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Smarter MA | The #1 Prep Tool for the NCCT NCMA®

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

This free NCCT NCMA study guide is going to teach you everything you need to study for and pass the NCMA 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 NCCT NCMA®?

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. What is the significance of getting certified as a medical assistant? Why should I pursue certification?
  2. What are the different options available for certification?
  3. Avoiding common studying mistakes with an NCCT NCMA study guide (and how to overcome them)
  4. Effective Preparation for the NCCT NCMA® Test Using an NCCT NCMA Study Guide
  5. Overcoming Challenges: What You May Struggle with the Most
  6. Conclusion

What is the significance of getting certified as a medical assistant? Why should I pursue certification?

A medical assistant certification test evaluates the knowledge of individuals aspiring to become certified medical assistants. Successfully passing this test leads to the attainment of a medical assistant certification, similar to the MD certification obtained by physicians.

Becoming certified as a medical assistant paves the way for various career opportunities within the medical field. The certification serves as evidence to employers that you possess the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities required to excel in the role. It also signifies your dedication to professional growth and pursuit of excellence.

By obtaining certification, you enhance your competitiveness in the job market and gain access to higher wages and improved benefits. Ultimately, certification instills confidence in your abilities and grants you the recognition necessary to thrive in your medical assistant career.

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

The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) NCMA®

  • Format of the NCCT NCMA® test:

    • Multiple choice (90-95%)
    • Alternative item types like drag-and-drop, select all that apply, select the hot-spot on an image (5-10%)
  • Number of questions: 165 (150 scored, 15 are pretest and not scored)
  • Topics:
    • Pharmacology (14%)
    • Clinical Medical Procedures (18%)

      • Infection, Exposure Control, and Safety
      • Patient Care
    • Phlebotomy (14%)
    • Diagnostic Tests (12%)
      • EKG Placement, Recording, Troubleshooting
      • Point of Care Tests
      • Chain of Custody
      • Collection of Specimens
      • Patient Instructions
    • General Office Procedures (14%)

      • Communication
      • Medical Office Computer Applications
      • Scheduling
      • Medical Records

    • Medical Office Management (17%)
      • Medical Office General Management
      • Office Financial Management, Billing, Insurance
    • Law and Ethics (11%)
      • Communication
      • Medical Office Computer Applications
      • Scheduling
      • Medical Records
    • The NCCT also provides an additional Essential Knowledge Base, which can be used as a compliment to the Topic Outline above:
      • Medical law and ethics
      • Sterilization techniques
      • Patient assessment and vital signs
      • Specialty examination preparation and assistance (e.g., eye, ear, pediatric, geriatric, reproductive, G/U, ECG)
      • Minor procedure assistance (e.g., surgical)
      • Infection control (e.g., PPE, Biomedical Waste Handling)
      • Anatomy, Physiology, Pathophysiology, and Disorders
      • Preanalytical errors (e.g., hemolysis, hemoconcentration, air in the cuevette)
      • Specimen collecting, handling, and transporting (e.g., blood, urine, cultures)
      • Venipuncture techniques
      • Patient education
      • Quality assurance
      • Patient safety and first aid
      • Healthcare regulation (e.g., OSHA, CLIA, CDC, HIPAA, Patient’s Bill of Rights)
      • Chain of custody
      • Customer service, complaint resolution, (e.g., deescalation technique)
      • Medical equipment quality control, operation, and maintenance
      • Medical history
      • Pharmacology (e.g., administration, interactions, dosages, properties)
      • Medical practice software
      • Administrative procedures (e.g., registration, payment, insurance, financial, mail processing)
      • Emergency preparedness
      • Medical terminology/abbreviations
      • Therapeutic modalities (e.g., wound care, suture removal, crutch training, splinting, bandaging)
  • Amount of time to complete the NCCT NCMA® test: 3 hours
  • Eligibility requirements:

    • Category 1: Student – Current student in a medical assistant program from an NCCT (authorized) school
    • Category 2: Graduate – Graduated from a medical assistant program from an NCCT (authorized) school, within the past 5 years
    • Category 3: Experience – Two years of verifiable full-time experience as a Medical Assistant practitioner within the past five years
    • Category 4: Military – Medical assistant raining during U.S. Military service within the past five years

Avoiding common studying mistakes with an NCCT NCMA study guide (and how to overcome them)

1. Insufficient time management

One of the most common mistakes is not initiating the studying process early enough. Given the extensive range of topics covered in these tests, acquiring the necessary knowledge and understanding takes time. By procrastinating, you risk subjecting yourself to unnecessary pressure and the need to rush through the materials. This can lead to ineffective learning, exhaustion, and burnout. To address this, it is crucial to start studying early, allowing for a more paced and comprehensive approach.

