Your Guide to the AMT RMA Exam 

Are you ready to embark on an exciting career as a certified medical assistant? If you’ve completed a program of study, you’re almost there! You can look forward to beginning work in a vital and rewarding part of the allied health field.

First, though, there’s one last thing to do: obtain your legal certification. In many other fields of the medical profession, there is a generally accepted, standard method of testing and certification associated with that field. In the case of medical assisting, things are different: there are a number of options available to you for certification.

This study guide covers the American Medical Technologists’ (AMT) Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam. Below, we’ll give you a quick outline of alternative exams, talk briefly about the AMT, and discuss eligibility for the exam and how to renew your certification down the road. The majority of this guide, however, is comprised of a comprehensive RMA Exam Study Guide. Keep in mind that while this guide is a great place to start, you’ll need to do more in order to ace the exam: the best way to prepare is by taking RMA practice tests.

Let’s get started!

What are my options when it comes to medical assistant certification?

You have several options available to you if you’d like to become a medical assistant. Aside from the AMT RMA exam, there’s also the American Association of Medical Assistants’ AAMA CMA exam, the National Healthcareer Association’s CCMA exam, and the National Center for Competency Testing’s NCMA exam. Wondering whether the AMT RMA is the correct choice for your particular situation? Take a look at this comparison guide we’ve put together.

What is the AMT?

The American Medical Technologists is a non-profit organization founded in 1939. They offer a certification examination for medical assistants called the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam, in addition to a number of certifications for other allied health fields.

Am I eligible to sit for the Registered Medical Assistant test?

There are five possible pathways of eligibility for taking the RMA exam. If you’ve graduated from a medical assistant program accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP); or, if you’ve completed a program at a post-secondary school or college that’s accredited with a regional commission or the U.S. Department of Education, and which includes at least 720 clock-hours, including no less than 160 hours in the form of a clinical externship; or, if you’ve completed a formal medical services training program offered by the United States Armed Forces, then you qualify to sit for the RMA test. Additionally, if you’ve been employed as a medical assistant for at least five years, no more than two of which as an instructor in a medical assistant program; or, if you’ve passed a certification exam offered by another agency that’s been approved by the AMT Board of Directors, and have been working as a medical assistant for three of the past five years; then, you’re also eligible to take the exam.

How does certification work? Will I need to renew my certification in the future?

Continued certification with the AMT involves two steps. First, you must pay annual dues, which currently amount to $50 per year. Secondly, you must comply with the AMT’s Certification Continuation Program (CCP) on a triennial basis. The CCP requires medical assistants to obtain a minimum of 30 points every three years, which are obtained via qualified Continuing Education courses. You must attest to this completion; however, only a select number of individuals will be audited and asked to provide prove of CCP compliance. To learn more about CCP compliance, annual fees, and maintaining certification, click here.

Exam Overview: RMA Study Guide

The Registered Medical Assistant exam is divided into three major work areas: General, Administrative, and Clinical. Each of these work areas is comprised of a number of categories. Each category includes a number of subcategories, with specific competencies associated with each subcategory.

The number of questions on the exam changes from year to year. However, it generally contains approximately 210 questions. These questions are converted to a grading scale of 0-100. The minimum required score for a passing grade is 70. Of the questions, roughly 41% are General; 24% are Administrative; and 35% are Clinical.

Below, we’ve put together an outline of all of the work areas, categories, subcategories, and competencies that make up the RMA exam. By reviewing this outline, you’ll have a better sense of what material may appear on the test. Keep in mind that this study guide is just an overview: in order to prepare for the test as effectively as possible, you’ll want to be sure to devote an adequate amount of time to taking RMA practice tests.

1. General Medical Assisting Knowledge

This work area contains a number of general topics that relate to the occupation of medical assisting, including anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and law, patient education, medical ethics, and human relations. This section comprises 41% of the overall test, and is the largest section. Below, you’ll find each of the categories, subcategories, and competencies contained within this work area.

