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The Best Certified Medical Assistant (CMA/AAMA) Study Guides

Article by Jane Newsom. Last Updated: Saturday, Sep 2, 2023.

Overview Of The CMA Exam

The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Exam is administered by the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), and is the final step to becoming a Certified Medical Assistant. The exam itself can be quite challenging, and many people take multiple tries to pass. Given the costs (both time and money) associated with taking the exam, it’s in your best interest to ace it on your first attempt, and there are tons of resources that can help you do just that.

We’ll cover the exam in detail, and give you our picks for the best CMA / AAMA study guides, review guides, and flashcards for test year 2023 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:

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CMA Exam Details

The CMA Exam is composed of 3 major topics with 200 multiple choice questions, and is broken up into 4 testing periods each lasting 40 minutes. The exam is a rigorous exam that requires a deep, wide, and current understanding of health care delivery. Each of the 3 major exam topics has a different number of questions, and is weighted appropriately in the final score. There are also 20 questions which are not scored and are used to trial new questions for future exams - you will not know ahead of time which ones these are.

Exam Topics

General Topic

This topic is 50 questions long, and accounts for 28% of the total. The sub-topics included in this section include:

  • Psychology
  • Communication
  • Professionalism
  • Medical Law/Regulatory Guidelines
  • Medical Ethics
  • Risk Management, Quality Assurance and Safety
  • Medical Terminology

Administrative Topic

This topic covers administrative concepts, and is 45 questions (25% of the total) long. The sub-topics in this section include:

  • Medical Reception
  • Patient Navigator/Advocate
  • Medical Business Practices
  • Establishing Patient Medical Record
  • Scheduling Appointments
  • Practice Finances

Clinical Topic

This is the largest topic, and consists of 85 questions (47% of the total). Sub-topics in this section include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Infection Control
  • Patient Intake and Documentation of Care
  • Patient Preparation and Assisting the Provider
  • Nutrition
  • Collecting and Processing Specimens
  • Diagnostic Testing
  • Pharmacology
  • Emergency Management/Basic First Aid

Exam Scoring

The CMA is scored on a pass/fail basis. Each question is weighted based on it’s calculated difficulty (as determined by the pilot in previous years). Once you complete the test you’ll get an automatic indicator of whether you passed or failed, with your official score report including percentile ranks for each of the 3 major topics in the mail at a later date.

Registering For The Exam

The CMA / AAMA exam is administered by Prometric test centers nationwide. Once you’ve met one of the 3 CMA Eligibility Requirements, you can apply to take the exam. The application process is actually fairly complicated, so be sure to review the requirements and steps early!

The exam fees are dependant on your eligibility category, and AAMA membership status. The charge is $125 for AAMA members and $250 for non-members.

Best CMA Study Guides

CMA Exam Preparation Study Guide

CMA Exam Preparation Study Guide
2023 Edition
by Test Prep Books

Pros: Complete and comprehensive review of all exam topics. Access to practice questions.
Cons: Some of the practice questions are more rudimentary than you may face on the actual exam.
Our Rating: 5.0 / 5

CMA Exam Preparation Study Guide is our top overall pick for CMA / AAMA Exam Study Guide! This is the best overall resource, with comprehensive and in-depth coverage of all major test sections. The full list of features include:

  • Coverage and practice questions for all 3 major exam topics.
  • Detailed answer explanations for practice questions.
  • Proven test taking strategies for tackling the exam.

The primary attributes of a good study guide in this area are access to practice test questions and a comprehensive review of important material. This guide has both of these things, and is high-quality and user friendly. If you only plan on picking up 1 guide on this list, we recommend you make it CMA Exam Preparation Study Guide!

Medical Assistant Exam Prep

Medical Assistant Exam Prep
8th Edition
by Kaplan

Pros: Great refresher, easy to digest.
Cons: Some typographical and other errors.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

Medical Assistant Exam Prep from Kaplan is another awesome resource for CMA / AAMA test takers. It has all the quality you’d expect from a Kaplan book, and a ton of great content to boot. The full list of features include:

  • Full length practice test with over 300 questions.
  • Diagnostic test to help you make the most of your study time.
  • End of chapter quizzes with detailed answer explanations.

