6 Steps to Prep Your Students for the NHA CCMA Exam

Preparing your students for the NHA CCMA exam is an equally exciting and daunting task. You want your students to pass the exam and move on to their careers as medical assistants, but that’s easier said than done!

Even though hundreds of students pass the test every year, many teachers have a tough time finding the most effective way to teach course material and prepare students for the exam.

So where can you start?

On this page, we’ll walk you through six key steps to get your students ready for the NHA CCMA exam and their future careers as medical assistants!

We’ll start with one of the most important steps first -- knowing the ins-and-outs of the exam.

1. Get to Know the NHA CCMA Exam

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The NHA CCMA exam is designed to measure your students’ knowledge in seven key domains of healthcare.

These domains are:

  • Foundational Knowledge and Basic Science
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Clinical Patient Care
  • Patient Care Coordination and Education
  • Administrative Assisting
  • Communication and Customer Service
  • Medical Law and Ethics

Each domain accounts for a certain percentage of the CCMA exam with different test items for each.

In total, the CCMA exam is made up of 150 scored test questions, plus 30 pretest questions that the NHA uses to gather data.

To learn the specifics of the domains, subtopics, and question breakdown, read this article: What Is the NHA CCMA Exam?

By learning the details of what’s on the exam you are setting yourself up to make step two much easier.

2. Choose Your Main Instructional Resource

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There are many instructional resources out there to teach medical assisting skills and knowledge. With so many options, it can be tough to decide what is right for you and your students.

You may be tempted to run straight for the test prep materials, but those resources can only go so far in your classroom.

While they are excellent tools to measure student knowledge of the test itself, they don’t actually help you teach the material (not to mention the fact that no teacher wants to “teach to the test).

To set your students up for success on the CCMA exam, it’s smart to start with a strong foundational curriculum.

The best option will be a medical assistant curriculum that aligns to the test and includes other crucial healthcare concepts and skills.

After all, your students will need to know more than just what’s on the test for a successful career!

One common choice is to use a medical assisting textbook. Textbooks are excellent instructional tools, and they can be a great way to build your curriculum.

However, the biggest downside of using a textbook for exam prep is the fact that it can become quickly outdated. The healthcare industry is always changing, and the NHA updates its certification exams to keep up.  

If you use a textbook, you’ll need to frequently purchase new ones (which can get expensive) in order to keep your curriculum up to date with the industry and certification exam.

Because of this inconvenience, many health science instructors have switched to creating their own curriculum. By doing this, you have complete control over the content in your lessons and you can keep the cost of instructional materials pretty low.

However, while the investment of money will be lower, the investment of your time will skyrocket.

Creating your curriculum from scratch takes a lot of late nights and summer days to get everything ready for the school year. Plus, you’ll need to rework your curriculum every time a standard changes!

That’s why so many medical assisting teachers have opted to use a digital curriculum system as their main instructional resource.

Digital curriculum is a great option for teachers who need to teach foundational skills and prepare students for certification exams.

That’s because it was designed to stay up-to-date with industry standards and certification exams through simple and free updates.

That means your students receive the most relevant information for the CCMA exam without you redoing your curriculum or shelling out for the latest textbooks.

Best of all, it works perfectly with the supplemental resources you choose in step three!

3. Supplement Your Lessons with Other Resources

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Even with a strong foundational medical assisting curriculum, it’s smart to incorporate other materials to prepare your students for success on the NHA CCMA exam.

Some common supplemental resources include test prep materials and online study tools.

Let’s start with test prep materials.

Test Prep Materials for the NHA CCMA Exam

The NHA provides a number of different materials for students to purchase in order to prepare for the CCMA exam. These include:

  • An online practice test
  • An online study guide
  • A study guide + practice test package
  • A printed study guide

These resources are specifically tailored to ensure your students are ready for exam day.

However, these materials must be purchased by individual students, and that quickly gets expensive. Because of the costs involved, it might not be the best choice for a classroom resource.

You could create your own practice exams for classroom use to avoid that expense. It will take quite a bit of time and effort, but your students will appreciate the money they can save because of your hard work.

