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The Real Deal on the NASM test

by Johnny C
(Somewhere, USA)

I just took the test two days ago (May 27th, 2009) and passed. I personally felt like it was exactly like the practice test, maybe even a little easier. By exactly like it, i don't mean the same questions, i mean the same level of difficulty. I studied pretty hard for this thing, including typing out a 95 page outline of the entire book. I had vocab cards, i had acute variable cards, had note cards of postural assessments, muscle groups, etc. I hadn't taken a legitimate test since high school, so i definitely didn't want to go in there unprepared.

That being said, I definitely overstudied for this test--which i don't think is a bad thing. I'd much rather be in that position then the alternative. I sat down at the computer, ready for anything--when i went through the first 10 questions, my whole body relaxed--this wasn't bad at all!! I would say out of 120 questions, (and i don't have my score yet, just know i passed), there were only 6 or 7 where i wasn't 95% sure i had the right answer.

People that are on here complaining of the test's difficulty, or bitching about failing---please . . you obviously looked at the book for about 15 minutes to study for this thing.

If you are a reasonably intelligent person that's ever studied for anything in your life, study like normal and you will pass this test. There's no 'Secret' to passing it. To me the test difficulty was akin to a final you would take freshman year at college.

A few things not to waste too much time on:
1. Special populations--you should know in general what the groups issues are, how their program would slightly deviate from the typical NASM model, but knowing acute variables of each of these groups is not necessary. Because of all the information contained in this chapter, it was by far by biggest outline chapter, in terms of pages, and was a pretty big time-waster
2. Chapters 17 & 18. Again-know the concepts, but most of it is pretty straight forward, the kind of questions you get asked on an online job application, like 'Would you steal if no one was looking' i.e. very obvious stuff.

A few things to have down:
1. Acute variables for the 5 steps (i believe they are summarized in the program design chapter)
2. Postural assessments, overactive/underactive muscles
3. Nutrient chapter (again, not extreme details--clearly i didn't need to memorize the 20 amino acids, but i did anyway)
4. I had trouble on a few specific definitions, all the motor _____ definitions, structural, neurological efficiency, etc. Know these definitions very well, because honestly all the motor definitions sound interchangeable, as do the efficiencies.

I HIGHLY recommend making a typed outline the first time you go through the book. Obviously it will take a bit of time, but in the end it will SAVE you so much time, but just having each chapter contained in a few pages of notes. I went over and over this outline and it really isolated the information for me.

That's pretty much it . . . study and you will pass, there are no tricks. I'd be shocked if my score was below 90% based on what i said above. GOOD LUCK!!

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by: Anonymous


by: Anonymous

Can you send me your 95 page outline?

Make sure you hone in on the muscles and compensations
by: Adam

I bought the NASM CPT program and before I even started studying, I attended the live 2-day workshop. It was very beneficial and I would highly recommend it. The reason is because when you are reading through the book, the concepts will make more sense and what you will be doing is filling in the details along the way of the 20,000 foot view you receive from the workshop. They basically do an overview of the whole program from start to finish. It was a great experience because we would learn the concepts and then practice them as a group with the instructors. I passed the exam on the first attempt. It is an easy exam if you thoroughly prepare. It would be a nightmare if you don't put the time in to prepare for it. I am a visual learner, so after the workshop, I would watch the DVD for each chapter before I read it. My approach was to work from the big picture first and then backwards to fill in the details as I go along. If you just start reading the book, you might be overwhelmed with all of the details that are in there. NASM is an amazing program and I would recommend it to anyone. The amount of details in the book make you think that after reading it you deserve a doctorate degree. Don't worry about memorizing all of the details for the exam, they just want to make sure you know the concepts and how they practically work together as a whole. Focus on the assessment part and the muscle compensations. Also hone in on the different exercises in each stage of the OPT model. My main piece of advice is to just put in the time, do the work to study and go through the practice exams online. The comprehensive practice exam is very similar to the real exam. I even remember a select few questions being the exact questions on the real exam. Learn the material and use the resources and you will do just fine on the final exam. I hope this helps.

Thank you!
by: Anonymous

This was really nice of you and very helpful!!
Thank you for posting this.

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Helpful NASM Tip

After taking the online practice quiz for the second time I made a connection that I had wish I realized earlier (since I am taking the test today). When you are reading the text make a special note when ever you see "research says" or "research has indicated". I found that almost every time you see those words you see a test questions relating to that information.

