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What Is the NAHP NRCMA Exam?

The NAHP NRCMA exam is an industry certification that measures students’ proficiency in the administrative and clinical skills needed to become medical assistants.

When students pass the exam, they earn a NRCMA certification designating that they can work in a healthcare facility as a medical assistant.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that medical assisting employment will grow 16% through 2031, which is leading students to seek this certification!

So how can you help your students pass the NAHP NRCMA exam and become certified?

On this page, you’ll learn the details of what’s on the NAHP NRCMA certification exam and some tips to get your students ready for exam day.

First, let’s discuss the NAHP since they provide the exam!

What Is the NAHP?


The National Association for Health Professionals (NAHP) is a well-known provider of healthcare certifications.

The NAHP’s mission is “to promote and provide quality certification programs that validate knowledge in the healthcare arena for the enhancement of patient care and professional practice.”

To accomplish this, the NAHP provides certifications for nine healthcare professions, the most popular of which is the Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA) exam.

Now that you have some background on the NAHP, let’s get into the details of the NRCMA certification exam!

How Is the NAHP NRCMA Exam Structured?


The NAHP NRCMA exam consists of 180 scored questions and 20 questions used to gather data.

These questions are segmented into three overarching sections:

  1. Fundamental Medical Assisting
  2. Clinical Medical Assisting
  3. Administrative Medical Assisting

Each section includes subsections that contain concepts and skills students need to know. The NRCMA certification exam has questions from every section and subsection, although the number of questions about each topic area may vary.  


1. Fundamental Medical Assisting

The Fundamental Medical Assisting section includes 114 questions across five subsections related to the foundational knowledge any healthcare professional must know.

Anatomy & Physiology (11.5%)

  • Identify anatomic structures of the body
  • Recall the physiologic human behaviors theory
  • Recognize physiology concepts
  • Identify the anatomic location of major organs
  • Understand the functions of body systems
  • Recognize anatomical body planes for patient positioning
  • Identify anatomical divisions of the body

Disease (7.5%)

  • Identify factors that influence
  • the disease process
  • Identify common bacterial infections
  • Identify common viral infections
  • Recall signs and symptoms of common illnesses
  • Advise patients on disease management
  • Promote patient education in disease management

Medical Terminology (25%)

  • Define and comprehend vocabulary of medical terms
  • Identify the meaning of common medical abbreviations
  • Recall ways to use medical reference materials
  • Identify, define, and correctly spell terminology relating to the health care field
  • Identify, define, and correctly spell terminology relating to patient care
  • Identify key word parts
  • Identify materials as reference sources
  • Recognize regulating agencies by their acronyms (OSHA, CDC, FDA)

Law & Ethics (3.5%)

  • Identify, define, and correctly spell terms relating to medical law
  • Recall procedures for releasing private health information
  • Identify the laws and regulations for HIPAA
  • Identify state and federal laws regarding prescription drug schedules
  • Recall types of consent in medical practice

Nutrition (3.5%)

  • Identify and recall roles of food nutrients
  • Recall dietary recommendations for various age ranges
  • Recognize signs and symptoms of vitamin deficiencies
  • Recommend dietary changes based on patient needs and symptoms
  • Recognize eating disorders

This section ensures your students understand the basic concepts and skills that a medical assistant uses. It sets a strong foundation for your students when moving on to more advanced information.

Without learning this foundational information, they won’t be able to succeed in the healthcare field!

2. Clinical Medical Assisting

The Clinical Medical Assisting section has 60 questions across two subsections that get into the detailed clinical skills students need to perform:

Medical Procedures including Laboratory (30%)

  • Recognize venipuncture equipment and parts
  • Identify correct needle insertion angles
  • Identify types of injections (intramuscular, subcutaneous, intradermal)
  • Identify needle gauges
  • Recall steps for performing various blood tests
  • Identify blood collection tubes colors and content
  • Recall steps to acquire smears
  • Determine procedures for microscopic examination of smears and other slides
  • Focus a microscope to identify content
  • Acquire a pulse at different anatomical positions
  • Recall basic X-ray procedures and safety protocol
  • Identify EKG machine parts and uses
  • Recall steps for calibration of equipment
  • Recall standards of personal protective equipment use
  • Identify disinfection, sterilization and sanitizing techniques
  • Recall and exhibit hand washing technique standards
  • Recall procedures for patient preparation and safety
  • Explain procedures to patient in layman’s terms
  • Verify patient understanding of procedures
  • Recall Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Universal Precautions
  • Recall the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) Bloodborne Pathogens
  • Recall patient positions (supine, prone lithotomy)

Pharmacology (6%)

  • Recall the use of common reference sources in pharmacology
  • Identify basic dosage computations
  • Recall the forms of medications
  • Identify, define, or recall drug classes
  • Identify, define or recall various drug forms
  • Recognize drug adverse reactions
  • Identify and define prescription drug label aspects
  • Identify and comply with controlled substance guidelines

The daily tasks of a medical assistant can vary depending on the healthcare facility.

