NSCA-Certified Personal Trainers (NSCA-CPT)

  • Certified personal trainer assisting a female client with military press

    NSCA-Certified Personal Trainers (NSCA-CPT)

    NSCA-Certified Personal Trainers (NSCA-CPT) are health/fitness professionals who, using an individualized approach, assess, motivate, educate and train clients regarding their health and fitness needs. 

    Certified personal trainers design safe and effective exercise programs, provide the guidance to help clients achieve their personal health/fitness goals and respond appropriately in emergency situations. 

    Recognizing their own area of expertise, personal trainers refer clients to other health care professionals when appropriate.

    Certified personal trainer assisting a female client with box jumps

    Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) Exam Format

    Individuals looking to become certified personal trainers through the NSCA have the option of taking the exam in two formats.

    Paper/Pencil Exam

    The paper/pencil format of the exam is offered at predetermined sites and dates all across the world. If the required documentation has been received by the NSCA scores will be mailed 6-8 weeks after the exam.

    View Exam Dates

    Computer-Based Exam - Available in the U.S. ONLY

    Exams are administered by computer at more than 160 AMP Assessment Centers across the United States. Assessments are typically located in specific H&R Block offices. After you have registered for the Computer-based exam, you will receive an email with instructions on how to schedule your exam within 3-5 business days from AMP. 

    Candidates can schedule up to two days before the testing date. Exams must be taken within 120 days of registering. If the required documentation that supports the prerequisites has been submitted to the NSCA at least 10 days prior to the exam, scores are received immediately after the exam. 

    Find an Exam Location

    NSCA-CPT Paper/Pencil Exam Cost

    NSCA Member  Early Registration Deadline  Registration Cutoff 
    Initial Registration fee $235 $270
    Retake fee $185 $220
    Non-Member     
    Initial registration fee $370 $405
    Retake fee $320 $355

    NSCA-CPT Computer-Based Exam Cost

    NSCA Member  Registration Fee 
    Initial Registration fee $285
    Retake fee $235
    Non-Member   
    Initial registration fee $420
    Retake fee $370

     

    Description

    To earn the NSCA's personal trainer certification (NSCA-CPT), candidates are required to pass a challenging written examination that includes 140 scored questions and 15 non-scored questions*. 

    The exam consists of four sections: 

    1. Client Consultation/Fitness Assessment
    2. Program Planning
    3. Exercise Techniques
    4. Safety/Emergency Issues

    Summary

    Domain Percent of Exam Section Number of Questions
    Client Consultation/Assessment 25% 35
    Program Planning 31% 43
    Techniques of Exercise 31% 43
    Safety, Emergency Procedures and Legal Issues 13% 19
    Non-Scored Questions* - 15
    Total 100% 155
    Number of video questions (already included in the total)    25-35 
    Length of exam    3 hours

    The information above is only a summary of the NSCA-CPT exam. The Detailed Content Outline is available in the Candidate Handbook.


    * Explanation of Non-Scored Exam Questions:

    The NSCA's certified personal trainer (NSCA-CPT) exam contains non-scored questions that are being "pretested" or evaluated for future use. Including this type of question allows the NSCA-CPT Exam Development Committee to collect meaningful information about new questions that may appear as real scored questions on future exams.

    Pretesting is accomplished by interspersing new ("untried") questions throughout the exam (10 non-scored questions appear in the NSCA-CPT exam). Only this small number is included so that additional testing time will not be needed by exam candidates. These questions are not scored as part of a candidate’s certification exam, and they do not affect an individual’s pass/fail status. The non-scored questions are scattered throughout the exam so candidates will answer them with the same effort that they give to the actual scored questions.

    To keep the NSCA-CPT exam reflective of current job-related duties, new questions must continuously be introduced and evaluated. Pretesting is an accepted testing practice that creates a statistically sound standardized exam and allows candidates to receive scores that are based only on previously used (“tried”) questions. Non-scored pretest questions also appear on the computer-based exam format to provide the same testing experience to all candidates, regardless of which exam format a candidate chooses.

    **Please do not send in your supporting documentation until AFTER you have registered for an exam.**

    18 Years Old and High School Diploma or Equivalent

    To qualify to register for the NSCA-CPT exam, you must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent.


    CPR and AED Certification

    Current CPR and AED certification is also a requirement. If you do not have current CPR and AED certification, you can still register for and take the NSCA-CPT exam. The NSCA Certification will accept any adult CPR and AED certification obtained by attending a CPR and AED course that meets the following criteria:

    • Must have a hands-on training component (certification through a course completed entirely online will not be accepted)
    • Must include a skills performance evaluation

    Examples of accepted CPR and AED certifications include 

    • American Heart Association (Heartsaver)
    • Red Cross (including Blended Learning First Aid/CPR/AED Program)
    • National Safety Council
    • St. John Ambulance

    Personal trainers with specialized expertise may also be involved in training clients with orthopedic, cardiovascular and other chronic conditions. Although no formal post-secondary course work is required, candidates are expected to have a good knowledge of biomechanical concepts, training adaptations, anatomy, exercise physiology, program design guidelines and current position papers pertaining to special populations.

