So you’ve taken the course, did all the studying, and now you’re ready to take the next step. So you might be wondering, “How do I pass the NASM exam on the first try?”
This is actually a pretty popular question, and you, no doubt, landed on this article because you were Googling for answers. There are a lot of different opinions and advice out there, and mine is exactly just that, opinion and advice. However, I think that by passing the NASM certified personal trainer exam on the first attempt, I can help you through yours.
This article takes you through my journey of passing my Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) examination. As a 46-year-old fitness enthusiast who’s been involved in fitness-related activities for about six years, I decided to take on the CPT guided study, a decision that proved quite helpful.
The Initial Preparation
Originally, I had scheduled my exam for a week after the end of the guided study program. However, I soon realized that I was not confident in several areas regarded as pivotal for the test. These included understanding over and underactive muscles, the acute variables, and some queuing aspects when training a client.
Looking back now, I’m not sure that I actually wasn’t ready, but because I have been doing my research on what to expect on the exam, I had seen those specific sections mentioned over and over, I began to doubt my knowledge and readiness in those specific areas.
I postponed the exam for a week, giving myself time to improve in these areas. This actually proved to be quite valuable.
Over the next two weeks, I dedicated myself to studying. I retook the guided study program’s NASM exams and pop quizzes. I read all the domain summarizations to ensure a broad understanding of the material. At one point, I painstakingly went through the entire book, focusing on the summary sections of each part.
I printed off the glossary of terms to study on the go.
To help with knowledge retention, I made approximately 200 to 300 flashcards on topics I struggled with. Additionally, I watched many YouTube videos to get insights into the areas I needed to concentrate on.
I studied alone. My wife helped me. I spent time every day, even if just for a bit, hitting the books.
The Exam Day
Contrary to advice from the NASM folks who recommended not studying on the last day, I spent my entire day reviewing flashcards and rewatching recorded webinars. For me, this worked, as I encountered several questions in the NASM test that seemed familiar from my last-minute review.
Also, by spending those last few hours with my nose in the guided study, I felt like whenever the test time came, I was already warmed up and ready to go. This was much more logical than just trying to jump in and pass the test without any warm-up period.
I also scheduled my test for midday to allow myself that extra study time.
My Exam Experience
What Is On the NASM Exam?
The exam I took remotely started with anatomy-related questions—specifically skeletal and circulatory systems. This was quickly followed by a series of questions on over and underactive muscles, which I was glad to have spent extra time on.
These NASM exam questions focused on basic muscles, such as the glutes, gastrocnemius, and latissimus dorsi, rather than more obscure muscles. This surprised me, as many of the videos I watched regarding exam preparation said this section was much more in-depth. Mine wasn’t, but I’m not complaining.
The next section of the exam focused on exercise cueing, an area I hadn’t prepared for as thoroughly. Much of my desire to take this course and become an NASM certified personal trainer had more to do with gaining personal knowledge than actually training clients in real life.
Because of that, I haven’t really paid much attention to this particular section of the course. I probably should have because I had to cram these few weeks before the test to feel more acquainted with that information.
Following this, the exam delved into business-oriented questions about building and managing a fitness enterprise, including practical situations you might encounter as a personal trainer.
Toward the end, the exam covered exercise options for different NASM Optimum Performance Training model phases. The final questions were a mix of all the above topics.
Mentally Preparing to Take the NASM Final Exam
During the test, I found that my extended preparation on the over and under actives section served a dual purpose. It not only helped me answer those questions correctly but also helped calm my nerves, providing me with a sense of confidence and control that significantly contributed to my overall performance.
I skipped questions I did not know the answer to immediately and revisited them once I had answered all the other questions. This is an old trick that I learned during my school days, and it seems to serve me well still to this day. This allows me to feel like I had momentum after answering all the “easy” questions before tackling the harder questions.
My Recommendations for Passing the NASM Exam
In my experience, the exam was not particularly hard, especially if you study the topics commonly recommended: over and under-active muscles, exercise cueing, basic anatomy, and knowledge about the fitness industry.
However, my most important advice is to take note of your weaknesses. If these coincide with the heavily weighted sections of the exam, consider delaying the test for a week to focus on these areas. This was probably the most beneficial decision I made in my preparation.
Also, it’s ok NOT to know everything going into the test. Since the questions were mostly multiple choice, some questions were able to be answered through a process of elimination and common sense.
The test had me stressed the week leading up to it, which drove me to study harder. That said, the stress wasn’t necessary based on the complexity of the test.
Study your material everyday. You will be fine.