The primary strength of this guide is it’s logical layout and comprehensive coverage of all the relevant exam topics. While it didn’t take our top spot, this is still a totally viable study guide, especially if you have used and enjoyed other Kaplan test materials!

Medical Assisting Exam Review

Medical Assisting Exam Review
4th Edition
by Houser & Sesser

Pros: Good number of practice questions and topic coverage.
Cons: Clinical portion is less comprehensive than other books.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

Medical Assisting Exam Review is another great resource for CMA / AAMA exam takers looking to succeed on the first try. It contains a full review of CMA Exam topics, and comes with plenty of useful practice questions. Features include:

  • Strong focus on the important aspects of the CMA Exam.
  • Tools to analyze your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Enhanced information on key topics.

This book does a good job covering all the written topics you will encounter. It works great as a stand-alone resource, or goes well with any other book on this list for additional practice questions. All in all, it’s a valuable guide for prospective CMAs.

Certified Medical Assistant Exam Secrets

Certified Medical Assistant Exam Secrets
1st Edition
by CMA Exam Secrets

Pros: Lots of useful and relevant practice questions.
Cons: Less in depth than some items on this list.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5

Certified Medical Assistant Exam Secrets rounds out our list of top CMA Study Guides for this calendar year. It has a comprehensive review of the important information needed to succeed on the exam. Features include:

  • A thorough Certified Medical Assistant Exam review.
  • A guide to general aspects of medical assistants.
  • Comprehensive practice questions with detailed answer explanations.

While it’s not at the top of our list, there’s plenty of great content in this study guide, and it’s completely viable as your primary study supplement for the CMA exam. When it comes time to study for the CMA, one of these amazing guides is sure to help boost your scores and get that passing grade!

Best CMA Flashcards

In addition to the excellent books mentioned above, prospective Medical Assistants will see significant benefits in prepping for the exam using flashcards. Our top picks for Best CMA Flashcards are outlined below.

CMA Exam Flashcard Study System

Certified Medical Assistant Exam Flashcard Study System
1st Edition
by CMA Exam Secrets

Pros: Comprehensive list of terms covering major exam topics.
Cons: Cards are relatively dense and contain a lot of info.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

CMA Exam Flashcard Study System is our top pick for flashcards to help you prepare for the CMA exam. It has over 229 cards containing tons of information across all test topics. Key features include:

  • Over 229 flashcards.
  • Covers all major topics and themes covered by the exam.

Flashcards have a tremendous benefit for students who elect to use them in their test preparation. Repetitive drilling on major topics is a good way to help in the days leading up to the exam. If you plan to pick up flashcards to help in your studies, these are your best bet!

Medical Assistant Practice Exam Kit

Medical Assistant Practice Exam Kit
Kindle Edition
by Shearer, Valte & Cline

Pros: Comprehensive list of terms covering major exam topics.
Cons: Cards are relatively dense and contain a lot of info.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

This Kindle Edition Medical Assistant Practice Exam Kit contains a ton of great practice resources for you to refer to in the run up to the exam. It’s digital format is great for people on the go. Key features include:

  • Over 300 test questions.
  • Covers all 3 major topics and themes covered by the exam.

Practice questions with detailed answer keys can be critical for getting yourself ready to tackle the exam. Once your in-depth review is completed, this amazing exam prep kit is the perfect way to finish off your efforts to get ready.

Wrapping Up

For prospective medical assistants, the CMA Exam is the final gate to entering the field. Study manuals, flashcards, and practice tests are a huge help to many people, and if you’ve read this far you’re probably one of them.

We’ve rounded up the top CMA Exam study guides and flashcards and presented them above. To recap our recommendations:

Top Study Guide Recommendation:CMA Exam Preparation Study Guide
Top Flashcard Recommendation:Certified Medical Assistant Exam Flashcard Study System

Our top pick for best CMA Study Guide is CMA Exam Preparation Study Guide. It’s the most comprehensive and accurate guide on our list, and has the most practice questions and some great online resources included.

For top flashcard pick, we recommend Certified Medical Assistant Exam Flashcard Study System. It’s got over 229 highly relevant cards covering all topics from the exam.

Whatever your circumstance, supplemental study and review materials are a key part of ensuring success on the exam. We’ve listed some of the best CMA resources available. Good luck, and study hard!

Sources and Further Reading

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