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A long winded guide to the NASM testing experience

by Tryan Tahelp

I recently took the NASM exam, I was not given an actual score only a pass or fail. It was my first time ever taking any CPT test and I passed. The night before my test I got on the computer and started surfing to find tips, naturally I found this sight. I think the information given as "tips" here freaked me out. I won't argue with the others, but I will say the test is different from what they give you to use as "study material", but the information presented in the study material will pertain to the questions on the test.

The NASM Book:
I spent two days reading the text book cover to cover. I'm not a big reader, in fact I don't think I have ever read a novel cover to cover before. However, this book is a very easy read and filled with more pictures and graphs than it is with long drawn out scientific text. Especially if you are really interested in the information you will fly through the book and it will leave you thirsting for more information.

Hint: If you don't understand the subject matter, or you haven't been working in the field of sports medicine or kinesiology you may not understand some of the wording or text. My suggestion is to get with a trainer you know or someone that could help you visualize what is being taught (I say this simply because I have a friend that is new to this material and they say that their test is coming up and it scares me because when I talk to them about the information I seem to be getting that "wait what are you talking about" look from them).

The NASM Study Guide:
Along with the book I would use the study guide before and after each chapter as a quick reference as to what to expect or focus on in the chapter and to assess what I may already know or not know.

The NASM Practice Test:
Take the practice test as many times as you can stand and don't just memorize the answers, but understand why the answers are right.

HINT: when you take the practice exam online take note of the material its asking for and look over the whole section again pay attention to the little things like Numbers or Percentages.

For Example:

(what you might see on the NASM practice exam):
What is the daily recommended intake of protein for a healthy adult?

What is the daily recommended protein intake for a marathon runner?

Even without studying I passed the practice exam but DO NOT just assume that they will ask practice exam questions word for word on the exam itself. For a question like the one above I would go back to the book and look at the different recommendations of intake for all the different types of goal sets (ie: weight gain, fat reduction, body builder, or endurance runner). If there is one thing that I would call a SOLID TIP on this whole page that little bit of information would be it.

The Wrap Up
Like I said, I only absorbed the information from the NASM book/study guide/practice exams for 2 days and then spent another 2 days taking practice exams to prepare for the real deal cause its taken on a computer if you didn't already know. I'm convinced that people make this test out to be harder than it really is. I believe they just get caught up in the initial shock of the test's format and then panic their way through it. I say just relax and try not to psych yourself out and make sure you have a good understanding of the knowledge presented in the text.

I felt super confident before I read some of the stories I found online. They scared the heck out of me so I went in totally stressed out and dehydrated from sweating so much before I even got to the testing center. I hope this is the last online story you read about this test cause there are some horror stories out there. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE ITS NOT IMPOSSIBLE TO PASS, JUST RELAX YOU'LL BE FINE*

*(that is pending you understand the text you spent day reading) :P

As far as NASM exam tips go KNOW this info:

-Assessment exercises: names and function
-OPT model in and out along with what exercises go with what stage
-All the definitions in the study guide backwards and forwards (seriously they will word the questions in awkward ways)
-Know the emergency steps in the appendix for cpr and first aid
-specifics for men and women when it comes physiological differences...resting heart rate differences etc..
-know the solutions to assessed dysfunctions for all assessment tests
-pay attention to % and specific numbers given in the text like the amount of water recommended/day
-take the practice test at least 15 times (yes you can retake it multiple times and questions differ sometimes)....know the material they teach don't just memorize the answers, know why the answer is correct.
-know the NASM business standards there are several questions
-the questions that are study questions are unknown and they don't count against you or for your score but I assumed they were the questions that made me go "what, that wasn't in the text" but seriously if you think about what those questions ask and evaluate the answer selections you will figure it out.

This is not a complete list of things that you will find on the exam, but it may help in some small way.

Take your time, you have 2 hours. Read the question carefully and then read all the answer choices. I rushed through and had about 1 hour left so I double checked my answers and found about 4 that I misread and would have gotten wrong, who knows I may have failed if I hadn't gone back. So definitely


All in all, I would say that the test is a good measure of knowledge of the information needed to earn a certification in personal training, but don't be fooled they will not make it easy on you. Know what your reading and be able to explain the material to someone as if you where trying to teach a baby how to walk (minus the condescending baby voice and weird faces) and you will pass.

Thats all I got, GOOD LUCK

P.S. Don't take stock in those quick study guides to the NASM exam cause if you don't have a working knowledge of biomechanics and the anatomy/physiology of the human body then you would be wasting your time.

On the other hand if you have been a trainer and need a quick reference guide for a recertification after the 2 year mark then that may be the way to go if you no longer have your text book.

Comments for A long winded guide to the NASM testing experience

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A great reminder and great resource
by: Katie - Admin

Thanks Tryan Tahelp! (I think you have tried and succeeded.

It is a good reminder that different people handle the stress of exams differently. I think the moral of this story is to know your stuff, relax, and give it your best shot.

You don't have to get all the questions right to pass the NASM exam... When you are starting to feel comfortable with the material, when you can explain it to others, then you are getting close to being ready.

Great Tips!

