How to Prepare for the CSCS Exam

One of the most common questions received is, "How do I prepare for the CSCS® exam"? Preparation for the NSCA’s certification exams begins with a plan. The following steps provide you with a fairly comprehensive set of recommendations that, based on your background, may need modification: no one set of recommendations or resources can meet the needs of each individual. You will need to determine what steps meet your needs and provide you with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to certify and begin your career as a strength and conditioning professional.

Step 1:  Planning

  • Confirm you chose the right certification based upon the population you will be working with. The CSCS is for those working with competitive athletes.
  • Review the Exam Prerequisites including the requirement of a bachelor's degree. Certification is not complete without confirmation of these requirements.
  • Read the NSCA Certification Handbook to understand the examination process. 
  • Read the Detailed Content Outline (DCO) upon which the exam is based (the textbook is a resource).
  • 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’s Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (4th edition) and other official resources are valuable tools to help you prepare for the CSCS exam. The CSCS Study Guide, based on the CSCS Detailed Content Outline, has been put together to help you understand the exam, how to focus your preparation, and assess your knowledge as you prepare.

Keep in mind that the exam does not assess your ability to memorize and recall content found within the materials, but your ability to apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities required of a practicing Strength and Conditioning professional. 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. Visit the NSCA Store to view the available CSCS exam preparation materials.

Additional Resources for gaining knowledge and experience:

Step 3: Study

  • Review the Detailed Content Outline.
  • Review the recommendations for preparation in the CSCS Study Guide and identify your level of comprehension for each domain, sub-domain or task.
  • Develop a study schedule with an emphasis on your weaker topics, but study all topics.
  • Connect with others by joining the CSCS Exam Prep Facebook Group and/or create a study group.
  • Use the Online Practice Questions to :
    • 1st time - to identify your areas of weakness.
    • 2nd time - after a review of the content to assess your 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 CSCS 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!
  • 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 CSCS exam.

Additional Resources

Are you looking for assistance in studying and preparing for the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exams? Check out NSCA Exam Prep Live Clinics! Live educational clinics are offered both online and in-person. The in-person events include time for hands-on practice in the weight room.
Join our moderators in open discussions about topics that are most challenging on the exam and ask questions that you need help with.
#NSCAStrong #NSCAStrong

has been added to your shopping cart!

Continue Shopping Checkout Now