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 steps provide you with a series of recommendations that while fairly comprehensive, 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

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 memorization and recall of information from textbooks and materials but is an assessment of your knowledge, skills, and ability to be a Personal Trainer. The NSCA's textbook and official resources are optional tools that can help you prepare for the exam. The NSCA-CPT Study Guide will provide you with an understanding of the exam, recommendations for preparation, and the opportunity to self-assess your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Visit the NSCA Store to view all of the available NSCA-CPT exam preparation materials. 

The NSCA does not require, provide, nor endorse any specific study guides, preparation materials, or review courses. Candidates who choose to use and/or purchase NSCA preparatory materials are not guaranteed a passing score on certification exams offered by the NSCA.

Additional Resources for gaining knowledge and experience:

  • Become a Member and gain access to NSCA journals and member-only content.
  • Check out the articles, videos, podcasts, and other resources on the Education page.

Step 3: Study

  • Review the Detailed Content Outline.
  • Review the NSCA-CPT Study Guide for study recommendations and 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 joining the NSCA-CPT Exam Prep Facebook Group or create your own study group.
  • Use the Online Practice Questions as follows:
    • 1st time - to identify areas of weakness.
    • 2nd time - to further assess knowledge and understanding following use of the Study Guide.
    • 3rd time - seek to score > 85%. Identify why you chose a specific answer and why you did not choose other answers. Reminder: the % score on the practice questions does not equate to the score on the exam. A scaled score is used to assess competency and passing for certification.
  • Answer the open-ended questions found in the NSCA-CPT Study Guide.
  • Seek topic-specific webinars, articles, or references to address areas of weakness. The NSCA's Education page is a great place to look!
  • Decide if further study of the exam preparation materials is needed; if not, register for the NSCA-CPT exam.

While experience is not required to sit for the exam, exposure to the activities of the profession through observation or an internship is recommended.

Additional Resources

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.
Join our moderators in open discussions about topics that are most challenging on the exam and ask questions that you need help with.
Are you looking for assistance in studying and preparing for the NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) exam? Check out the NSCA's Exam Prep Live Clinic - Online! This live educational clinic is offered periodically throughout the year.
#NSCAStrong #NSCAStrong

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