2. Inadequate study resources

The choice of study resources significantly impacts the effectiveness of your preparation. Utilizing outdated, inaccurate, or insufficient study materials sets you up for wasted time and effort, or worse, failure. It is imperative to select up-to-date, relevant, and comprehensive resources that align with the exam requirements. This ensures that you cover the necessary content and acquire the appropriate knowledge to succeed.

3. Lack of support

Preparing for a significant test can be challenging and overwhelming, regardless of the circumstances. However, having support from peers and knowledgeable tutors can greatly enhance your chances of success. They can provide valuable guidance, direction, and assistance when you encounter difficulties. It is critical to surround yourself with individuals who are available to support you throughout your preparation journey.

4. Procrastination

Not starting early enough with your studies can lead to unnecessary pressure and cramming. Start your preparation well in advance to allow for a thorough understanding of the material and effective learning.

5. Neglecting practice tests

Avoid the mistake of solely relying on reading textbooks or flashcards. Practice tests are invaluable in assessing your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to focus your efforts on areas that require improvement. Regularly review and revisit challenging questions to reinforce your understanding.

Effective preparation for the NCCT NCMA® test using an NCCT NCMA study guide

  1. Commence preparation early

To adequately prepare for the NCCT NCMA® test, it is recommended to allow yourself 1-3 months, depending on your background and familiarity with the material. It is advisable to engage in initial preparation before scheduling the test, ensuring you understand the requirements. Avoid booking the test too hastily, as it may limit the time available for preparation. When in doubt, starting early is always beneficial, providing you with ample time for thorough preparation.

   2. Understand the exam content

To effectively prepare for the NCCT NCMA® exam, it is essential to understand the content that will be assessed. This involves familiarizing yourself with the exam’s content outline and objectives. The content outline provides an overview of the topics and subtopics that will be covered, giving you a roadmap for your preparation. Take the time to review each topic and identify the key concepts and areas of focus. By understanding the content outline, you can prioritize your study efforts and allocate more time to areas that require additional attention.

Utilizing the NCCT NCMA Study Guide is crucial in this step. The study guide is designed to cover all the essential topics and content areas of the exam, providing you with comprehensive study material. Ensure that the study guide aligns with the content outline and covers the necessary material. Dive deep into the concepts and principles behind each topic, aiming for a solid conceptual understanding rather than mere memorization. This understanding will enable you to apply your knowledge effectively during the exam.

Additionally, make use of additional resources such as textbooks, online references, and practice questions to enhance your understanding of the exam content. By investing time and effort in understanding the exam’s content, you will be better equipped to tackle the questions and demonstrate your knowledge and skills during the NCCT NCMA® exam.

   3. Develop a study schedule

Establish a structured study schedule by allocating specific times each day dedicated to studying for the certification test. Create a routine that outlines when and for how long you will study daily. By adhering to a set schedule, you hold yourself accountable and ensure consistent progress. Remember, failure to plan is planning to fail! Incorporate breaks into your schedule to prevent burnout. For instance, take a walk, exercise, or reward yourself with internet browsing after a 90-minute study session before returning for another 90 minutes of focused studying. Most people find that studying beyond 3-4 hours per day becomes less effective. Adapt the duration based on your personal schedule and the number of weeks or months you allocate for studying. Prioritizing your physical and mental well-being is crucial for maintaining focus and performing optimally during the test. Additionally, find a conducive study environment with minimal distractions to facilitate focused work.

    4. Identify strengths and weaknesses

Practice tests specifically designed for the NCMA exam are invaluable resources for effective preparation. Merely reading textbooks or using flashcards can deceive you into believing you know the material thoroughly. By utilizing practice questions, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. This insight enables you to concentrate your study efforts on areas requiring improvement. Make sure to review and revisit questions that pose challenges to reinforce understanding.

   5. Utilize study resources and maintain organization

Leverage the study resources provided by Smarter MA, which includes access to a comprehensive question bank and practice tests. Smarter MA offers over 1,000 high-yield questions that enhance learning and are regularly updated. The platform also features question tagging, allowing you to stay organized and prevent overwhelming study sessions. Frequently review questions you find challenging, using the tagged questions feature to transition from unfamiliar content to mastered content.

