Certification Process

Eligibility Criteria

To become COA-certified, you basically have to fill out an application form, fulfill "required education and/or work" requirements, and pass the COA exam.  The application can be found here (PDF) on JCAPHO's website.  Most of our staff obtain their COA via the "COA-A3" pathway.  In other words, they work for us for approximately 6 months before they sit for their COA exam.  The completed application (with application fee) is then sent to JCAPHO who reviews it and then notifies the candidate whether (s)he is eligible to sit for the exam.  The candidate then schedules the actual COA exam at a Pearson VUE testing facility.

Required Education Required Work Experience
COA – A1 COA-OMP or CMA accredited clinical training program

  • If you completed the program more than 12 months ago, you will need to submit 18 JCAHPO Group A credits for each year following graduation.
(Candidates who graduate from an accredited formal training program at the Technician or Technologist level are eligible to apply for a lower-level certification under the A1 eligibility pathway).
None necessary
COA – A2 COA-OMP or CMA accredited non-clinical training program including distance learning programs

  • If you completed the course more than 12 months ago, you will need to submit 18 JCAHPO Group A credits for each following graduation.
COA – A3 Graduated from high school or the equivalent AND approved Independent Study Course such as the JCAT course or AAO Ophthalmic Medical Assisting course.

  • If you completed the course more than 36 months ago, you will need to repeat the course or submit 18 Group A credits for each year following the 36-month period.
1,000 hours under the supervision of an ophthalmologist within 12 months prior to submitting application

Examination Specifications

The COA certification exam consists of 200 questions and you are given 3 hours to complete it.  Each question on the exam has four possible answers and there is only one correct response.  Though some of the answer choices may be partially-correct, there is only one BEST answer.

The exam passing score is arbitrarily set by JCAPHO and is not formally published.  This passing score is not a straight percentage correct and the test is not graded on a "curve."  In other words, your test results are not being compared against other test-takers.  Lastly, you will find out whether or not you passed the COA certification exam immediately after finishing it! 

The topic breakdown of the test is shown below.   There will be a "new" breakdown starting 8/1/2018 as seen on the left column.  The questions on our website closely follow this topic breakdown.  Doing the questions on COA Review is the only preparation you will need to pass the COA certification exam.

Content AreasNew Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA)Previous Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA)
Sub-Content Area  
History and Documentation5%8%
Visual Assessment6%8%
Visual Field Testing4%4%
Pupil Assessment3%3%
Ocular Motility Testing4%3%
Refractometry: Retinoscopy & Refinement5%6%
Supplemental Testing3%8%
Assisting with Interventions and Procedures22% 
Sub-Content Area  
Surgical Assisting4%7%
Ophthalmic Patient Services and Education12%16%
Corrective Lenses4% 
Sub-Content Area  
Optics and Spectacles2%3%
Contact Lenses2%2%
Sub-Content Area  
Ophthalmic Imaging5%3%
Photography and Videography8%3%
Office Responsibilities19% 
Sub-Content Areas  
Equipment Maintenance and Calibration3%4%
Medical Ethics, Legal, and Regulatory Issues4%5%
Communication Skills3%0%
Administrative Duties9%0%