What Is the NHA CMAA Exam & How Do You Prepare Students for It?

The NHA CMAA exam is an industry-recognized certification created by the National Healthcareer Association to measure a student’s knowledge and skills of a certified medical administrative assistant.

When someone passes the exam, they earn a certification acknowledging that they can work in a healthcare facility as a CMAA.

According to the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), medical administrative assisting is one of the fastest-growing career paths in the US. That means many students are choosing this career and certification!

But how can you help them prepare for the exam?

On this page, you’ll learn how the CMAA exam is structured and how to help your students succeed.

First we’ll share some background details about the NHA, since they provide the exam!

How to Prep Your Students for the NHA CMAA Exam



What Is the National Healthcareer Association?


The NHA is a nationally accredited provider of health science certifications.

NHA’s mission is “empowering people to access a better future.” This mission includes two specific aspects -- improving patient care and providing better opportunities for healthcare workers.

The NHA accomplishes this mission by providing eight industry-recognized certifications:

  • Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS)
  • Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
  • Electronic Health Record Specialist (CEHRS)
  • EKG Technician (CET)
  • Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
  • Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A)
  • Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
  • Phlebotomy Technician (CPT)

Since 1989, the NHA has awarded more than 750,000 healthcare certifications across the US.

Now that you know a bit about NHA, let’s get to the details of the CMAA exam!

How Is the NHA CMAA Exam Structured?


The NHA CMAA exam is made up of 110 scored questions and 20 pretest items the NHA uses to gather data.

The test questions fall into seven “domains” or categories:

  1. Scheduling (17%)
  2. Patient Intake (16%)
  3. Office Logistics (11%)
  4. Compliance (15%)
  5. Patient Education (10%)
  6. General Office Policies & Procedures (14%)
  7. Basic Medical Terminology (17%)


Each domain includes different subtopics that further evaluate the knowledge and skills students need to know to pass the exam.

Domain 1 — Scheduling

The Scheduling domain includes 19 questions, broken down into 5 subtopics:

  • Evaluating different types of patient scheduling
  • Determining scheduling needs of the facility, as well as new and established patients
  • Following protocol for no-show, missed, cancelled, or follow-up appointments
  • Arranging for diagnostic testing and procedures
  • Confirming future appointments

These are some of the most important tasks a medical administrative assistant completes each day. If they don’t keep patient scheduling organized and accurate, the entire facility could come to a screeching halt!

Domain 2 — Patient Intake

The Patient Intake domain includes 18 questions and 5 subtopics:

  • Confirming demographic information with patient
  • Verifying insurance information
  • Ensuring forms are updated or completed
  • Preparing encounter form
  • Preparing daily charts

When it comes to providing accurate information to patients and other healthcare workers, medical administrative assistants are often on the front lines. Up to date forms and insurance information ensure a smooth process for everyone involved.

Domain 3 — Office Logistics

The Office Logistics domain has 12 questions across 3 subtopics:

  • Filing medical records
  • Performing financial procedures
  • Evaluating mail deliveries

Medical administrative assistants work with so many forms, medical records, and other items it’s crucial to maintain organization. Learning correct office logistics ensures everything ends up where it’s meant to be.

Domain 4 — Compliance

The Compliance domain includes 16 questions across 3 subtopics:

  • Following HIPAA guidelines
  • Following OSHA guidelines
  • Following the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines

With daily interaction with many patients, maintaining compliance with all guidelines is critical for every CMAA. One mistake can create problems between a patient and the healthcare facility, and likely result in the worker losing their job.

Domain 5 — Patient Education

The Patient Education domain has 11 questions broken into 3 subtopics:

  • Explaining the Patients’ Bill of Rights
  • Explaining the patients’ insurance responsibilities
  • Explaining pre- and post-instructions for testing and procedures

Making sure each patient understands the Patients’ Bill of Rights, how their insurance coverage works, and other pertinent information is a frequent task for CMAAs. It’s important to know this information and be able to communicate it effectively!

Domain 6 — General Office Policies and Procedures

The General Office Policies and Procedures is made up of 15 questions across 5 subtopics:

  • Performing office opening and closing procedures
  • Greeting patients upon arrival
  • Applying telephone etiquette
  • Creating correspondences
  • Demonstrating basic computer skills

Medical administrative assistants

Domain 7 — Basic Medical Terminology

The Basic Medical Terminology domain includes 19 questions and 3 subtopics:

  • Using medical terminology to communicate with patients and physicians
  • Recognizing abbreviations and acronyms used to complete administrative duties
  • Using word parts (i.e., prefixes, roots, suffixes) to define medical terminology

Though CMAAs aren’t going to use medical terms as often as phlebotomists or patient care technicians, it’s important they understand them. After all, a medical administrative assistant may need to read another healthcare providers notes and explain the information to someone else!

For a more in-depth breakdown, you can find the full details of each domain in the NHA’s CMAA test plan.

On test day, students have 2 hours and 10 minutes to complete the exam.

Students can take the exam either at your school or at a designated testing center. The exam is often administered via an online portal but may be given on paper depending on circumstances.

After testing is complete, the NHA posts the results to each students’ online account page within two days.

So now that you know the details of the CMAA exam, there’s one last question.

How do you actually prepare your students for the exam?

How Do You Prepare Students for the NHA CMAA Exam?


When it comes to preparing students for the NHA CMAA certification, many teachers head straight for dedicated test prep materials.

While the study guides and practice tests from NHA are a great way to measure how ready your students are for test day, they don’t actually help you teach the material!

That’s why most teachers take a two-step approach to effectively prepare their students for the CMAA exam.

First, it’s crucial to teach the foundational concepts and skills that medical administrative assistants need to know.

You can do this in your day-to-day lessons through lecture, class activities, example scenarios, and more.

Second, it’s important to introduce your test prep materials.

Study guides and practice tests are great tools to review and reinforce material all the way until test day.

The key to success is to seamlessly tie these two pieces together.

But where do you even begin?

You could spend your nights and weekends creating your curriculum from scratch.

Or, you could try the system that hundreds of teachers have already incorporated into their medical assisting programs!

Prepare Your Students for the NHA CMAA Exam with HealthCenter21


Health science instructors across the country use HealthCenter21 to teach and prepare their students for the NHA CMAA exam.

AES made HealthCenter21 to help your students succeed both on the exam and in their future careers as medical administrative assistants.

HealthCenter21 gives you thousands of ready-to-use instructional materials, classroom management tools, assessment options, student tracking features, and more.

And to help you even more, HealthCenter21’s content maps to the NHA CMAA test plan so you can see exactly how HealthCenter21 aligns to the test!

Want to learn more?

Click below to download your NHA CMAA certification success guide!

Download the National Health Science Assessment Guide