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Passing NASM Exam

I just passed the NASM CPT exam on my first try. This website really helped me and I even remember a few of the answers from here so I wanted to give back and help out other people who may also be taking this test.

1. Concerning the practice test: Everyone seems to have a different opinion on it. I believe it was helpful to know the format of the test somewhat. Take the practice exams a few times to get the feel of how the actual exam will look and feel. Here is the trick. When you start to answer the questions on the practice exam without reading the whole question, STOP TAKING IT! Now you are memorizing the answers and no longer getting the feel of it. I don't remember a single question from the practice exam and memorizing it will take up space for things you actually do need to memorize.

2. Speaking of things to memorize. The chart on page 169 is definitely going to help. What helped me was making little nicknames for each muscle. It is all about finding out what works for you. Also what may help is to put yourself through these movements and compensate the way you would be correcting. Then pretend you are a trainer and put yourself through a workout based on what you are correcting yourself on. It may make you look crazy, but that is fine. The more memorable it is, the better.

3. Try to remember the acute variables as well (sets, reps, training volume, ect) Know what they are. Also try to know how many reps a person would do in each phase.

4. Know the workouts with the phases. You should be able to identify if an exercise is stabilization, strength, or power.

With those four things you can plan on doing fairly well. Remember to use the practice test as a guide and don't memorize. Know the overactive, underactive muscle. (Use your imagination and give yourself a fake assessment.) Know the acute variables. Know the phases. Do all these primarily and throw in some nutritional facts and client relations and you will pass!

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NASM Exam tips and thoughts

by David
(Portland, OR)

I passed my NASM test yesterday and I thought I would share some of my thoughts about the test and the study material.

First, to anyone considering taking the exam but have not bought the materials yet. I recommend only buying the textbook. The rest of the materials were a big waste of money for me. I had read in several places that to pass the test you should study the DVD's, online course, and Itunes videos and mp3s. However, all of these just repeat the textbook. All of the figures and information are taken directly from the textbook. In my opinion it is completely ridiculous that the DVD's do not actually have video. How difficult would it have been to demonstrate trainers performing the stretches and exercises so we could actually see how they are done in motion? Of course none of the stretches or exercises are too complex but still, if I am paying for DVD's I would expect them to be different.

Now for the test. It really isn't that bad so don't be scared of what you have read on these forums. I casually read over the text maybe a month ago, and then I crammed for two days before the test.
Looking back this is how I would study for the test. Read the entire textbook first. Basically read it for fun and don't worry about memorizing specifics. Think about how you could apply the techniques and just try and understand all of the concepts. Wikipedia will be your friend if you don't understand things like proprioception.
The test can be extremely specific in parts so I would say a week before the test start getting your memorizing on. The test is actually very similar to the practice test (no idea why people on here are saying differently. There were at least 10 questions taken directly from the practice test. The difficulty level is very similar). So do lots and lots of practice tests! Ok now for some specifics that I found on the test:

-Chapter 5! Others have said it. It is mandatory that you memorize all of the assessments and the overactive and underactive muscles associated with each deviation in form.

-Stabalization(Phase I) is definitely the most important phase to know. You should know every stretch, balance, core, reactive, SAG, and resistance training exercise associated with this phase. This is the corrective phase, so there will be many questions that you use the assessments from Chapter 5 to determine what would be the best stretch or exercise to correct imbalance.

-If you see a number or percentage then memorize it. Eg. average heart rate, average blood pressures, BMI, waist hip ratio, recommended amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrates, calories from fat, protein, and carbohyrates.

-Nutrition. I briefly read the chapter and didn't memorize really any of the information and numbers. I think the questions would be very straight forward and easy to answer if I actually paid attention to the chapter.

-Know the tempo for every exercise and assessment. One question asked, "What is the tempo for the pushing assessment?". I memorized everything else about the assessments but not the tempo.

-Memorize the reps, percent of 1RM, and rest periods for each phase of resistance training.

-You do not need to memorize how to do every exercise. But memorize all of the names and if they are Stabilization, Strength, or Power.

-memorize how to progress and regress the exercises. Especially in the stabilization phase.

-you should understand every definition, most importantly neuromuscular efficiency.

-If the question seems really weird don't worry because it most likely is a research question.

-There were two questions on that stupid pie chart about body language, words etc. So memorize these percentages.

-There is no rush at all so calm down. Two hours is waaaay more time then you will need. So spend your time on the first couple questions and let your heart rate calm down so you can focus.

