certification Association, RMA AMT® is a registered trademark owned by the American Medical Technologists, and CCMA NHA® is a registered trademark owned by the National Healthcareer Association.