How to Prepare for the NSCA-CPT Exam

One of the most common questions received is, "How do I prepare for the NSCA-CPT®  exam"? Preparation for the NSCA’s certification exams begins with a plan. The following checklist provides you with a series of recommendations that are fairly comprehensive and therefore may need to be modified dependent on your background: no one series of recommendations or resources can meet the needs of each individual. It is important for you to determine what steps will meet your needs and provide you with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to become a professional.

Step 1: Planning

  • Ensure you choose the correct certification.
  • Review Exam Prerequisites including the requirement of a bachelors degree.
  • Read the Detailed Content Outline in the NSCA Certification Handbook
  • Review Exam Content Description booklet
  • Talk to people with similar backgrounds who have passed to get insights on what worked for them
  • Determine how much time you need to study & set a target exam date.
  • Create and commit to a study schedule. 

Exercise Science Related Degree

Internships or Practical Experience

Approximate Length of Time



3 to 6 weeks



3 to 6 months



4 to 6 months



6 to 9 months

Step 2: Get Your Study Materials

The NSCA-CPT certification exam is not based on recall from textbooks and materials, but an assessment of your knowledge, skills, and ability to be a Personal Trainer. However, the NSCAs textbook and official resources are valuable tools to help you prepare for the exam. Visit the NSCA Store to view the exam preparation materials that are available.

Additional Resources for gaining knowledge and experience:

Step 3: Study

  • Review Detailed Content Outline in the content Description booklet to identify your level of comprehension for each domain, sub-domain or task.
  • Develop a study schedule with an emphasis on the weaker topics, but study all topics.
  • Connect with others by creating a study group or join the NSCA-CPT Exam Prep Facebook Group
  • Use the Online Practice Questions to :
    • 1st time - to identify areas of weakness
    • 2nd time - after review of content to assess knowledge and understanding
    • 3rd time - toward the end, Score > 85% and identify why you chose the answer and why you did not choose other answers (reminder: a passing score on exams are evaluated on a performance standard scale and not percentage based).
  • Answer open-ended questions found in the Content Description Booklet
  • Seek topic-specific webinars, articles, or references to address areas of weakness.
  • Attend an Exam Prep Live Clinic and receive a comprehensive review of content areas on the exam.
  • Decide if further study of the exam preparation materials is needed; if not, register for the NSCA-CPT exam.

Additional Resources

NSCA-CPT Exam Prep Live Clinic

The NSCA Exam Prep Live Clinic is designed to help individuals understand the most relevant content as it pertains to these exams.

Foundation of Coaching Lifts Course

A Hands-on Approach to Coaching Lift Progressions certificate course lays the groundwork for teaching athletes and clients how to properly perform the bench press, push press, power clean, and squat. This course covers exercise application, lift progressions, and coaching cues.

NSCA-CPT Exam Prep Facebook Study Group

The NSCA Exam Prep Live Clinic is designed to help individuals understand the most relevant content as it pertains to these exams.
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