Those are just a couple specifics that I could remember. Obviously don't only study the things I mentioned, they are just meant to help you focus on some really key areas, but anything in the book could be on the test. Wow I feel like I just wrote a book. Well anyways good luck to everyone! Now I just need to find a job, which might be hard since I have no experience.

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Passed NASM today
by: Anonymous

I just returned from the testing center. I studied for about 3 month, used the book, the mp3material , the dvd's and did many practice online test. I felt well prepared for the test, but got quiet nervous about 20 questions into the test.I must have had a lot of the research questions right away, I felt much better by the time I reached question 80- 100, they got easier as I went along. So don't panic, if this happens to you...

This was a very difficult test for me as I had no background in this field. English is my second language and I often felt I was studying the latin language and not a for a personal trainer class.

If you can afford it, do the workshop right before your test, it will clarify a lot of questions about the assesments, the importance of stabilization training,how muscle works, and valuable material that will come up in the test.
I felt that my time was wasted by listening to the audio version, I did not retain as much material as in the video and book. The book is the most important, it contains more material.

Here is how I studied

I read a chapter in the book, watched the video and did the test in the study book, I did this chapter by chapter. On the very end I went through the book a second time and highlighted the key concepts. I made flashcards on all the words and numbers I had a hard time with.
I read through this blog many times and was surprised how little of it showed up on my actual test. The online practice test were very useful, I probaly did it 10 -15 times over the three month period.

Some of the exam questions have to be read very carefully, however they are no trick questions, some are very easy and straight forward others require a lot of thinking and re-reading. You will likely recognize the 20 research questions.
You have PLENTY of time for the test. I did it very slow, rechecked all my answers and still had 20 minutes left.
Good luck to all of you.

by: Anonymous

Just wanna say thank you for posting all this - I'm almost ready to go up for my test and you guys has kinda calmed down my mind a little - I hate tests and get sooo nervous. English is also my second language so I have to process things a little longer, but it seems like the test is okay and I'm doing okay on the practice tests, so hopefully I'll do as good on the real test :o)
Thanks again!

I Passed! Here's how I did it.
by: Thomas

I took this course seriously. I won't lead you to believe that it was easy. I read the book cover to cover first. Then I did the online flash cards, and made notes from the ones I didn't know. For example, if the flash card asked "what is the tempo of a stabilization excercise?" If I didn't know the answer I made a chart with all the tempos. If you don't know what muscle is overactive, do you know what muscle is underactive? Do one domain at a time, flash cards, quizes, and practice tests. I studied until I was sick of looking at the material. I killed the practice exams usually having about 45 minutes left, and I killed the real exam with 40 minutes left on the clock...(and that's even with going back to check the answers I wasn't totally confident about. I got a job at the YMCA a week later, and I'm being trained to take over one of their group fitness classes. Also they refer clients to you for personal training. There is alot more to learn this is just a the beginning. You may not make alot of money working in a gym, but it will give you alot of practice on evaluating, and training many different clients, from old to young, strong to weak. I believe we can make alot of money opening our own businesses with these types of skills. I hope this has been of help to you and good luck.

by: Anonymous

I recently passed the NASM. It wasn't as hard as people make it to be. If you read the book, answer questions in the study guide, and take plenty of practice test, it will be a breeze. Don't panic while taking the test. If you come across a question that seems way out in left field, it's probably a research question.

After reading the postS here, I was really expecting it to be a lot harder. It's wasn't! I could have taken the test upon reading the book and passed in about a month.

To add, use to process of elimination to choose the best answer.You can automatically rule out 2 answers on most questions. For the life of me, I don't know why people make it sound so hard. As long as you give an honest effort you can easily pass. Good luck!!!

Study the Charts
by: Michelle

I took my CPT and didn't pass the first time because I didn't memorize certain charts, But it is in fact a must know for the test. I found the test way different from the pretest and in fact more challenging. I studied very hard and did not expect the score I received the first time... But I in fact went back a week later for a retest because I knew exactly what needed to be fixed in order for me to pass. I passed April 2012.