That’s why it’s important for a medical assistant to understand standard clinical procedures as well as those that relate to lab work and pharmacology!

3. Administrative Medical Assisting

The Administrative Medical Assisting section includes 26 questions across two subsections that help students learn the more administrative side of a medical assistant’s work:

Insurance (6%)

  • Recognize characteristics of governmental and private health care plans
  • Identify terms associated with various insurance types
  • Comprehend policies and regulations as they apply to workers’ compensation
  • Use proper terminology for insurance claims
  • Recall steps and forms to file electronic and paper claims
  • Recall International Classification of Diseases, Clinical Modification (ICD-CM)
  • Recall Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) characteristics
  • Define Diagnosis-Related Groups (DRGs)
  • Recall various types of physician fee schedules

Office Procedures (7%)

  • Recall various types of medical records organization systems (physical and electronic)
  • Identify basic functions of a computer (input and output devices)
  • Recall proper processing of incoming and outgoing mail
  • Identify common computer software and templates (patient registration, billing)
  • Demonstrate alphabetic filing
  • Recall steps to transcribe notes from dictation and direct dictation
  • Identify steps to maintain supplies and equipment
  • Identify proper HIPAA guidelines & regulations
  • Identify various types of communication (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Recognize communication barriers
  • Recall accounts payable and receivable guidelines
  • Demonstrate effective telephone techniques (missed appointments, cancelled appointments, emergencies)
  • Identify proper steps in responding to emergency situations
  • Identify guidelines for releasing patient information
  • Identify first aid procedures

These skills may not require someone to interact with patients in the traditional sense, but they’re an important part of a medical assistant’s duties.

What Is the NAHP NRCMA Certification Process?


On test day, students take the NAHP NRCMA certification exam at an approved NAHP testing center.

At the testing center, the exam is administered in one of two ways:

  • Computer-based
  • Paper-based

For a computer-based exam, students have two hours to complete the assessment. Their results are automatically calculated and shared instantly, so every student knows whether they’ve passed right away.

For a paper-based exam, students have two and a half hours to complete the test. The scores are tabulated and mailed out approximately four weeks later.

Either way, the official certifications and wallet cards are delivered within six weeks, noting that the receiver is a “Nationally Recognized Certified Medical Assistant!”

So now that you know the ins and outs of the NAHP NRCMA exam, there’s one last question to answer -- how do you prepare your students?

How Do You Prepare Students for the NAHP NRCMA Certification Exam?


When it comes to preparing students for the NAHP NRCMA exam, many teachers run for test prep materials.

The NAHP’s review book and practice exams can be a great way to help students prep before exam day, but they don’t help you teach the material!

In addition, teaching to the test can harm your student’s long-term retention of information and accidentally lead you to skip important concepts that the exam doesn’t cover!

That’s why it’s smart to take a two-step approach when preparing students for the NAHP NRCMA exam:

  1. Teach your medical assisting curriculum
  2. Incorporate test prep materials as a supplement

This approach will help you teach the knowledge and skills your students need for success both on the exam and in their future careers!

Start by teaching the foundational concepts and skills your students need to know to work in the medical assisting field. That means drawing from your own healthcare experience to discuss important information that may not even be on the exam! It’s smart to also incorporate topics like customer service, communication, and professionalism to help your students put their best foot forward when entering the workforce.

Once you’re nearing the end of the semester, it’s time to break out the test prep materials. That’s the perfect time to administer practice exams to measure how ready your students are for test day.

To make this process work, you must seamlessly tie both pieces together in your classroom. Some teachers do this by building their own medical assisting curriculum by creating lessons, activities, and assessments from scratch. That’s a great way to provide a tailor-made curriculum for your students, but it takes a lot of time to complete.

That’s why medical assisting instructors have implemented a comprehensive curriculum system to do the heavy lifting when it comes to preparing students for the NAHP NRCMA exam!

Prepare Students for the NAHP NRCMA Exam with HealthCenter21

Medical assisting instructors across the US have implemented the HealthCenter21 curriculum system as a primary instructional resource to teach key concepts and skills on the NAHP NRCMA exam.

HealthCenter21 is designed to make your life easier while setting your students up for success both on the exam and in their careers.

It’s here to take your students from zero to certified by providing up-to-date lessons, engaging activities, scenario-based learning, and automatically-graded assessments.

Want to learn more?

Click below to learn what HealthCenter21 is and how teachers use it!

Learn More about Teaching Medical Assisting with HealthCenter21