Online Study Tools for CCMA Prep

Along with traditional test prep materials, there are many online resources that can help your students prepare for the CCMA exam!

One option many health science instructors talk about is Quizlet. With a quick search you’ll find a number of flashcard sets for the NHA CCMA exam.

Here’s just a few of them:

One thing to keep in mind when using free resources like these is that they are not monitored for accuracy or cheating. In addition, they will become outdated if the test changes.

If you decide to use this type of resource for test prep, it’s smart to review them for accuracy against the most current information you have.

This will take extra time up front, but it’s worthwhile to ensure students are studying the right material!

So now that you’ve chosen your instructional materials, it’s time to plan your syllabus.

4. Plan Your Course Syllabus

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When preparing your students for the NHA CCMA certification, planning is key.

By planning ahead of time, you can be sure every bit of class time is effective and helps students reach their goal.

When creating your syllabus, we recommend following this structure:

  • Introduce key concepts
  • Students work independently through lessons
  • Have students practice hands-on skills
  • Have students take practice exams mid-semester
  • Review pre-test outcomes to spot knowledge gaps
  • Remediate weak areas with customized review

It’s important to note that the first three segments should be repeated for each topic or unit you are teaching. When creating your syllabus, you’ll include these pieces multiple times during the semester.

Introduce Key Concepts

It’s always smart to begin each lesson by introducing the key concepts that students will be learning.

Many teachers find it’s effective to use a presentation and lecture about the information. It’s also important to encourage students to ask questions and take notes during this time.

Students Work Independently

After you’ve finished introducing the skills and concepts, have students work independently to learn further. Depending on your instructional materials, you have a few options.

If you are mainly using a textbook, have students go through the book to take notes or even fill out a worksheet you provided.

If you chose a digital curriculum system, this is the perfect time to have students work through the digital lessons!

Students Practice Hands-On Skills

Once students have learned the background knowledge and concepts, it’s time to introduce the related hands-on skills.

It’s a good idea to first demonstrate each skill for the class, then have students work in small groups while you walk around giving praise and suggestions as necessary.

Have Students Take Practice Exams Mid-Semester

After you’re well into the semester, it’s a great idea to give your students a practice exam so you can gauge how ready they are for the CCMA exam. In addition, practice exams help you successfully complete the last few steps!

Review Student Outcomes to Spot Knowledge Gaps

When students take practice exams, you’ll be able to look at them to determine how prepared they are for the CCMA exam Look for trends in the types of questions or topics that most students had a hard time understanding. This will give you some direction for reinforcing those areas!

Reinforce Weak Areas with Customized Review

Reinforcement and remediation are critical components to setting your students up for success on the CCMA exam. Some common strategies include individualized tutoring, small group review, and even re-teaching previous lessons.

Overall, the amount of time you spend structuring your syllabus will help you and your students keep the end goal in mind: getting ready for test day!

5. Go Over What Students Should Expect on Test Day

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As test day approaches, it’s smart to walk them through the logistics of how test day will work.

Dedicate a small portion of class time the week before hand to give your students an overview of details such as:

  • How many questions there are (150 scored items & 30 pre-test questions)
  • How much time they have to complete the exam (3 hours)
  • When they will get their results (NHA will post them online within 2 days)

By answering your students’ most pressing questions about how the exam works, you’ll take some of the last-minute stress off of their shoulders for the exam!

6. Wish Your Students Good Luck!

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When your students are gearing up for test day, the most important thing you can do is offer words of encouragement.

You’ve spent the semester teaching, assessing, and reviewing and now it’s up to them to apply their knowledge.

While it may seem small, sometimes a boost of confidence is all a student needs before heading out to take the NHA CCMA exam!

Prepare Your Students for the NHA CCMA Certification Exam

Preparing your students for the CCMA exam can overwhelm even the most experienced health science instructor.

Even if you follow all of the steps, it can still feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.

That’s why we’ve created an NHA CCMA Certification Success Guide!

Download the guide to spend less time worrying and more time helping your students succeed!

Download the National Health Science Assessment Guide