6 Steps to Prep Your Students for the NOCTI MA Exam

Preparing students for the NOCTI Medical Assisting exam can be one of the most exciting (and daunting) tasks for a health science instructor.

You want to help your students pass the exam and head off to their careers as medical assistants, but it takes a lot of work to get there!

Even though hundreds of students pass the NOCTI exam every year, teachers find it difficult to balance teaching their course content and getting students ready for the test.

So where can you start?

On this page we’ll discuss six key steps to preparing students for the NOCTI Medical Assisting exam and their future careers:

  1. Get to know the exam
  2. Choose your main instructional materials
  3. Supplement with additional resources
  4. Plan your course syllabus
  5. Go over what students should expect on test day
  6. Wish your students good luck

Let’s start with the most important step -- knowing what’s on the test!

1. Get to Know the NOCTI Medical Assisting Exam


The NOCTI Medical Assisting (MA) exam measures students’ skills and knowledge needed for a career as a medical assistant.

The exam is made up of a written test and skills demonstration portion.

The written assessment has 197 questions across seven topic areas:

  1. Medical Office Procedures
  2. Foundations for Healthcare
  3. General Laboratory Procedures & Diagnostic Testing
  4. Clinical Practices and Patient Care
  5. Medical Assisting Safety
  6. Patient Instruction
  7. Medical Law and Ethics for Healthcare

Each of these overarching topics has detailed competencies students need to know to pass the exam.

Along with the written test, students must complete the skills performance assessment.

For this portion, students are measured on their ability to complete six medical assisting tasks:

  1. Positioning
  2. Blood Pressure and Pulse Measurement
  3. Electrocardiogram
  4. Visual Acuity Screening
  5. Lab Requisition Form
  6. Applying and Removing Sterile Gloves

To learn the detailed ins-and-outs of what your students need to know, read this article: What Is the NOCTI Medical Assisting Exam?

Once you know what’s on the exam, you’ll be ready to move onto step two!

2. Choose Your Main Instructional Materials


There are a seemingly endless number of instructional resources to teach medical assisting courses. But with so many options out there, how can you decide which ones to use?

You may be tempted to run for test prep materials, but those resources can only help with a small piece of your course.

Study guides and practice exams help you measure what your students know, but they won’t actually help you teach the material.

To set you and your students up for success, it’s smart to implement a strong foundational NOCTI MA curriculum.

To accomplish this, you’ll need a resource that aligns well to the NOCTI MA exam and covers other important topics and skills.

After all, you probably want to do more than just teach to the test!

Most often, medical assisting teachers choose one of these types of instructional materials:

  1. Medical assisting textbooks
  2. Homemade curriculum
  3. Digital curriculum systems

Let’s take a look at each one.

Medical Assisting Textbooks

Medical assisting textbooks are the most common choices since many teachers learned from textbooks themselves.

Textbooks can help students learn about medical assisting concepts and provide a lot of flexibility with teaching styles.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many textbooks that meet every task and competency found on the NOCTI MA exam.

If you manage to find a book that hits nearly every requirement, your textbook will be instantly outdated when the exam is next updated.

That means teachers who use textbooks need to purchase new ones on a regular basis or risk teaching outdated information to their students.

That’s why many health science teachers opt to create their own curriculum.

Homemade Medical Assisting Curriculum

When you’re building your medical assisting curriculum from scratch, you have total control over every part of it.

That means you’ll be sure that all of the information on the NOCTI MA exam is included throughout your lessons.

Plus, you’ll save quite a bit of money compared to purchasing textbooks.

However, even though the literal cost is lower, the time you spend planning and creating materials will skyrocket!

Many teachers who build their curriculum from scratch end up spending their nights and weekends in a never-ending battle between creating new resources and grading student work.

On top of that, if your course standards or the NOCTI MA exam changes, you’ll have to go back and rewrite everything again!

That’s why so many medical assisting instructors have implemented a digital curriculum system as their main instructional material.

Digital Curriculum Systems

A digital curriculum system is a great option for any teacher whose students will take the NOCTI Medical Assisting exam.

That’s because it’s specifically designed to stay up-to-date with healthcare industry standards and certification requirements like the NOCTI MA exam.

In addition, digital curriculum comes packed with everything you need to teach a medical assisting course – from lesson plans to activities and assessments.

Best of all, digital curriculum is meant to be used in a blended learning environment, which pairs perfectly with the supplemental resources you pick in step three!

3. Supplement Your NOCTI MA Curriculum with Additional Resources


After you’ve chosen your medical assisting curriculum, it’s smart to add other resources to get your students ready for the NOCTI MA exam.

Two of the most common options include test prep materials and online study tools.

Test Prep Materials for the NOCTI MA Exam

In addition to the actual exam, NOCTI provides a handful of test prep materials for the Medical Assisting exam.

These study guides and pre-tests are the perfect way to get your students ready since they’re designed based on the test!

