Skip to main content

What Is the NOCTI Medical Assisting Exam & How Do You Prep Students for It?

The NOCTI Medical Assisting exam is an assessment that measures students’ knowledge and skills to enter the healthcare industry.

When a student passes the exam, they receive credentials indicating they have the skills necessary for a career as a medical assistant.

In addition, the NOCTI MA exam is a prerequisite for the American Medical Certification Association’s Clinical Medical Assistant certification exam.

That means passing the NOCTI exam is an important step in becoming a nationally certified clinical medical assistant!

So how can you help your students successfully complete that first step?

We’ll cover all of that on this page along with how you can prep your students for success.

Before we get into the details, let’s cover the exam provider, NOCTI!

How to Prepare Your Students for the NOCTI MA Exam

What Is NOCTI?


The National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) is a well-known and respected provider of industry-based assessments for career and technical education pathways.

NOCTI’s mission is to “build a competent workforce through creative learning solutions.”

To accomplish this, NOCTI provides more than 120 industry-based credential assessments — including medical assisting!.

The NOCTI Medical Assisting exam is one of NOCTI’s “Job Ready” assessments, which are specifically made for secondary or post-secondary students. 

These assessments — including medical assisting —can be administered either online or on paper. In addition, many of them also include hands-on skills demonstrations that students perform at a designated testing site.

With all that said, let’s get into the details of the NOCTI Medical Assisting assessment!

How Is the NOCTI Medical Assisting Exam Structured?


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

The written assessment contains 197 questions across 7 healthcare subject areas.

The areas are broken down as follows:

  1. Medical Office Procedures (12%)
  2. Foundations for Healthcare (10%)
  3. General Laboratory Procedures and Diagnostic Testing (14%)
  4. Clinical Practices and Patient Care (38%)
  5. Medical Assisting Safety (8%)
  6. Patient Instruction (9%)
  7. Medical Law and Ethics for Healthcare (9%)


Each of the main topic areas has detailed standards and competencies students need to know to pass the exam.

1. Medical Office Procedures

Under the Medical Office Procedures section, NOCTI lists six subtopics related to administrative tasks that medical assistant may perform:

  1. Greeting, receiving, and directing patients and visitors
  2. Preparing and managing patient records
  3. Scheduling and maintaining appointment logs
  4. Demonstrating knowledge about types of insurance
  5. Demonstrating knowledge of billing practices
  6. Demonstrating job-related computer skills

These skills may not require someone to interact with patients, but they’re essential to the everyday duties of a medical assistant.

2. Foundations of Healthcare

The Foundations of Healthcare section of the exam includes three subtopics:

  1. Identifying and using medical terminology, approved abbreviations, and symbols
  2. Identifying the relationship between anatomy, physiology, and pathology
  3. Demonstrating proficiency in basic medical math

It’s crucial for any medical assistant to understand and effectively use foundational healthcare information.

If someone isn’t up to speed with these topics, it will be tough for them to get started in their career!

3. General Laboratory Procedures and Diagnostic Testing

In the General Laboratory Procedures and Diagnostic Testing section, NOCTI lists seven subtopics:

  1. Demonstrating proper ECG procedures and other cardiovascular testing
  2. Demonstrating proficiency with laboratory procedures, collecting and preparing specimens, and point-of-care testing
  3. Performing and properly documenting vision and hearing tests
  4. Demonstrating an understanding of biomedical equipment usage and maintenance
  5. Completing ancillary medical services requisitions and logs
  6. Demonstrating knowledge of venipuncture procedures
  7. Demonstrating knowledge of pulmonary function testing and procedures

In some healthcare facilities dedicated EKG technicians or phlebotomy technicians are responsible for some of these tasks. However, medical assistants need to know them in certain cases.

4. Clinical Practices and Patient Care

The Clinical Practices and Patient Care is made up of 21 subtopics related to working with patients:

  1. Preparing exam room and organizing equipment for patient procedures
  2. Assisting with patient examinations, transfers, treatments, and minor surgeries
  3. Performing aseptic techniques and setting up and maintaining a sterile field
  4. Taking vital signs, patient’s height and weight, recording data, and recording abnormalities
  5. Identifying various documentation formats including paperless charting
  6. Positioning and draping patients for exams and/or treatments
  7. Identifying basic medical instruments and equipment
  8. Calculating medication dosages and administration routes
  9. Demonstrating knowledge of intradermal testing
  10. Identifying various drugs, drug classifications, and clinical indications
  11. Performing irrigation and/or lavage
  12. Performing suture or staple removal
  13. Performing dressing changes and related first aid
  14. Demonstrating knowledge of nebulizer treatments/ procedures
  15. Performing basic first aid and identifying CPR/AED basic principles
  16. Demonstrating knowledge of nutrition principles, therapeutic diets, and health and wellness practices
  17. Demonstrating knowledge of cultural diversity awareness and holistic modalities
  18. Identifying the stages of growth and development
  19. Demonstrating knowledge of urinary catheterization procedures
  20. Demonstrating knowledge of assistive devices
  21. Demonstrating knowledge of cast care principles

This portion of the exam is the most extensive area, as it includes the most important skills medical assistants need to be effective in their daily work.