Anatomy and Physiology

An understanding of anatomy and physiology is foundational to your ability to work effectively as a medical assistant. The RMA exam will test your understanding of three core categories of knowledge: body structures, wellness, and pathologies. Specifically, topics covered may include the various components of the body systems, namely the skeletal, muscular, respiratory, nervous, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, integumentary, urinary, reproductive, sensorial, and gastrointestinal; the various processes of disease and conditions associated with health or lack thereof; and the factors which can influence overall wellness, including exercise, lifestyle, nutrition, and more.

Medical Terminology

When performing tasks in a clinical setting, you’ll encounter medical terminology on a regular basis. It’s therefore important to have a grasp of common medical terms, and how such terms are formed. This category will include such topics as the parts of medical words, including their roots and suffixes; the definitions of common medical terms; and the identity of commonly used symbols and abbreviations in the medical field. Your ability to correctly spell medical terms with accuracy will also be tested.

Medical Law

The legal side of medicine is a vast and complex topic. While you may not need a deep understanding of all aspects of medical law, it’s important to be familiar with the laws and regulations that can impact both patients and providers on a daily basis. In this category, you’ll encounter topics related to medical law in general; licensure and practitioner certification; and legal terminology. Specifically, the following may appear in this section: medical consent; HIPAA and other legal disclosures; laws related to practicing medicine; scope of practice as related to medical assisting; the Patient Bill of Rights; common medical legal terms; credentials required for various fields; and more.

Medical Ethics

Maintaining ethical conduct in all aspects of your work is an important component of clinical professionalism. Patients trust that their providers will act ethically. As a medical assistant, it’s your responsibility to meet that trust with appropriately ethical and professional behavior. In this category, topics covered may include: basic ethical principles; proper ethical practices; ethics as understood by the American Medical Association; responding to unethical behavior; and the role of continuing education in furthering your ethical capacity as a medical assistant.

Human Relations

While a knowledge of the technical aspects of patient care comprises a significant portion of your required skill set, human relations are equally essential to meeting quality standards. This category will test your understanding of both patient and interpersonal relations. In particular, topics can include identifying age-specific patient needs; maintaining professional conduct; communicating effectively; respecting cultural differences; treating patients equally, regardless of their situation; working effectively with your employer, associated, and co-workers; and respecting diversity at work. 

Educating Patients

The ability to effectively educate patients is a critical part of a holistic approach to patient care. This test category covers patient instructions, resources, and documentation. Specifically, topics can include both verbal and written instructions related to wellness, nutrition, hygiene, pre-operative and post-operative care, and more; disseminating information to patients via written      resources; and accurately documenting interaction with patients and dissemination of instructional information.

2. Administrative Aspects of Medical Assisting

This work area includes a number of topics related to the administrative aspects of your work as a medical assistant. While you may not be engaged in all of these aspects actively, it’s important to have a functional understanding of the behind-the-scenes workings of a medical practice. Categories included in this work area are insurance, bookkeeping and finances, and reception/clerical. This work area is the smallest section of the test, and comprises 24% of the RMA exam. Read on for an overview of the subcategories and competencies included in this exam section.


Without a doubt, one of the most complicated aspects of running a medical practice of any size is handling patients’ insurance. Medical billing is an industry unto itself. This category includes a range of topics, such as insurance terminology, types of plans, insurance claims, and applications as related to financing. To be specific, the competencies tested may include: understanding terminology related to various types of health insurance; understanding the differences between private, government, accident, and other types of insurance plans; correct application of policies for a variety of plans, including HMOs, PPOs, disability, FMLA, Medicare, Medicaid, worker’s compensation, and more; completing insurance claims; filing claims; understanding how HIPAA impacts insurance filing; correct coding for various claim types; application of diagnostic codes; processing payments from insurance companies; monitoring unpaid claims; and more.

