Are you completing a program in medical assisting, either online or at a traditional college campus? If so, you probably plan to become certified as a medical assistant when you complete your training.
Since you want to nail the exam the first time around, you’re probably curious about the best studying methods and study guides you can utilize for the test. That’s why, in this article, we’ll explore some of the different ways to study for the exam and even provide suggestions for study guides you can use, as well.
Medical Assistant Certification
Some students are tempted to skip the certification process, but this is not a wise idea. There’s no reason you can’t ace the exam if you do well in your training classes. If you’re well prepared, even if you typically get a little nervous during exams, you’ll do fine and won’t miss this vital step on the road to becoming a professional medical assistant.
There are a lot of compelling reasons to take the certified medical assistant exam:
You’ve already been working as a medical assistant with on-the-job training and your employer wants you to become certified (this is common as certification can sometimes—depending on who is conducting the research—be connected with lower malpractice issues with medical assistants). You may also want to move to another job and need certification after not having it previously.
Certification may be a non-negotiable requirement for MA jobs you wish to pursue out of school.
You can compete better on the job market when you hold credentials like certification.
Certification (or registration, see below) means you meet national standards to practice as a medical assistant. This makes it much easier to move from one state to another and change jobs.
Often, the highest paying jobs give preference to candidates that are certified.
You’ll have more confidence early in your career with patients, knowing you’ve passed your certification exam.
Certification is good from the patient’s point of view too. If you were a patient coming to a clinic where you worked, wouldn’t you feel better knowing the person working with your physician was held to the gold standards for patient care?
There are currently four bodies that test for medical assistant certification:
- American Medical Technologists (AMT): registration for both clinical and administrative medical assistants.
- National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT): national certification for both clinical and administrative MAs.
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA): certification for clinical medical assistants only.
- American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA): certification for both clinical and administrative MAs.
If your training program or employer doesn’t track you to enroll with one of them, take a look at each of them online to see which ones you qualify for. Then look at jobs in your area and talk to working medical assistants to see which option is best for you.
There are also medical assistant chat boards on the Internet that address the ins and outs of various testing entities. Many medical assistants feel the AAMA certification is the most common, and many study guides (see below) are geared towards passing this exam.
Free Ways to Study for the CMA Exam
You don’t have to pay money to study for the Certified Medical Assistant exam if it’s not in your budget, but you’ll have to make sure your class notes and study methods are top flight if you’re going it on your own.
The oldest method of test studying still works if you’re a solid note taker, never miss class, and do well on your material throughout your training. Rather than just reading through your notes, however, you should try to predict what types of questions will be on your certification exam.
It’s easy to page through the material, thinking you know it, but when faced with multiple choice options or a blank to fill in, you may be stuck for an answer. Therefore, it’s smart to make your own flashcards for hard-to-memorize data, and create your own mock questions with hidden answers.
To make this process even more challenging, consider forming a study group with other members of your class.
Your school may provide you with a study manual or outline for the CMA exam too. It’s worth asking your instructor for help, even if certification exam study isn’t a formal part of the curriculum or tuition expense. An instructor at an accredited school knows which parts of your coursework to focus on and can probably suggest areas of the test that might be a bit tricky.
Did you know that some of the organizations that provide certification also have free study materials on their websites? The American Association of Medical Assistants, for example, offers anatomy and physiology questions and medical terminology questions to test your knowledge. They also provide a content outline for the exam, so you can be certain to cover everything that’s on the test.
CMA Exam Study Methods That Cost Money
There are low-cost apps available online today for tablets and smartphones, so you can study economically for your medical assistant certification on the go and save some labor in constructing study materials.
These apps, like CMA Test Prep by iMobiApp, offer both study and test modes, so you can both review material and try practice questions. You can simulate the exam, answer questions under a time restriction, and keep track of your performance as you study.
You can also sign up for a review class through a medical assisting program near you or through your local chapter of the AAMA. This costs more than a mobile app, but it may be worth it if you struggled with some of your course material, missed some classes, or tend to just freak out on exams.
CMA Exam Study Guides
Another way to ensure you cover all the material that will be on the exam is to purchase a study guide for the test. These guides give an overview of exam content, help you review material by section, and usually have a few practice tests you can take, as well. The best ones give the rationales behind all correct answers and offer mnemonics (memory tricks) to help you memorize lists and sequences.
Just what exactly is on the exam? Here’s a breakdown of different categories included on the test, which includes general questions as well as clinical and administrative medical assisting questions:
- anatomy and physiology questions
- patient examination questions
- phlebotomy questions
- diagnostic testing questions
- medical office management and general office procedures questions
- medical procedures questions
- medical terminology questions
- pharmacology questions
- bookkeeping questions
- insurance processing questions
The first eight topics make up about 10 to 12 percent of the test each, with the last two topics only taking less than five percent each.
Some of the top rated study guides by medical assistants include:
- Medical Assistant Exam Success by Kris Hardy, CMA
- Lippincott Williams & Wilkins’s Medical Assisting Exam Review for CMA, RMA & CMAS Certification (Medical Assisting Exam Review for CMA and RMA Certification) Third Edition
- Kaplan Medical’s Medical Assistant Exam Review
- J.P. Cody’s Comprehensive Medical Assisting Exam Review
Each of these study guides is formatted somewhat differently, but all offer good coverage of the medical assisting curriculum and come recommended by medical assistants who used them to pass their exams.
In selecting a guide, think about how you like to study, what your weakest areas are, and where you want to focus your attention. There is really no one guide that’s best for everyone, but there is sure to be a guide that’s best for you.
Simulated exams are one of the best ways to complete your preparation for the exam, once you have finished studying for it. A simulation exam should be just like the real thing, as much as possible, with timed questions, questions from all content areas, and answer keys (or online scoring) so you can see how you did.
In addition to the simulated exams on the apps mentioned above, there are a few other places to find simulation exams for your certification. Tests.com offers one free 40-question practice test and the opportunity to take more tests if you like later by purchasing their Medical Assistant Practice Exam Kit. This kit covers material found on two certification tests and the registration test for medical assistants.
MedPreps practice tests are another source of simulated exams. You can take tests online any time of day or night, and they offer a 100 percent guarantee of passing your test.
CMATestPrep.com by Exam Edge lets you try out a practice test for free and then purchase more as needed. With each test comes a review guide that explains every correct answer.
Don’t let the prospect of an exam deter you from getting the credentials you need to work as a medical assistant. By putting as much effort into studying for your exam as you did into your coursework, you’ll pass the exam with flying colors and move into the career you’ve been dreaming of.
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