Certified Special Population Specialist® Exam Description
  • Certified Special Population Specialist® Exam Description
    To become a Certified Special Population Specialist® (CSPS®), candidates must sit for an exam that will test their knowledge in four areas: Basic Pathophysiology and Science of Health Status, Condition, Disorder or Disease; Client Consultation; Program Planning; and Safety, Emergency Procedures and Legal Issues. Exams are hosted in testing centers around the world. Read on to learn more about how the CSPS® exam is structured.
  • Description

    To earn the CSPS® credential, candidates are required to pass a challenging examination that includes four exam domains:

    The exam contains 100 scored and 10 non-scored* multiple-choice questions.

    The pass rate was 59% for candidates attempting the CSPS exam for the first time in 2017.



    Domain   Percent of Exam Number of Questions  
    Basic Pathophysiology and Science of Health Status or Condition, Disorder, or Disease 40% 40
    Client Consultation 19% 19
    Program Planning 31% 31
    Safety, Emergency Procedures, and Legal Issues 10% 10
    Non-Scored Questions* 10% 10
    Total   100%
    Length of exam  
    2.5 hours 

    Basic Pathophysiology and Science of Health Status, Condition, Disorder or Disease
    Cardiovascular; Pulmonary; Metabolic; Immunological and hematological; Musculoskeletal/orthopedic; Neuromuscular; Post-rehabilitation; Cancer; Female-specific conditions; Behavioral/psychological disorders; Older adults; Children and adolescents.

    Client Consultation
    Fitness professional's role; Health appraisal; Fitness evaluation.

    Program Planning
    SMART goals; Program design; Motivational/coaching techniques; Client outcomes; Referrals.

    Safety, Emergency Procedures and Legal Issues
    Scope of practice requirements; Safety procedures; Emergency procedures; Professional, legal, and ethical responsibilities; HIPAA regulations.

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

    * Explanation of Non-Scored Exam Questions

    The CSPS exam contains non-scored questions that are being evaluated for future use. Including this type of question allows the CSPS 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 nonscored questions appear in the CSPS 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 CSPS 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.