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Smarter MA | The #1 Prep Tool for the AAMA CMA®

How to Pass the AAMA CMA® Certification Test the First Time: The Ultimate Medical Assistant AAMA CMA 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 AAMA CMA Study Guide.

This free AAMA CMA study guide is going to teach you everything you need to study for and pass the CMA 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 exam, together!

– Katie

Preparing for the AAMA CMA®?

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 bother getting certified? The Value of Medical Assistant Certification
  2. The options available for medical assistant certification
  3. Top three studying mistakes when using an AAMA CMA Study Guide: The Fixations
  4. How to prepare for the test with an AAMA CMA Study Guide (the right way)
  5. Your Toughest Challange
  6. Conclusion


Why bother getting certified? The Value of Medical Assistant Certification

Becoming certified as a medical assistant holds great significance, prompting the question: Why should you embark on this journey and strive for certification?

The medical assistant certification test serves as an assessment of your knowledge and skills, validating your competence as a prospective medical assistant. Similar to how physicians hold an MD certification, passing this test earns you a well-deserved medical assistant certification.

By obtaining certification as a medical assistant, you open doors to a multitude of career opportunities within the medical field.

Certification serves as a tangible demonstration to employers that you possess the necessary expertise, abilities, and knowledge required to excel in your role. Moreover, it highlights your unwavering dedication to professional growth and pursuit of excellence.

Equipped with certification, you gain a competitive edge in the job market, paving the way for enhanced earning potential and improved benefits.

Above all, certification grants you the confidence and recognition essential for thriving in your medical assistant career, empowering you to reach new heights of success.


The options available for medical assistant certification

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


The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) test

  • Format of the AAMA CMA® test: Multiple choice
  • Number of questions: 200 (180 scored, 20 are pretest and not scored)
  • Topics:
    • Clinical Competency (59%)
      • Workflow: Patient Intake and Discharge
      • Safety and Infection Control
      • Procedures/Examinations
      • Pharmacology
    • General (21%)
      • Legal and Ethical Issues
      • Communication
    • Administrative (20%)
      • Billing, Coding, and Insurance
      • Schedule Appointments and Health Information Management
  • Amount of time to complete the AAMA CMA® test: 2 hours 40 minutes (split into four 40-minute segments)
  • Eligibility requirements:
    • Category 1: Graduated or soon to graduate from a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited medical assisting program (within 12 months of graduating)
    • Category 2: Nonrecent graduate of a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited medical assisting program (more than 12 months since graduating)
    • Category 3: Previously passed the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam and is applying to recertify the CMA (AAMA) credential

Top three studying mistakes when using an AAMA CMA Study Guide: The Fixations

  • Commencing Preparation Too Late

Initiating your studies with ample time is crucial when it comes to these comprehensive tests that encompass a wide range of topics. Failing to begin early enough will result in unnecessary pressure to rush through the materials, hindering effective learning and potentially leading to exhaustion and burnout.

  • Insufficient Utilization of Reliable Resources

The choice of study resources holds equal importance to the study method itself. If you rely on outdated, inaccurate, or insufficient materials, you jeopardize wasting valuable time and effort, or worse, facing failure. It is imperative to select up-to-date, relevant, and comprehensive resources to ensure success.

  • Tackling the Challenge Alone

Preparing for a significant test is inherently challenging and overwhelming. However, having support from both peers and knowledgeable tutors significantly enhances your chances of success. They can provide invaluable guidance, direction, and assistance when you encounter difficulties. It is critical to have a support network that is readily available to aid you throughout the process.


How to prepare for the test with an AAMA CMA Study Guide (the right way)

  • Begin Preparation Early

To adequately prepare for your certification test, it is recommended to allocate 1-3 months, depending on your familiarity with the material. We advise conducting some preliminary preparation before scheduling your test, allowing you to gauge the challenge ahead. Avoid booking the test too soon, ensuring you have ample time for comprehensive preparation. When uncertain, it’s always advantageous to initiate your studies earlier rather than later, granting yourself more time for a thorough review.

  • Establish a Study Schedule

Devote specific time slots each day for studying towards your certification test. Create a routine that outlines when and for how long you will engage in study sessions. By adhering to a schedule, you cultivate accountability and ensure consistent progress. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail! Incorporate breaks within your schedule to prevent burnout. For instance, take a walk, engage in exercise, or reward yourself with a brief internet browse after a 90-minute study session before returning to another 90-minute session. Most individuals find that studying for more than 3-4 hours per day diminishes effectiveness. The duration of your daily study sessions will depend on your availability and the timeframe allotted for studying. Prioritizing your physical and mental well-being aids in maintaining focus and performing optimally during the test.

Additionally, create a day-by-day study schedule. At Smarter MA, we have devised a study schedule that ensures comprehensive coverage of content within the appropriate timeframe. Following this schedule will help you progress through the material effectively and avoid missing essential topics. You can access the Smarter MA study schedule here. It is also crucial to establish a conducive study environment, preferably a quiet space with minimal distractions, to facilitate focused work.

  • Assess Strengths and Weaknesses

CMA practice tests are invaluable tools for exam preparation. While reading textbooks or using flashcards may provide a false sense of understanding, practice questions help identify areas of strength and weakness. By utilizing practice questions, you can pinpoint the areas that require improvement, enabling you to concentrate your study efforts effectively. Ensure you revisit and review the questions you struggled with to reinforce your understanding.

  • Leverage Study Resources and Stay Organized

Smarter MA offers a comprehensive question bank and practice tests to support your preparation. With access to over 1,000 high-yield questions, you can practice and enhance your knowledge. Our materials are regularly updated, ensuring relevance and facilitating effortless learning. The question tagging feature assists in staying organized, preventing overwhelm. By frequently reviewing tagged questions, you can transform unfamiliar content into familiar knowledge. Smarter MA provides all the necessary resources to help you succeed in your certification test, focusing solely on what is essential.