Bookkeeping and Financials

The bookkeeping associated with a medical practice can be quite extensive. Particularly in the case of a larger practice, bookkeeping is a complicated task. This category tests your awareness of financial terminology, the collections process, billing, general accounting procedures, banking, payroll, and math. In particular, the following topics might be covered: basic terminology associated with medical bookkeeping; explaining fee schedules to patients; collecting payments and managing patient accounts; creating and sending itemized bills and statements; understanding and utilizing billing; identifying overdue payment accounts; collecting debts appropriately; accounting basics in medical offices; daily balancing; accounts receivable and payable; petty cash; making deposits; reconciling statements; understanding checking and disbursement; preparing and maintaining employee payroll, including both hourly and salaried; and basic math associated with accounting functions.

Reception, Clerical, and Secretarial

Medical reception is an essential component of any functioning medical practice. Reception creates the impression on new patients, and it’s important that it run efficiently and effectively. Proper clerical and secretarial systems ensure that the practice runs smoothly as a whole. This category includes terminology, general reception topics, scheduling, communication, record keeping, charting, medical transcription, supplies, computer programs, and general office safety. Specifically, topics covered might include: utilizing reception terminology; communication skills related to receiving patients; emergency situations; understanding patient information; preparing records; appointment scheduling techniques; referrals and pre-authorization; scheduling patients out of office; phone etiquette; communicating with patients over the phone; documenting data from other providers; active listening; managing patient records; recording test results; filing patient materials properly; following HIPAA guidelines as related to records; transcribing provider notes; managing office supplies and other equipment; working with computer software; maintaining privacy and security; and safety in the workplace.

3. Clinical Topics

This final section of the RMA exam includes a collection of clinical subjects. It makes up the second largest section of the test after the General section, comprising 35% of the exam. Categories include asepsis, sterilizations, physical examinations, pharmacology, therapeutic modalities, and more. Below, we’ve put together an outline of the categories, subcategories, and competencies included in the clinical work area.


Asepsis is an important concept to understand in a clinical setting. This category will examine your awareness of asepsis terminology, bloodborne pathogens, universal precautions, medical and surgical asepsis, and more. Specific topics can include: modes of transmission; preventing infection; OSHA compliance; universal precautions and pathogen contact; aseptic procedures; hand washing and barriers; techniques for surgical asepsis and preparation; sterile glove, mask, and gown technique; and more.


Correct sterilization procedures prevent the spread of infection, and understanding them is essential. This category tests your knowledge of sterilization terminology, sanitization, disinfection, and proper recordkeeping. In particular, topics that may be covered are: sanitization procedures, including room, equipment, and instrument sanitization; disinfection procedures; disinfection chemicals; proper sterilization procedures; modes of sterilization, including autoclave, gas, and chemical; quality control for sterilization; and keeping appropriate records related to sterilization.


This category covers the various instruments involved in a medical practice. General topics include instrument identification, use, handling, and care. Specific topics may include: classification of instruments; common vs. specialty instruments; parts of instruments; using basic medical instruments; care and maintenance of any non-disposable instruments; and proper disposal of applicable items.

Patient Vitals

Taking and interpreting vital signs is an important part of the work that many medical assistants perform. In this category of the RMA exam, you’ll encounter vital signs terminology, blood pressure, pulse, respiration, temperature, and general measurements. Additionally, the following may appear: the specifics of blood pressure terminology; how to take blood pressure, including both systolic and diastolic pressures; proper recording of blood pressure; recognizing when blood pressure is abnormal; taking patient pulses; identifying deviations from normal pulse; accurately measuring pulse; understanding the physiology of respiration; measuring, charting, and identifying abnormal respiration; using various types of thermometers; understanding the various procedures for taking patient temperatures; recognizing various fever classifications and temperature standards for different ages; understanding the relationship between patient height, weight, and overall health; pediatric and adult measuring techniques; and identifying both normal and abnormal patient measurements.

Physical Exams

This category of the test covers patient history, exam positions, examination methods, types of specialty exams, allergy tests, vision tests, and general examination terminology. Specific topics can include the following: understanding and utilizing various methods of charting; recording patient history; examination positions and methods of draping patients; identifying various body positions; methods of examination, such as palpation and auscultation; special exam procedures, including pediatric, obstetrics, gynecology, proctology, urology, and radiology; tests for visual acuity in both adults and children; allergy testing, including scratch testing and intradermal testing; and specialty terminology.