The only downside to these materials is that they must be purchased either as a class package or on an individual student basis.

If you want to avoid this added expense, you can create your own study guides and practice tests to help students review.

This takes some extra time up front, but your students will appreciate the extra help!

Online Study Tools for NOCTI MA Test Prep

In addition to traditional test prep materials, many teachers use digital tools to get students ready for the NOCTI MA exam.

One of the most common study tools out there is Quizlet. By searching on the Quizlet website, you can quickly find a number of study sets related to the NOCTI Medical Assisting exam.

These study tools help students study material they need to review in the way that works best for them.

However, it’s important to be wary of information posted on Quizlet. Because anyone can add information, there’s no guarantee of accuracy or security!

If you or your students plan to use this type of online resource, make sure you review them against the most current information you have!

Once you’ve chosen the supplemental resources you want to use, it’s time to move onto planning your syllabus.

4. Plan Your Medical Assisting Course Syllabus


When your students will take the NOCTI MA exam, it’s important to plan out your syllabus with that goal in mind!

By planning as much as you can before the semester starts, you’re setting you and your students up for more success during class time.

When creating your medical assisting syllabus, we recommend following the four phases of learning:

  1. Explore: Students discover a concept
  2. Learn & Practice: Students apply their discoveries
  3. Reflect: Students review what they’ve learned
  4. Reinforce: Students apply theory, concepts, and materials to scenarios

Let’s get into what these phases look like in relation to certification preparation.

Phase 1 - Explore

In the Explore phase, your goal is to introduce key concepts and information your students will need to know before learning hands-on skills.

At the start of each new unit, it’s smart to begin by introducing the concepts to your students.

Many teachers do this by using a presentation to lecture and have students take notes.

Other teachers include an activity to get students thinking about the new concepts they’re learning.

Whichever route you take, it’s important that you encourage students to ask questions to make sure they understand everything prior to moving onto the next phase.

Phase 2 - Learn & Practice

In the Learn & Practice phase, it’s time for students to work independently and dig into the details.

Depending on your instructional materials, this part of your lessons will vary.

If you’re using medical assisting textbooks, have your students go through the book to take notes or fill out a worksheet.

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

You can then transition to related hands-on skills.

This typically works best when you start by demonstrating the skill yourself while explaining each step and answering questions.

Once you’ve shown your students what to do, you can have them break into small groups to practice.

During this group work, you can walk around the room to observe, give praise, and suggest improvements as necessary.

Phase 3 - Reflect

Traditionally, the Reflect phase involves students reviewing what they’ve learned in a lesson or unit by completing an activity.

In terms of certification prep, the Reflect phase includes an additional piece — practice tests.

Part way through the semester, it’s important for your students to take practice exams to measure how ready they are for the NOCTI MA exam.

After your students take the practice exams, you can look at their results to check if there’s anything you need to review.

Look for topics or types of questions most students missed on the practice exam. This will give you critical information on what you need to reinforce prior to exam day!

Phase 4 - Reinforce

In the normal flow of learning, the Reinforce phase requires students to apply what they’ve learned to critical thinking, problem solving, and scenarios.

When it comes to certification prep, reinforcement also opens the doors to remediation.

After reviewing your students’ practice exam outcomes, you’re armed with a ton of knowledge to work with.

Reinforcement and remediation are crucial pieces to preparing your students for the NOCTI MA exam.

You can dedicate days at the end of your semester dedicated to reviewing information to ensure your students truly reinforce the information they need to know before exam day.

Many teachers find using strategies like individualized tutoring, small group review, and re-teaching lessons work well for remediation.

Overall, following this framework to plan out your syllabus will set you and your students up for success in the long run!

5. Go Over What Students Should Expect on Test Day


As the days count down to the NOCTI Medical Assisting exam, it’s smart to walk your students through what they can expect.

A week prior to the exam, spend some class time to discuss:

  • How many questions are on the written portion (197 questions)
  • How much time they have for the written test (3 hours)
  • How much time they have for the skills demonstrations (75 minutes)
  • Where they will take the test (At your school or a designated test center)

By answering these questions about the logistics of the test, you’ll help to alleviate some of your students’ last-minute anxiety!

6. Wish Your Students Good Luck!


The last thing you can do to set your students up for success is offer them words of encouragement.

You’ve spent the semester planning, teaching, and reviewing so now it’s up to them to apply everything they’ve learned!

This may seem minor, but sometimes a boost of confidence is all a student needs to put their best foot forward and ace that exam!

Prepare Your Students for the NOCTI Medical Assisting Exam Today!

Even a well-versed medical assisting teacher can become overwhelmed when preparing students for the NOCTI MA exam.

You can follow all of these steps and still feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.

That’s why we’ve developed a NOCTI Medical Assisting certification success guide!

Download the guide to spend less time worrying and more time helping your students prep for the exam!

Download the National Health Science Assessment Guide