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I just passed the ACSM Exam

by Steffie
(North Carolina)

Okay guys, I just passed the ACSM exam this morning, and I'm going to tell you some things that will hopefully alleviate some anxiety! I studied for 5 months and I am so glad it's finally over! I had heard from so many people (including on this board) that this exam is incredibly difficult. That really tweaked me out- but then again, it also motivated me to study extra hard. In reality, this exam was not really THAT difficult IF (big IF) you study properly beforehand.

First about me: I am totally new to the fitness field- my degree is in the social sciences and I had no experience as a trainer before. So I was going into this totally green.

I am not going to go into a long list of questions and examples from the exam, simply because there are a few threads on this forum that already do so and pretty much cover it all. So if that's what you're looking for, check out some of the other threads and I am sure you will find all the question hints you need.

Here's what I did to pass the exam:

1. I bought every book; the textbook "Resources for the Personal Trainer"; the Certification Review, Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription", ACSM's Guide to Physical Fitness Testing" (Or something similar). I read each one cover to cover twice, for comprehension, and took a TON of notes. The textbook "Resources" is NOT enough to get all the information to pass this exam. You MUST get "Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription." It's very dry and sometimes boring but there's stuff in there you won't find anywhere else. Read the books carefully.

2. I made little posters of the more challenging/hard to remember concepts and put them up around my apartment. There must have been 15 little posters up all over but you know what- it was fun making them with colored pencils and I would just walk around my place looking at them whenever I had a minute, and I think it really helped.

3. I bought 3 online courses from ACSM learning. The human behavior one was good, but I didn't think completely necessary. There's not much on the test about this and if you study the textbook carefully it should be sufficient. The anatomy online course was great and a huge help. The exercise prescription course was awful- whatever company ACSM/Pearson contracted out to this that module did a terrible job. It was a mess- pages out of order, wrong topics... I ended up asking for and getting a refund for that. The online courses have these little quizzes at the end that I found helpful as well.

4. I'm not an idiot, and even though this sounds pretty goofy, it was very helpful to me. I took a dry erase marker and wrote on my arms and legs the muscles, bones, movements (evert, invert), etc. I did this on a day I didn't have to leave the house- and believe you me, one day of looking that goofy made the information stick in my mind forever.

5. I took every practice test in the certification review several times. At least 3-4 times. When I was averaging 90-95% on each chapter test, I knew I was ready to take the exam.

6. I got the study course from THIS website. Huge, HUGE help! I took every quiz probably 5-7 times. It's worth every penny.

7. I took the 3 day workshop. I guess I am glad I did it, though I can't say I really think it was worth $375. I thought the information in the workshop I attended was a little watered down and just repeating what I had learned- not at all supplemental, which is what I think a workshop should be.

8. I shadowed a personal trainer for 3 months, a couple hours a day, 2 days a week. This was immensely helpful but most of all got me prepared to actually start training!

9. Those KSA lists in the back of your books? I typed out each one, the corresponding answers and then printed them out and bound them into a little notebook. I carried this with me everywhere and whenever I had a moment I would look at a page or two.

After all that, the exam was challenging, but not overly difficult by any means. Know your risk stratification and formulas, anatomy & exercise prescription. Take your time. LIke any multiple choice test, for most questions there will be 2 choices that are just obviously totally wrong, giving you a 50-50 shot if you must guess.

Read the questions carefully. Don't rush. There will be a couple questions you will have no idea about and won't know where the hell they got them from. There were 2-3 that I KNOW were absolutely not covered ANYWHERE. I suspect these are are their 'test' questions that don't actually count on your score but that they use to choose questions for other exams. Don't sweat it. 99% percent of what you need to know is in your books. There were only 10 questions I had to flag and go over at the end; using common sense and what I knew I was able to figure out the right answer.

So.... in short... YOU WILL DO FINE! Study hard, don't slack off, take it seriously, and take your time on the exam. Take advantage of EVERY resource you can fine.

I ended up scoring around 90% on the exam. I wouldn't do anything different. I wish all of you great luck!! Now get studying!

Comments for I just passed the ACSM Exam

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by: Anonymous

Congratulations!! I am planning to take the Anatomy Course since you said that was great and the online tests. I am also planning to take the workshop!! You obviously studied very hard!!

finally passed
by: JT Wood

Well this was the second time I took the exam. The first time was a definite EYE opener. The test isn't really that hard but alot of the questions are worded different that what you may see. They do that on purpose obviously. It gave me a good guidepost to focus on for the next exam. I studied alot more over this past month. My friend sent me his very detailed notecards to help me out. That was nice cause its a different style of learning. I'm not good at just sitting down n' readin stuff. The review book was a great help and went through the tests many times. I also used this site to plow threw to help out. Make sure you know the equations for everything. There was alot of concern with MET values and there is only one question about converting a Met value. I did feel more confident this time through but was still stressed out before hitting that COMPLETE button. Any specific advise...make notecards..take the prep tests...use this may or may not need the my situation i probably didnt need it. The answers are all there in front of you...its up to you to take the time and absorb what you can...GOOD LUCK...