The pharmacology section examines your understanding of a number of pharmacological topics, including general terminology, parenteral medication, and prescription drugs. The following may appear in this section: pharmacological terms and abbreviations; administering injections; syringe composition and needle selection; finding injection sites; proper dispensing of medication; proper prescription documentation; understanding of refill authorization and legal requirements; identifying Drug Enforcement Agency regulations for specific drugs; the use of common prescription drug references; and more.

Minor Surgery

This test category covers topics related to minor surgery, such as surgical supplies and procedures. Specifically, these topics may appear: common minor surgical instruments and supplies; common surgical procedures; preparing surgical trays; aseptic hand washing pre-surgery; sterile glove technique; prevention of bloodborne pathogen transmission; proper waste disposal; bandaging and dressing techniques; post-operative care; removal of sutures; and more.

Therapeutic Techniques and Modalities

In this section, you will be tested on subjects related to therapeutic techniques, including heat and cold treatment, alternative therapy, and patient education. Specific topics may include: heat treatment procedures such as moist compresses, heat packs, and whirlpool baths; cold treatments such as ice packs and cold compresses; range of motion, isotonic, isometric, and other exercises; alternative therapies, including acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic; providing patients with use instructions for crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, splints, and slings, and how to engage in therapeutic treatments at home; and more.

Laboratory Procedures 

Topics in the laboratory procedures category include lab safety, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988; lab equipment; quality control; testing; and general terminology. Specific topics that can appear are: universal precautions and OSHA; maintaining a quality control program, including protocols, daily maintenance, and proper storage; use, maintenance, and care of common lab equipment, such as microscopes, centrifuges, and analysis equipment; proper collection and handling of specimens, including urine, blood, throat swabs, stool, and more; performing waived lab procedures and tests; and more.

Electrocardiography (ECG/EKG)

This category covers ECG mounting techniques, and the use of a standard, 12-lead ECG. Specific topics may include: patient prep and placement of leads; codes and readings; procedure for mounting readings; recognizing abnormal readings; and other miscellaneous ECG procedures.

First Aid and Responding to Emergencies

This final section covers general first aid and emergency response. Topics include identifying when to perform CPR or the Heimlich maneuver, and how to perform them effectively; maintenance of a crash cart; recognizing emergencies and responding appropriately; legal responsibilities and the Good Samaritan Act; first aid scope of practice; and reporting guidelines.

ScopeNotes: The #1 Choice for Medical Assistant Exam Prep

While reviewing this study guide is a great start, adequate preparation for the RMA exam involved taking plenty of practice tests. ScopeNotes is the best choice for medical assistant test prep. Here’s why:

Tons of practice test questions

ScopeNotes offers more than 2,500 practice test questions. That’s more than twice as many as some of our competitors.

Unlimited practice tests

Practice tests are the best way to prep for a standardized exam, especially in the field of medical assistance. While other test prep services limit the number of practice exams you can take, ScopeNotes provides unlimited testing opportunities.

Animated review courses

It’s hard to stay focused when reviewing dull, repetitive material. ScopeNotes has worked hard to create a test prep product that’s engaging and effective. That’s why our review material is animated: it keeps you focused, which means a higher test score later on.

Customized content

Everyone who begins studying for the RMA exam is in a different place. There will be areas you’ll need to work on that are different from other test takers. ScopeNotes understands this, and that’s why our RMA practice tests are formatted based on your areas of weakness. Depending on how you perform on initial practice tests, follow-up tests will place more emphasis on the areas you’re struggling with. This will help to improve your overall score come test day.

Smartphones and tablet compatible

While it’d be great if you could always devote long stretches of time to sitting at a computer and studying, that’s not always possible. We’re all busy, and it’s not always possible to sit down at a desk and study. Fortunately, ScopeNotes is compatible with your smartphone and tablet. So, no matter where you are, you can sneak in some extra practice questions.

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