Moreover, we proudly offer a 100% pass guarantee or your money back. In the event you do not pass your test, we provide additional free access to the program or a full refund. To get started, we even offer a free CMA practice test accompanied by detailed explanations, allowing you to begin your preparation without any cost.

Your Toughest Challange

Endurance proves to be the most challenging aspect of a test like this. It resembles a marathon rather than a sprint. Unlike typical tests that can be adequately prepared for in a month, most individuals require 1-3 months of dedicated study. Fatigue and burnout are real concerns, especially when progress feels stagnant or when grappling with challenging material.

If you find yourself struggling, it is crucial to seek assistance.

Do not hesitate to reach out to your classmates, teachers, friends, and study resources for support. At Smarter MA, we are here to help. If you have any questions regarding test content or need study advice, simply click on the chat icon located at the bottom right of the screen. We are readily available to provide guidance and support throughout your preparation journey.

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 the CMA Exam is Scored?

The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam is not only a significant milestone but also a gateway to advancing your career in the medical field. To fully comprehend your performance on the exam, it’s essential to understand how the scoring process works and what it entails.

Your CMA exam score is determined by the number of correct responses you provide during the examination. This score will fall within a range of 200-800. However, it’s important to note that the minimum score required to pass the CMA exam is 405. Achieving this threshold demonstrates your proficiency and eligibility for certification.

Upon completing the exam, you will receive an official pass/fail notification. While this notification is significant, it does not serve as a certification verification. If you have fulfilled all the necessary application requirements, you can anticipate receiving your official examination score result by mail within three weeks following the exam.

The exam report you receive will not only provide your overall score but also include your percentile rank in each of the three content areas. This breakdown offers valuable insights into your strengths and weaknesses, aiding you in identifying areas that may require further attention.

Upon successfully passing the exam and receiving the official notification, you will be awarded the prestigious CMA (AAMA) credential, validating your expertise and knowledge as a Certified Medical Assistant.

Embarking on the journey to become a certified medical assistant is an investment in your professional growth, and understanding the scoring process of the CMA exam ensures you have a comprehensive grasp of your performance and the path ahead.

How to apply for the AAMA CMA®

You can apply for the AAMA CMA® through the American Association of Medical Assistant’s website.


How many questions are on the CMA exam?

The CMA exam consists of a total of 200 questions. These questions cover a wide range of topics and are designed to assess your knowledge, skills, and abilities as a medical assistant. By successfully answering these 200 questions, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your proficiency and eligibility for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential.

How long is the CMA exam?

The CMA exam has a duration of 160 minutes, equivalent to slightly over 2.5 hours. During this time, test-takers are required to complete the 200 questions that encompass a wide range of topics relevant to medical assisting. It is essential to manage time effectively and efficiently allocate it to each question to ensure thoroughness and accuracy in responses. Being mindful of the time limit allows candidates to navigate the exam confidently and maximize their potential for success in obtaining the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential.

What is a passing score for the CMA exam?

The passing score for the CMA exam is 405. Achieving this score demonstrates proficiency and ensures eligibility for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential. Candidates who attain this threshold showcase their knowledge, skills, and abilities in the medical assisting field.

What is the AAMA?

The AAMA stands for the American Association of Medical Assistants. It is a professional organization that represents medical assistants and promotes their professional development. The AAMA plays a crucial role in setting standards, providing resources, and advocating for the medical assisting profession.

Who is eligible to take the Certified Medical Assistant exam?

Individuals who have completed a medical assisting program accredited by the CAAHEP or ABHES are eligible to take the Certified Medical Assistant exam. Additionally, those who have completed specific military medical training programs or possess relevant work experience may also qualify for eligibility.

What options are available for medical assistant certification?

Medical assistants have various certification options available, including the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential offered by the AAMA, the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification, and the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) certification, among others. Each certification has its own requirements and benefits, allowing medical assistants to choose the one that best aligns with their career goals.

How difficult Is the exam?

The difficulty level of the CMA exam can vary depending on individual preparedness and familiarity with the material. It covers a broad range of topics, requiring comprehensive knowledge and understanding. Adequate preparation, study resources, and practice exams are essential to succeed. While the exam poses a challenge, diligent study, commitment, and utilizing available resources can help candidates navigate the test effectively and increase their chances of achieving a passing score.

What are the differences between NHA CMA exam and AAMA CCMA exam?

1. Certifying Authority:

NHA CMA Exam: Administered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

AAMA CCMA Exam: Offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

2. Exam Content:

Both exams cover essential areas for medical assistants, including clinical and administrative tasks, patient care, and general medical knowledge.

The specific content and emphasis on certain topics may vary between the two exams.

3. Number and Type of Questions:

The number of questions and the format may differ. Some exams might include multiple-choice questions, while others could have practical components like simulations. You can check out the NHA CMA exam question samples in the practice questions.

4. Eligibility Requirements:

Eligibility criteria for candidates might vary between the NHA CMA and AAMA CCMA exams.

5. Passing Score:

Passing scores may differ for each exam, and they are determined by the certifying body.

6. Recertification Requirements:

The requirements for maintaining and renewing certification could vary between the NHA and AAMA certifications.


Preparing for the CMA certification test can be a challenging journey, but with the right preparation tools and study habits, you can pass your test. Using an AAMA CMA Study Guide like this one to stay on track 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 AAMA CMA® practice test today!

Smarter MA is your secret weapon to pass the AAMA CMA® the first time.

Smarter MA is your secret weapon to pass the AAMA CMA® 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.