Passed but it was difficult!
by: Anonymous

I just passed the test and am very relieved. I've been studying to the best of my ability for the past 2 months with the text book and the online course. I will say that the video tutorials were nice because I would get tired of reading the text, but they didn't go into nearly enough detail. I feel like I looked through every practice exam online and about 5 of the questions were similar! Apparently, the exam is made more difficult each year. I feel like the 'research questions' threw me off a few times but I just needed to stay focused. There were many more detailed questions on extension and flexion than I ever studied and random specific questions like appropriate caffeine consumption. My advice is to generally understand how the muscles work together, the roles of the different systems (i.e. muscular system ect.) and the vocabulary.

by: Anonymous

I'm getting ready to go for the cert. I'm a CPT but like to get NASM certified. So, most are not recommending the online video etc, which materials do you suggest are most helpful?

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Passed the first time! Here's what I did.

by K. Carrington

First of all, I want to thank the guys and girls who posted on this site because it gave me some valuable info to incorporate in my study regimen prior to the test. Most of the posts here (from those that passed) were spot on.

I used the text book as my key studying tool. First, I read through it completely highlighting the key point(s) of interest in each paragraph. A lot of the time you will find there is only one thing you really need to know per paragraph. I also watched the DVD's but to be honest, I wasn't as strict on myself when it came to incorporating the videos in my study sessions after the cardio chapter. It's not that they aren't helpful because they are; however, I felt like I was basically just watching an exact illustration of the textbook, which seemed a bit redundant to me. Anyhow, after reading through the entire textbook and answering all questions in the text and workbook as I went along, I then reread only the highlighted portions of the textbook on a second go around. I still answered all of the questions in the text and workbook as I went along the second time.

I focused heavily on the fitness assessment charts that mention which muscles are under or overactive depending on the various movements that point to muscular imbalances in the client (i.e. feet externally rotated or knees internally rotated during an overhead squat assessment). I also familiarized myself with each acute variable of the OPT model from flexibility all the way through to resistance. I would spot quiz myself at some point during a given day and challenge myself to write down the acute variables for each area of training in a random phase of the OPT model. If I got it all then good, but if I didn't I would look it over, commit it to memory, then rewrite it the correct way. Truthfully, the test didn't go as deep in detail on the acute variables of the OPT model as I thought it would but I would rather be safe than sorry. Your test may be different than mine.

I took the pre-test, but thanks to the tips dropped in this forum, I put hardly any stock in it at all. In fact, I was seriously tempted to completely ignore it; however, curiosity got the best of me in the end. I passed it, but I didn't let that fool me into believing I was ready just because of that score.

All in all, with my approach to study I pretty much breezed through the test. Even though the questions were worded differently I felt confident throughout the test because I didn't just study "questions and answers". I studied "concepts". When you study concepts your success isn't so dependent on the exact wording of the questions. Also, when you use the textbook as your primary study tool you will be studying all of the possible elements that will be on the test. That's not necessarily true for the dvds or workbook questions.

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First Time and PASSED!

by Melissa

After reading many forum posts about how hard the exam is I completely freaked myslef out! I took the exam yesterday for the first time and passed. I wouldn't say the test was easy, but I felt for the most part I did really well. However I probably should mention my BS in Kinesiology and MS in Exercise Science background.


Know the OPT model, inside and out! Duh, its whats sets NASM apart from other certifications.

Know the different acute variables for each block/phase of the OPT model, and know why they are different. It is very important to get through the program design questions(and real client application!).

Know the basics of nutrition. The percentages that each macronutrient should comprise of your diet, water, and the the positives/negatives of different diets.

Know Chapter 5. Assessments are the foundation of building a good program for a client and the test has a lot of "if this happens during an assessment then do what?" questions. Know the muscles that can be over or underactive to cause alterations in movement.

Read each question and read each answer. Take your time, two hours is plenty (I finished in one hour). I do not think the questions are "tricky" but I can see how people would get them wrong when not really paying attention to what is being asked. A lot of time there are two answers; one that is correct and one that could be correct if the question were worded differently. Don't panic; flag questions that you may be unsure of and go back to them at the end of the test (but mark your gut instinct answer first then flag, you can always change it). Later questions might help answer ones you were unsure of. If you really don't know the answer once going back, just go with your first thought and don't stress. If you don't know it then you don't know it (I had maybe one or two of these).

GOOD Luck!

P.S. I was not given extra paper or any materials to write things down. Know your stuff! Just read the book and do the homework!

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NASM: don't take it lightly -BUT it can be passed

by Tris

Honestly, this site is perfect for getting great advice and tips from those who have gone before regarding NASM.

I took it on Tuesday after about 8-10 days study. And for anyone who may benefit here are my thoughts. (I passed.)

