Success Story

HESI Medical Assisting Exit Exam increases certification exam pass rate at Nebraska Methodist College

Students raising hands

At-A-Glance Facts

Nebraska Methodist College (NMC) in Omaha offers a 12-month certificate program for Medical Assistants that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs on the recommendation of the Curriculum Review Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants Endowment. The program offers administrative and clinical experiences based in the classroom, lab, and a supervised 10-week externship. About 18 students complete the program each year.

Adding the HESI Medical Assisting Exit Exam to NMC’s Medical Assistant program increased the certificate exam pass rate from about 70% to 94%. Students take the exam three months before graduation to allow sufficient time for remediation.


“After we started the HESI Exit Exam, our certification pass rate went from about 70% to 94%,” says Marcia Sukstorf Franklin, MSN, BSN, RN, Program Director of the Medical Assistant Program at Nebraska Methodist College (NMC) in Omaha. “The HESI exam is what made the difference.”

Achieving Results

The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) requires accredited programs to have a five-year average pass rate for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam of 70%. “I was frustrated with our results on the certification exam,” Sukstorf Franklin says. “Too many of my students were doing great in the clinic and were finding jobs, but they weren’t having success with the exam.” Adding an online review course failed to move the numbers.

Sukstorf Franklin knew she needed something to assist with preparing students for the exam, and she found that something in the HESI Medical Assisting Exit Exam. She credits the exam with helping students to correct knowledge deficits through an individualized remediation program and providing the opportunity to practice taking a computerized test similar to what they will encounter when they take their actual certification exam.

“A lot of the students come back after the certification exam and say they felt more comfortable with the exam because they had done the HESI exam,” Sukstorf Franklin says. “They felt they were more prepared for it, they knew the kinds of questions that would be on it, they were used to taking a computer test, and they appreciated the remediation material.”

Enhancing Student Preparedness

Students take the HESI Medical Assisting Exit Exam three months before graduation, during the last week of class, and before they start a final three months of clinical experience. This timing is ideal for using exit exams to their fullest benefit.

Sukstorf Franklin reviews the HESI Individual Scoring Report with each student. The report identifies students’ potential to pass the exam and areas where they need remediation. “It shows how students did on each question, so they know where they are weak and what they need to work on,” she says. “They then have three months to prepare for the certification exam.”

To prepare, students can print or review online a detailed remediation plan, or their personalized HESI Study Packet, which shows exactly what they need to study and the test questions that they missed. “It points them to the right chapter in the appropriate textbook so they can review the information,” Sukstorf Franklin says. Although students are responsible for completing the remediation, she discusses the remediation plan and student progress with students while supervising them in the clinical area.

For those in danger of not passing, she says the results motivate students to study. For example, students tend to prefer clinical topics to administrative ones such as scheduling and bookkeeping. However, once they understand their lack of knowledge may prevent them from passing the certification, they complete remediation in areas where they are weak and then increase their chances of passing.

Sukstorf Franklin says another advantage of the HESI Medical Assisting Exit Exam is, “It’s set up just like the certification exam, where they take it on the computer and it’s timed, so it gives them practice.” This practice is especially valuable because NMC does little computerized testing.

Overall, Sukstorf Franklin says the HESI Medical Assisting Exit Exam “makes students more serious about taking the certification exam.”

Valuing Test Quality

The HESI Exit Exam allows faculty to measure students’ readiness for the CMA and Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) examinations with question formats and an exam outline matching the curriculum and the latest content outline* from the AAMA.

Sukstorf Franklin comments that the test questions are of high quality. “They are written at a high level, are well put together, and really help students prepare for the certification exam.”

She adds that the exam follows standard test construction guidelines by avoiding trick questions and negative question formats. “Many of them have scenarios so they can get at a student’s critical thinking skills and not just recall memorized knowledge. The tests really make them think, which helps them prepare.”

Promoting Student Learning and Collaboration

“The HESI Medical Assisting Exit Exam gives students a really good idea of what the certification exam is going to be like,” says Sukstorf Franklin, “It makes them aware of higher level question, and that they need to understand the information, not just memorize it.”

An added benefit has been students collaborating to prepare for the exam. “Students get together to have review sessions for the exam, which I didn’t see before we added HESI,” she says.

*American Association of Medical Assistants. (2017). Certification/Recertification (AAMA) Examination Content Outline. Chicago, IL: American Association of Medical Assistants.