Just Passed Also
by: NewPT

I just took the ACSM CPT this past Friday and passed. I have a BA in psychology so that part of it was a breeze. I had also had a kinesiology course in college so I didn't have to work too hard in remembering all the muscles, their actions, etc.

I read the textbook and GEPT and took notes over both of them. All in all, I had close to 200 pages of typed notes.

I scanned pictures, boxes, tables, etc. from the books I thought were important.

I read through the GETP notes and looked over the scanned images 3 times. I read the textbook notes twice and the two chapters on physiology, anatomy, kinesiology, etc I looked through an extra time.

I did buy their practice test and am not sure it was worth it but I guess I'm glad I did as it gave me an idea of what their questions were like.

I didn't buy anything else or go to a workshop.

From start to finish, reading the books, taking notes and passing the test, took roughly 5 months, though most of the time I wasn't doing anything.

As has been said, read the questions carefully and use the flagging function when needed. There are some questions that seem to come out of left field, but don't worry about them. Guess or flag them and move on.

It was 150 questions and I had 2.5 hours to take the test. It did not take that long.

Good luck!

by: Anonymous

Today is May 10, 2010. I am scheduled to take the ACSM personal trainer test on June 22. would like to advice from anyone who has taken the test in the last few week. One guy I worked work with said there were very few formulas that you had to know.

Great Review
by: Brandy

This was such a great review that others can use in any exam they prepare for. You sound like a very detailed person and it's no wonder you passed with flying colors! Thanks for all the advice, I will definitely use this as I prepare for my test!

ACSM online course--Anatomy
by: Ultra

You mentioned that you took the Anatomy online course. I was just at the ACSM online learning site and I didn't see an Anatomy course. Am I looking in the wrong place? When did you take it?

Thank you!

by: Anonymous

How do you arrange shadowing a personal trainer? I think its a great idea. Did you just contact one at random and do you have to pay them to do so?

Nov 2010 - Just Passed
by: gymowner

I just passed the ACSM exam and would have done much better if I read more of the book. I have years of experience in PT and also have an academic background in kinesiology. Without much studying I passed the test.

That's the good news. I was very surprised during the test and had a feeling that I might not pass. I was wondering, "Where are all the kinesiology questions I was expecting, so I can really pack on the points."

Luckily, the little bit of ACSM specific studying I did was to review the Karvonen equation again and some of the special populations stuff.

I was really surprised how many behavioral, psycological, and non exercise specific questions were on there.

My best advice is to use flash cards to reinforce your knowledge of the different muscles responsible for movement and what planes and movements are performed by which muscles. This is fun and easy and while it's not a huge chunk of the test, performing at an 85% or higher level in exercise physiology and kinesiology will be a good foundation toward a passing grade.

Definitely know relationships SV, HR, Q, etc and acute and chronic effects of activity on those.

As for the behavioral, psycological,read that carefully in the book to have good understanding. Know where your hands should be for spotting exercises, and understand different types of training, lesson planning, and program design, and you will be fine.

Obviously, if you do not have an academic background prior to ACSM, you definitely should attend a workshop

just passed Dec 2010
by: Anonymous

I just took the ACSM Certification Examination, and a lot of the posts on here significantly helped me in what I should focus on primarily in my studying. As a result, I passed it on the first attempt, so thanks for all the great posts so far! I'm currently AAAI/ISMA certified (they are good too), but I think this one is going to look a lot better on paper! Anyway, I'm blabbing. I would recommend really studying up on the following in addition to all the normal parts of a personal trainer exam:

-Muscles of the upper body...particularly the rotator cuff
-Designing a aerobic conditioning program
-HDL/LDL functions and what ideal scores are for them
-Heart anatomy and function (fibrillation)
-Ballistic and PNF Stretching

Good luck!

by: Whitney

How did you go about "shadowing" a personal trainer? Did you just go into gyms and ask? I am about 3/4 way done studying and I desperately want to get into a gym to shadow. Did you get paid? Or was it just for experience.

How much anatomy
by: Liz

I'm just starting to study for the ACSM CPT test and am feeling overwhelmed with the anatomy. It was never a strength of mine and there is SO much! How detailed is the exam? Are we expected to know every muscle in the human body or is it more important to know the major muscles, their movements and exercises?

anxious about the test
by: Anonymous

I am taking the CPT test in 2 weeks. Are there many case study questions, or mainly just quick to the point multiple choice?

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