This site has a lot of people mentioning it is different to the practice test. It is. But I think this is possibly down to the fact that doing the practice test a lot really cements in your head certain questions and the obvious answers. My advice is to certainly take the practice test a lot as it will give you a good confidence boost, let you know the type of questions asked and prepare you for the way the exam flows. But DO realise that the test is going to ask question in a more challenging way and a lot of mine were the type where two answers almost could be correct so total knowledge of something was essential so you could gravitate toward the right one.

I took the advice here and learnt solidly the Acute variables chart specifically for resistance training and the Full assessment chapters.

I'd also recommend getting the NASM study tips (email them for it) and going over each page, using it as your pre-test tip sheet and putting notes on that to read before going in. I did that and it helped.

As you know, the test is broken down into sections in terms of the questions for each, so spend the most time on the ones that have the most questions. (obvious I suppose but a few people I knew spread themselves too thin)

On the build up to the test I went through the book two days before, checked the videos for chapters 5, 13 and nutrition. I studied the acute variables table and the assessment table that tells you which body parts are overactive/underactive and so on. I did the practice test, was up in the 98% range so even though that felt good I kept telling myself to expect tougher...

In my test I was given paper so got there 30 mins early, went over the two tables in my car before to keep it fresh and for good measure re-wrote the two charts once inside the exam from memory before even starting the exam as although I had revised I felt confident with the data in my head and my understanding of it all I felt assured with those two there by my side (I still found myself sitting in my cubicle leaning forward and raising my know what I mean!)and when I bobbed my head forward and back like a chicken to sense my deep cervical flexors I think the guy next to me thought I was sniffing something, but hey, I wanted this certificate!. It helped a lot.

Seriously, at the start the total randomization of new questions hit me hard, but I checked a load I was unsure of as I knew it was first time nerves and went back to them later and they were obvious.

I found maybe 10 questions were repeats from the practice test and a selection were similar but obviously required different answers from what we have seen in the practice test, they were almost worded so that you may have thought you knew the answer but as you slowed down, re-read them, you realised quickly that there was a different angle here. So that is what I mean - don't do the practice test so much that you memorize the answers and assume you are facing the same question in your haste to move on to the next. READ the question.

I thought at first I was going to fail, my mind playing tricks, then I lightened up, thought 'No biggy - just do it" and then it was easier.

I do think some of us put a lot of pressure on and it clouds judgement. This is only a test, if you fail, no worries, you just have to take it again.

So in conclusion, I'd say read the book cover to cover, it actually flows nicely and is not boring if this is something you are truly interested in, get the NASM study tips as your foundation to know where points are scored. I personally did two long sessions two days out with the book and specific videos. And did the test over and over only for a confidence boost and to prepare for the format of the test.

Know that the questions are wordier and can seem to give two right answers, but upon thorough inspection if you know your stuff the right one becomes clear.

Relax and breath, then just take your time, two hours is plenty, I was out pretty quick and on with celebrating.

You can pass this if you've genuinely studied. Know the OPT, the nutrition, assessment and Acute variables.

IMPORTANT* Read all other comments in this section of the site as there are gems in there about the questions asked. So many other people have been good enough to supply valuable insight, it greatly helped me and I copied out a chunk of the comments which I am pleased to say offered questions I had not considered and WERE on the test.

And for your initial study structure I read a chapter, watched a video and then did the study guide tests. Then started practice tests after I finished all that to see where I stood.

This test is a good reflection of learnt knowledge, notihng beats doing it in real life but as it goes you need to show you 'get it' and NASM , for me, is a great course, the OPT model makes great sense and you will feel proud to have done this and passed.

Don't listen to people who act like this was not a challenge or it was not enough blah blah blah, this is a good test and if it is not enough for some then they can always do all the other certs out there whilst the rest of us put this knowledge to the test as trainers.

I sincerely hope this helps and wish you all the best. Cheers.

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great advice - helped loads!
by: Anonymous

thanks for your advice Tris, I appreciate you giving it and going over your experience. Others will benefit and you are right - there are gems in here! thanks!

no problem
by: Anonymous

I didn't think the exam was difficult. I'm a very academic person however. When I first got the book I thought it was clearly written for the jock types and not the English majors like me! I made myself a study guide and flash cards. I went through all the information on the NASM website. I finished before the other people taking the test with me. I could see how somebody who was the jock in school would need tutoring and extra practice but if you were a book nerd like me, no worries!

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