Passed ACSM exam Feb 2011
Passed the ACSM cPT exam with 662/800. I did the 3-day workshop and though we didn't hands on all the equipment at the MASSIVE gym we were in, we went over every group of machines and our instructor gave us suggestions. And the instructor was great, the coach for the US Martial Arts Team and long-time cPT (among other certs & education). We did all the fitness tests and calculations. If you have no or minimal hands-on experience, I almost think the 3-day workshop is a must. The 1-day is just an exam review and don't plan on doing that and passing. You still have to study.
THE EXAM: You are provided with a calculator (on the computer) and THAT IS ALL. You are not provided any formulas so you must know the basic calculations. And yes, cm-in, lb-kg stuff. I was lucky I studied them. The exam is 150 questions but not all of them are scored. ACSM uses the exam for "test questions" also. There were some questions that I had absolutely no idea what they were. I will say that I was nervous about it, but when I went back and reviewed it seemed okay and lo-and-behold, I passed. I wish I could see what I missed because some of my percentages didn't make sense with what I felt I knew. ACSM does NOT require you to use their CEUs. There are others out there--some for free--that ACSM will accept.
If I did anything different, I would read the entire text (I read about 3/4 of it and I know there were questions pulled out of there that are not in the Review or GETP). I did spend quite a bit of time studying before the exam and could have used more time to study. Test took me about 1:30-1:45. I went with ACSM because I wanted one of the more reputable certifications. Plus ACSM is THE scientific research organization for fitness and health, so they are constantly putting stuff out there. Other organizations use ACSM for reference and research. Plus, just look at all the ACSM fellows or board members, etc. All university professors or other professionals.
As an alternative, I would go with the other big ones: NASM, NSCA, ACE. Those are the ones I know that are good. Bad part for someone like me with no health degree is I can't go any further. ACSM now requires a 4-year health-related degree for anything more than cPT and I think the NSCA CSCS requires it to, which is what I want. Hope this helps and good luck!