- Katie

by: Ilka

I just took my NASM test the other day and I passed the first time. I have to agree with Tryan, in that I got kind of scared as well, after reading some blogs or comments on this site (ie: that it is very hard, that the practice test has nothing to do with the REAL test etc.).

I am originally from Germany, and have been here for about four years and have to say, sometime I thought I am learning Chinese or something... But hey, I understood everything...even though it took me a while sometimes..LOL.

My NASM Test Tips

Try to repeat the text in the book as if you would explain it to a friend, that has absolutely no idea of fitness etc. That helped me a lot (although I talked to my cat - lol) and also, speak out loud - it might seems funny but it will make you feel more secure when you actually hear yourself (your voice) talking like a Personal Trainer. It kind of boosts you self-confidence.

Read the questions in the test carefully, it is so easy to just blur over them, even though you think you have the right answer. Every question deserves your whole attention! :-)

And if there is one that you have no clue about or you forgot the answer use your common sense. After studying the whole book your common sense about fitness etc. is a lot better than anyone else's.

Last, I think if you really enjoy what you are reading and learning and you are passionate about this industry you will have fun along the way -even though studying for NASM can be boring at some times. Enjoy the process, you get smarter with every chapter!!! :-)
Isn't that something?

by: Shannon

Thanks for that. It makes me feel a lot better about going in and taking my NASM test.

Positive Thinking
by: Chris / Phoenix Arizona

I really appreciate reading your positive outlook and kow that if you can and others can do it....I will definately pass the 1st time.....the Law of Attraction....I am just in the beginning stages of a new beginning. The best to you and all others.

Thank you!
by: Hillary

Thank you so much for posting this. The majority of posts on here about the NASM exam seem to be about people upset and freaking out about how hard it is and how the practice exam is nothing like the real thing. I already was told by several personal trainers at the gym I've been hired at to not base it on that and that its a poor idea of the real test. I am confident that if you really know the material and are calm and confident in taking the exam, everything will be fine.

It actually puts me at ease to know that they word some of the questions to try and trick you to make sure that you really know the material. As a personal trainer, you have a huge affect on people and their health and if you don't know what you are doing, could cause a lot more harm than good. Personal training certification shouldn't be a walk in the park to get because then anyone, without a passion for working in the industry, could start giving training a very bad name.

Thanks again.

Know The Material
by: Ian from Hollywood

I took the test about two months ago. I was shocked to find that a majority of the questions were nothing like what the practice exam was like. I failed the first time. I was more pissed about being thrown off by very unfamiliar questions more than failing. I started to think maybe NASM was a big joke. Just another phony cert or something to that matter. I am studying to take the test again in a month or so and now that I know what I'm in for and have a print out of the sheet saying pass or fail, with %'s of what I did well in and poorly in, I plan on beating it this time. Don't get discourged it's not rocket science but you must be prepaired. I admit I could have studied more but now I know.

Every Day
by: john

In a nutshell;study,study,and, study some more.
I had the material for about two months before sitting for the test, and studied, literally, every day. I have a job, kids, and all of that, but I made the time.It was suggested to memorize the chart on page 169 which is what i did. Like others have said though, the questions on the test are asked in a way that really get you to take the time and consider the correct answer.
My BEST suggestion is to use whatever makes the most sense for you to remember material, and go through it EVERY day. Everyone hear me? EVERY day.Large index cards used for flash cards, worked the best for me.It wasn't easy,but thankfully, I passed, first time, and you can too. BUT..BUT, study EVERY day.
Good luck.

It all makes sense now....
by: Robert

I find this thread very useful!! I myself have failed my first attempt and was highly upset with myself. But after reading everyones comments, I am ready to pay my $200 (Sarcasm) and re-take the exam. Better believe I will pass the second time around, FOR SURE!! Thanks for the positive energy everyone :-D

Nasm re-take
by: Anonymous

I love the fittness industry i took the test two days ago and after studying hard i failed and now im ready to take it again, thank you for having this blog it motivates me not to give up even though i didnt fail by alot this time im not rushing and will use my two hours fully!

Old, Then The New
by: Anonymous

I have just received the 2008 NASM textbook with study guide and DVD set. I will read this book several times and view the DVD set the same way. I am in no rush to take the exam, so I will understand the old info before I purchase the full 2011 CPT course and exam. You only have 180 days to complete the course, so why not spend time on the slightly older information and really understanding NASM and the way they think. It is only about $85 with tax and shipping.

Clear Combat Fighting System

good thoughts
by: Damon Tackett

I read your post a couple days before I took the test. Unfortunately I had read some others first that were less positive. You gave me some hope and some good advice. Thank you.

The test isn't impossible. If you think about the questions and know the materials you will pass. Don't get thrown by the research questions.

I passed the first try. Don't know by how much but I passed and ultimately that is what is important.

Thank YOU!
by: Anonymous

I have read over the posts, was as others have said "scared" about the test. This gave me some comfort about it. I take my test 5 days from now. This made me feel 100% better about it. Thank you for this!

Thank you
by: Marcela

I'm glad I came across your post. I just started the NASM courses and reading everyone blog out there, scared me. But I feel more comfortable and at ease reading yours.
Like you mention, make sure you understand the answer and not just study it. It actually really helps. Hopefully, all goes well and I plan to take my test at the end of this year.

Thank you

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