6 Steps to Prep Your Students for the NHA CMAA Exam

Preparing students for the NHA CMAA exam is equally exciting and daunting for any health science instructor.

You want your students to pass the exam and head off to their careers as medical administrative assistants, but that’s easier said than done!

Even though hundreds of students pass the exam every year, many teachers have a tough time balancing their regular course content and preparing students for test day.

So where can you start?

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

We’ll start with one of the most important steps first -- knowing what’s on the CMAA exam.

1. Get to Know the NHA CMAA Exam


The NHA CMAA exam is designed to measure your students’ knowledge across seven healthcare domains.

These domains are:

  1. Scheduling
  2. Patient Intake
  3. Office Logistics
  4. Compliance
  5. Patient Education
  6. General Office Policies & Procedures
  7. Basic Medical Terminology

Each of these domains accounts for a certain percentage of the CMAA exam with a varying number of test items for each.

In total, the CMAA exam includes 110 scored test questions and 20 pretest questions the NHA uses to gather data.

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

Overall, learning the details of what’s on the exam will set you up for success in step two!

2. Choose Your Main Instructional Resource


There are a ton of instructional resources out there to teach medical administrative assisting courses. But with so many options, it can be hard to decide which ones are right for your classroom.

You may be tempted to head straight for test prep materials, but those can only go so far in preparing your students for success.

Study guides and practice exams are great for measuring your students’ knowledge, but they don't actually help you teach the material!

To start your course off on the right foot, it’s smart to start with a strong foundational CMAA curriculum.

When searching for materials, the best option will be a resource that aligns to the test and includes other important healthcare topics and skills.

After all, your students will need to know more than what’s on the test to succeed as medical administrative assistants!

Overall, there are three options you can go with:

  • Health science textbooks
  • Homemade curriculum
  • Digital curriculum systems

A common choice is to use a health science textbook. Textbooks are a go-to resource for any health science instructor building a new curriculum.

Textbooks can give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to implementation. Unfortunately, the biggest downside of using a textbook to teach medical administrative assistant skills is that they’re quickly outdated.

The healthcare industry is always changing, especially when it comes to working with electronic health records. Plus, the NHA updates its certification exams to keep up with those changes!

If you use a textbook, you’ll most likely need to purchase new ones on a regular basis to make sure your curriculum stays up to date with the industry and certification exam.

Because of this, many teachers opt to create their own curriculum. By doing this, you have total control over what’s in your lessons and you can keep the cost of building your curriculum relatively low.

The only thing to keep in mind is that even though the dollar amount is lower, the time you spend creating your curriculum will be a whole lot bigger!

You’ll have to spend a lot of your free time creating lessons, student handouts, skills checklists, and assessments. Also, if the standards or exam change, you’ll have to go back and make changes!

That’s why so many CMAA teachers have started using a digital curriculum system as their main instructional resource.

A digital curriculum system can be the perfect option for a teacher who doesn’t have money to burn on buying new textbooks or loads of free time to spend creating content from scratch.

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

That means students studying to become CMAAs will always be learning the right information -- even without the teacher needing to make adjustments!

Best of all, digital curriculum is designed to be used in a blended setting, which will work perfectly for the supplemental materials you choose in the next step!

3. Supplement Your CMAA Curriculum with Additional Resources


Once you’ve gotten your foundational curriculum picked out, it’s important to incorporate other materials to set your students up for success on the CMAA exam.

Two of the most common supplemental resources are test prep materials and online study tools.

Test Prep Materials for the NHA CMAA Exam

The NHA provides a number of CMAA test prep material options for students to purchase. They include:

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

What’s great about these resources is that they're specifically created to get students ready for the CMAA exam.

The only downside is that the materials need to be purchased by individual students. Because of this cost, it might not be the best choice as a classroom resource.

You could create your own practice exams to avoid the added expense. That will take a bit of extra time and effort on your end, but your students will appreciate the money they can save!

Online Study Tools for CMAA Test Prep

Along with traditional study materials, there are a number of online resources to help students prepare for the NHA CMAA exam.

One of the most common options out there is Quizlet. With a quick search, you can find a number of flashcard sets and study tools for the NHA CMAA exam.

When using free resources like this, it’s important to remember that they aren’t monitored for accuracy or cheating. In addition, they’ll become outdated if the test changes.

If you use this type of online resource for CMAA test prep, make sure you review them against the most current exam information you have!

That will take some extra time up front, but it’s well worth it to ensure your students are studying the right information!

Once you’ve chosen your instructional materials, it’s time to plan your course syllabus.

4. Plan Your CMAA Syllabus


When your students will take the NHA CMAA exam at the end of your course, planning is key to success!

By planning before the start of your semester, you can be sure every bit of class time will help your students meet their goal.

When creating your course syllabus, we recommend following this structure:

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

Note: The first four segments should be repeated for each topic or unit you are teaching. When creating your syllabus, include these pieces multiple times throughout the course.

Introduce Key Concepts

It’s always smart to begin the lesson by introducing the concepts your students will learn.

Many teachers find using a presentation to lecture is an effective way to introduce these items. During your lecture, encourage your students to ask questions and take notes to make sure they understand what you’re teaching.

Students Work Independently

Once you’ve introduced the skills and concepts, it’s time for students to work independently to learn the details. Depending on your instructional materials, you have a few options on how to do this.

If you’re mostly using a textbook, have students go through the book to take notes or fill out a worksheet you’ve created.

If you’re using a digital curriculum system, this is the perfect time to have students log in and complete the digital lessons and guided notes!

Students Practice Hands-On Skills

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

Start by demonstrating the skills for your class, then have students work in small groups and practice 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 time to break out the practice exams! This will help you get a good idea of how ready they are for the CMAA exam.

In addition, these practice exams will help you complete the last few steps of creating a successful course!

Review Student Outcomes to Spot Knowledge Gaps

After your students take practice exams, you’ll be able to look at their results to determine if they’re ready for the exam.

When reviewing the results, keep an eye out for trends in types of questions or topics most students missed on the practice test. This will give you some direction for reinforcing topics before exam day.

Reinforce Weak Areas with Customized Review

Reinforcement and remediation are critical when setting students up for success on the CMAA exam. Some common strategies include individualized tutoring, small group review, or re-teaching full lessons.

Overall, though planning your syllabus may seem tedious, it will help you and your students in the long run to help them become certified medical administrative assistants!

5. Go Over What Students Should Expect on Test Day


As test day approaches, it’s a good idea to walk your students through the logistics of how test day will work.

A week or so before the exam, take a bit of class time to give your students information about:

  • How many questions there are (110 scored questions and 20 pretest items)
  • How much time they have to complete the exam (2 hours and 10 minutes)
  • When they’ll get their results (NHA posts them online within 2 days)

By answering your students’ questions about how the exam works, you’ll help to alleviate some of the last minute stress before they take the exam!

6. Wish Your Students Good Luck!


When your students are gearing up to take the CMAA exam, the most important thing you can do is offer them words of encouragement.

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

While it may seem small, sometimes a boost of confidence is all a student needs to put their best foot forward on the NHA CMAA exam!


Prepare Your Students for the NHA CMAA Exam Today!

Setting your students up for success on the CMAA exam can overwhelm even the most experienced teacher.

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

That’s why we’ve created an NHA CMAA certification success guide!

Download the guide to spend less time worrying and more time building your perfect CMAA curriculum!

Download the National Health Science Assessment Guide