Even though there is no legal mandate that requires medical assistants to be certified or licensed, most employers prefer to hire medical assistants who are certified. Take for instance the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which only requests the services of certified medical assistants to work in their medical centers. Moreover, there are some state laws that obligate medical assistants who specialize in certain areas such as drawing blood or x-rays to be certified.
To become a certified medical assistant, you must pass the CMA exam. But what is the CMA exam? How does it work?
The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam is an evaluation test regulated by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) to provide medical assistants with an opportunity to become certified. The CMA credential is one of the most recognized medical assistant certification in the United States.
What is The Eligibility Criteria?
For you to sit for the CMA exam, you must meet the following criteria:
- Complete a medical assistant program- Candidates must graduate from an accredited medical assistant training program endorsed by either the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If you’re a completing student, you cannot sit for the test more than 30 days before completing your medical assistant course. Otherwise, if you’re a recent graduate, you have a timespan of 12 months to sit for the CMA exam.
- Non-recent graduate- If you graduated more than 12 months ago, then you will be considered a non-recent graduate and still eligible to sit for the CMA exam. As long as you did an ABHES or CAAHEP accredited program.
- Seeking recertification- Since CMA credentials ought to be renewed after every 5 years, medical assistants who previously passed the CMA exams are allowed to apply on their quest to re-certify.
However, the following circumstances may cause any candidate to not be eligible for the CMA exam:
- The candidate pleaded guilty or was found guilty of a felony.
- The candidate failed the CMA exam after 3 attempts (only applies after January 1, 2010).
- The candidate’s professional registration, license or certificate was revoked, denied, suspended or limited by a certification board or regulatory authority.
What is the CMA Exam Format?
The certified medical assistant exam comprises of 200 questions which you must complete for no longer than 3 hours and 15 minutes. Unlike a traditional exam, a CMA exam is done on a computer software but before the exam, candidates will be given a brief tutorial on how to use it. The scope of the questions will be divided into 3 section; general, administrative and clinical.
The general category of the CMA exam includes 50 questions that deal with communication, psychology, medical ethics, professionalism, medical terminology, risk management, and medical law. On the other hand, the administrative category of the exam will have you answers 45 questions that involve scheduling appointments, medical business practices, patient medical safekeeping, finances, patient navigator and medical reception.
As you progress further, the clinical part of the test constitutes 85 questions that cover pharmacology, nutrition, infection control, emergency management, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic testing, patient intake, collection/processing specimens, and patient preparation.
Although the question segments can change annually, the objectives and principles of the certified medical exam will still remain the same nevertheless.
What Is The Passing Score?
To pass the certified medical assistant exam, you must score 430 points and above. A detailed grade report will be sent to your mail address at least 3 weeks after sitting for the CMA exam. Alternatively, you can check for updates on the AAMA website if you registered online.
Those who ace the CMA exam will receive an official certification when the score report is sent to their mail address. However, if you were unfortunate to get a ‘fail’ on your report, you will still have 2 more chances to retake the test.
How Much Does It Cost?
If you’re a member of the AAMA or graduated from an ABHES or CAAHEP approved program, it will cost you a processing fee of $125 to register for the certified medical assistant exam. Additionally, if you’re a non-member of the AAMA, you’re required to pay $250. For those who previously passed the CMA exam but the certificate expired, they will only need to pay $50 reactivation fee.
How Do You Apply?
The easiest way to apply for the certified medical assistant exam is to do it online through the AAMA website. The other option is sending them, an application via mail. Once your application has been processed, you will be given a chance to determine when you want to sit for the exam within a 90 day window period. Moreover, since the CMA exam is done at Prometric testing centers, you can choose the time of the day (morning or afternoon) you want to sit for the test at your convenience.