NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer Exam Description

The NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer® (NSCA-CPT®) exam is comprised of 140 scored and 15 non-scored* multiple-choice questions that tests candidate's knowledge, skill, and ability in the following four domains:

1.  Client Consultation/Fitness Assessment
2.  Program Planning
3.  Techniques of Exercise
4.  Safety, Emergency Procedures and Legal Issues

There are 25-35 video and/or image items that assess competencies across multiple domains.

To pass any NSCA certification exam, you must earn a scaled score of 70 or higher. More information on scaled scores can be found on the exam scoring page.

The pass rate was 66% for first-time candidates attempting the NSCA-CPT exam in 2022.


Domain Percent of Exam Number of Questions
Client Consultation/Assessment 23% 32
Program Planning 32% 45
Techniques of Exercise 31% 43
Safety, Emergency Procedures and Legal Issues 14% 20
Non-Scored Questions - 15
Total 100% 155
Number of video questions (already included in the total)    25-35 
Length of exam    3 hours

Client Consultation/Assessment
Initial interview; Medical history and health appraisal; Fitness evaluation; Basic nutrition review.

Program Planning
Goal setting; Program design; Training adaptations; Special populations.

Techniques of Exercise
Machine resistance exercises; Free weight exercises; Flexibility exercises; Calisthenic and bodyweight exercises; Sport-specific/performance-related activities; Cardiovascular machines; Non-machine cardiovascular activities; Alternative training activities.

Safety, Emergency Procedures, and Legal Issues
Safety procedures; Emergency response; Professional, legal, and ethical responsibility.

The information above is only a summary of the information on the exam. The detailed content outline is available in the NSCA Certification Handbook (PDF)

Explanation of Non-Scored Exam Questions

The 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 (15 non-scored questions appear in each section of 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.

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