    The NSCA Certification will not release exam scores until documentation of valid CPR and AED certification has been received. 

    Note: Exam scores are valid one year from the date the exam was taken, the NSCA must receive documentation of valid CPR and AED certification BEFORE the one year mark has passed. After that date, exam scores are considered NULL and VOID and the exam must be re-taken. 


    Please mail your supporting documentation to: 

    1885 Bob Johnson Drive
    Colorado Springs, CO 80906
    FAX: 719-632-6367 (copies of CPR/AED only)
    Email: ronda.manzella@nsca.com (copies of CPR/AED only) 

    Prepare

    Because candidates with diverse backgrounds take the NSCA's certified personal trainer (NSCA-CPT) exam, it is difficult to recommend a single approach when preparing to take the exam. An academic background in an exercise science/physiology, strength training and conditioning, physical therapy or athletic training related curriculum provides the ideal foundation from which a candidate may begin to prepare for the NSCA-CPT exam. However, there are candidates without an exercise science-related degree, but with a significant amount of professional experience who want to take the NSCA-CPT exam. Therefore, candidates should follow the information below that best reflects their academic background.


    Candidates with an Academic Background

    Candidates who have an exercise science-related degree can use the NSCA-CPT exam preparation materials in this manner:

    • Take a NSCA-CPT Practice Exam
    • Use the practice exam scores to identify the knowledge areas that need further review
    • Consult the NSCA-CPT Exam Content Description booklet and Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition textbook to learn more about the knowledge areas that require additional study
    • Study the other exam preparation materials, if necessary
    • Take a different NSCA-CPT Practice Exam to reassess your increased knowledge base
    • Decide if further study of the exam preparation materials is needed; if not, register for the NSCA-CPT exam

    The philosophy of this strategy is to focus exam preparation on weak content areas, rather than reviewing all exercise science-related concepts (since they were initially learned in an academic environment).


    Candidates without an Academic Background 

    Candidates who do not have an exercise science-related degree can follow these steps to use the NSCA-CPT exam preparation materials:

    • Refer to the NSCA-CPT Exam Content Description booklet to discover the content and scope of the NSCA-CPT exam and to decide if more formal instruction or classes are necessary
    • Study exam preparation material
    • Take a NSCA-CPT Practice Exam
    • Use the practice exam scores to identify the knowledge areas requiring further study
    • Go back to the other exam preparation materials, if needed
    • Take a different NSCA-CPT Practice Exam to reassess your increased knowledge base
    • Decide if further study of the exam preparation materials is needed; if not, register for the NSCA-CPT exam

    The philosophy of this strategy is to first review all exercise science-related concepts, assess what was learned via the practice exams and then focus exam preparation on weak content areas.

    The ideas presented here are merely suggestions to assist exam candidates in the studying process. They should not be considered as the only method to prepare for the NSCA-CPT exam. Ultimately, it will be each candidate’s academic, experiential and test-taking abilities that dictate how effective the preparation materials are. Also, while understanding the information presented in the preparation materials should certainly increase the likelihood of passing the NSCA-CPT exam, it does not guarantee a successful performance. The questions on the NSCA-CPT exam are developed from resources in addition to these materials (refer to the Additional Textbook References list).

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    NSCA-CPT Study Materials

    The personal trainer (NSCA-CPT) certification examination reflects the most current and accepted KSA standards within the health and fitness industries. Further, the examinations may be developed from references that may be in addition to resources listed below. NSCA materials survey important content area, but are not a comprehensive study of the Exercise Sciences.

    NSCA Publications can be purchased in the NSCA Store.

    Suggested NSCA Resources

    NSCA-CPT  Online Practice Exam, Vol. 1

    Purchase a Study Material Package 

    Additional NSCA Resources in Partnership with Human Kinetics:

    Additional Resources

    Exam Prep Symposium  

    The NSCA offers a 2-day Exam Prep Symposium.  This event covers the most relevant topics related to the NSCA-CPT certification exam. To view upcoming Exam Prep Symposiums, click here. 

    The Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS) program was created in 2012 to identify individuals who possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) to design indicated exercise programs for individuals with unique needs. The credentialing program encourages a higher level of competence among practitioners and raises the quality of strength training and conditioning programs provided by those who are CSPS certified.

    The inaugural exam for CSPS will proudly be launched at the 2012 NSCA National Conference and Tradeshow. Thereafter, the NSCA will submit the CSPS for national accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).