5. Medical Assisting Safety

The Medical Assisting Safety section includes four subtopics related to safety precautions:

  1. Demonstrating understanding of standard precaution practices
  2. Demonstrating knowledge of Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  3. Demonstrating knowledge of handling and disposal of contaminated materials or spills
  4. Demonstrating proper handwashing techniques

These tasks are common types of safety precautions a medical assistant will use in daily work to maintain a clean and safe environment.

6. Patient Instruction

The Patient Instruction portion of the exam is made of five subtopics:

  1. Instructing patients in techniques for collection of specimens
  2. Instructing patients regarding preparations for diagnostic tests
  3. Communicating discharge instructions
  4. Identifying subjective/objective assessment and plan for each patient
  5. Identifying special considerations for pediatric, disability, disease progression, and geriatric patients

Medical assistants relay information and instructions to patients in a variety of scenarios in their daily work.

When a medical assistant masters these skills, they become communication experts. That helps a medical assistant’s patients and colleagues understand what’s happening with important medical treatments.

7. Medical Law and Ethics for Healthcare

The Medical Law and Ethics for Healthcare section has four subtopics:

  1. Identifying and adhering to legal documents, standards, statues, and regulations
  2. Identifying and adhering to work ethics and professional standards
  3. Identifying and applying principles related to patient rights, HIPAA, and protected health information regulations
  4. Identifying members of an interdisciplinary healthcare team and knowing the scope of practice for each

These clerical duties may sound minor, but they’re essential to a patient’s privacy.

What Students Can Expect on Test Day

On test day, students get three hours to complete the written exam.

Because of the length of the exam, it may be administered in multiple sessions (up to three).

After taking the written exam, students complete the performance assessment.

This portion of the assessment involves students demonstrating specific hands-on skills that a medical assistant would complete during daily work.

For the assessment, students are measured on their ability to complete six specific tasks:

  1. Positioning (9%)
  2. Blood Pressure and Pulse Measurement (23%)
  3. Electrocardiogram (18%)
  4. Visual Acuity Screening (21%)
  5. Lab Requisition Form (18%)
  6. Applying and Removing Sterile Gloves (11%)


During the performance assessment, students have 75 minutes to successfully demonstrate each of the skills.

The student is expected to act as if they are working with a real patient and should act in a professional manner.

Even if a student doesn’t have any professional experience, they’ll be assessed on their abilities to behave that way.

So now that you know the ins-and-outs of the NOCTI MA exam, how can you best prepare your students for test day?

How Do You Prepare Students to Pass the Exam?


When it comes to preparing students for the NOCTI MA exam, many teachers head straight for test prep materials.

These study guides can be a great way to help students prepare to take the exam, but they don’t actually teach the content!

Because of this, the best way to help your students prepare is by taking a two-step approach.

First, teach the foundational concepts and knowledge your students need to know for success as medical assistants.

That means drawing from your own healthcare experience and discussing important information that might not even be on the exam.

Taking the time to add those extra skills and concepts will set your students up for more success in the future!

Then, focus on the exam toward the end of your class. That’s the perfect time to break out the NOCTI study guides to help review and reinforce the exam topics.

Overall, the key to success is for you to seamlessly tie both pieces together in your classroom.

But how can you do that?

Some teachers spend their evenings and weekends creating lessons, activities, and assessments from scratch. This is a great way to provide a custom-tailored curriculum for your students that takes them from day one to test day.

However, building a curriculum from scratch takes a ton of time!

That’s why health science instructors across the US have switched to a digital curriculum system they can use to teach classes and prepare their students for the NOCTI MA exam at the same time!


Prepare Students for the NOCTI Medical Assisting Exam with HealthCenter21


Medical assisting instructors across the country use HealthCenter21 as primary instructional tool to teach their students and prepare them for the NOCTI exam.

HealthCenter21 is a digital curriculum system built to make your life easier when preparing your students for certification and their future careers.

It includes thousands of ready-to-use classroom resources, assessments, student tracking features, and more.

To top it all off, HealthCenter21 is aligned to the NOCTI Medical Assisting exam to ensure your students are ready for test day.

Want to learn how you can use HealthCenter21 to prepare your students for the exam and their careers?

Click below to download the NOCTI Medical Assisting assessment success guide!

Download the National Health Science Assessment Guide