Smarter MA encompasses all the necessary tools to help you succeed in passing your certification test while avoiding unnecessary material. Moreover, they offer a 100% pass guarantee or your money back. In addition, you can get started with a free NCMA practice test that provides detailed explanations.

   6. Practice with sample questions

Practicing with sample questions is a crucial step in preparing for the NCCT NCMA® exam. It allows you to familiarize yourself with the exam format, question types, and the level of difficulty you can expect. By engaging in regular practice, you can enhance your test-taking skills and build confidence in your knowledge.

Sample questions provide a valuable opportunity to apply the concepts and principles you have learned in a simulated exam environment. They allow you to assess your understanding, identify areas of weakness, and focus your study efforts accordingly. Additionally, practicing with sample questions helps improve your time management skills, enabling you to become more efficient in answering questions within the allotted timeframe.

When practicing, pay attention to the explanations and rationales provided for each question. This will help deepen your understanding of the correct answers and clarify any misconceptions you may have. Seek out a variety of sample questions, including those specifically designed for the NCCT NCMA® exam, to ensure comprehensive coverage of the exam content.

Make it a habit to incorporate regular practice sessions into your study routine. This will not only improve your knowledge and skills but also boost your confidence as you become more familiar with the exam format and the types of questions you may encounter.

Overcoming challenges: what you may struggle with the most

The greatest challenge in a test like this is endurance. It’s crucial to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Unlike typical exams that can be prepared for in a month, the NCCT NCMA® test requires most individuals to study for 1-3 months. Fatigue and burnout are genuine risks, particularly if you feel stagnant or find certain material challenging.

If you encounter struggles, it is essential to seek help.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance from classmates, teachers, friends, and study resources.

For instance, at Smarter MA, we are here to support you. If you have any questions regarding test content or need study advice, simply click the chat icon in the bottom right corner of the screen to connect with us!

Studying for the test alone can also be difficult. Therefore, it is important to join a study community. The subreddit Medical Assistant Path serves as an excellent platform to gain advice and receive support from fellow medical assistants who are also preparing for the test.

How to apply for the NCCT NCMA®

You can apply for the NCCT NCMA® through the National Center for Competency Testing’s website.


How long is the NCCT NCMA exam?

The NCCT NCMA exam typically has a duration of 3 hours. During this time, you will be tested on various aspects of medical assisting, assessing your knowledge and skills in the field. It is crucial to manage your time effectively during the exam to ensure you can answer all the questions within the given timeframe. Adequate preparation, including familiarizing yourself with the exam format and practicing time management techniques, can help you navigate the exam successfully and maximize your performance within the allocated three-hour window.

What is the passing score for the NCCT NCMA exam?

The passing score for the NCCT NCMA exam is generally set at a minimum of 70. To achieve certification, it is crucial to earn a score that meets or exceeds this threshold. The exam evaluates your knowledge, skills, and understanding of various aspects of medical assisting. Adequate preparation, including thorough studying of the exam content and practice with sample questions, can help increase your chances of achieving the required passing score. It is important to familiarize yourself with the specific scoring criteria and guidelines provided by the NCCT to ensure you are adequately prepared to meet the passing score requirement.

How much does the NCCT NCMA exam cost?

The cost of the NCCT NCMA exam is typically around 119 USD. This fee covers the administration and processing of the exam. It is important to note that exam fees can vary over time, so it is advisable to check the most up-to-date information from the official NCCT website or contact the NCCT directly for the current exam cost. It is also worth considering any additional expenses that may be associated with exam preparation, such as study materials or practice resources, to ensure comprehensive readiness for the exam.

Am I eligible to take the NCCT medical assistant exam?

To determine your eligibility to take the NCCT Medical Assistant exam, certain requirements must be met. Typically, candidates must have completed a medical assistant training program or have equivalent work experience in the field. Eligibility criteria may include a minimum education level, such as a high school diploma or GED. Additionally, some states may have specific regulations or prerequisites for medical assistant certification. It is important to review the eligibility requirements outlined by the NCCT and consult their official website or contact their support team to ensure you meet the necessary qualifications before scheduling the exam.


Preparing for the NCMA certification test can be a challenging journey, but with the right preparation tools and study habits, you can pass your test.  Using an NCCT NCMA 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 NCCT NCMA® practice test today! You can also check out the practice questions on NHA CCMA exam.

Smarter MA is your secret weapon to pass the NCCT NCMA® 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.