NSCA Certified Personal Trainer Certification

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Physical fitness has been a central component of all societies. In the United States many people join local gyms and health centers seeking to maintain a healthy physique and lifestyle. As a result, during the 1980s the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) established a certification program in the field of strength and conditioning. As the fitness industry continued to have massive growth and more people sought personalized training the NSCA decided that a certification program was necessary for personal trailers. [1] The NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) test undergoes periodic reviews by content experts every five years. At that time the number of questions on the test and what material is covered may be changed. As a testament to this exam’s rising popularity, over 36,000 people across the world have taken this exam and received certification as a personal trainer. [2] With the continued emphasis on healthy lifestyles, this exam will likely remain a very important component of those seeking to be a fitness professional.


NSCA Study Guide

The NSCA-CPT exam is designed for those individuals who want to work as a personal trainer. This type of profession includes working in one-on-one situations at a health fitness center or a client’s home. By passing this test an individual is able to demonstrate that he/she is nationally recognized as competent in their position. [3] There are certain prerequisites that all individuals must meet in order to apply to take the test. Test-takers must be at least 18 years old and earned a high school diploma or its equivalent. Also, records that indicate a person has both CRP and AED certification are necessary. [4] The documentation should include performance evaluations and this training must have had a hands on component. Organizations that provide approved training in CPR and AED include the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, and the National Safety Council. If a person does not have those certification they can still sit for the exam but the NSCA will not release any scores until they receive confirmation that the person has earned CPR and AED qualifications. All applicant documentation must be mailed to the NSCA’s Certification Department located at 1885 Bob Johnson Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80906. While this test is very popular within the United States, test-takers should also be aware that it is internationally accepted. During a one year period, from July 2012 to July 2013, 1,529 people took this exam. Of those 67% of individuals passed. [5]

Test Administration

NSCA Flashcards

Once a candidate receives confirmation that they meet the eligibility requirements they will have 120 days to schedule an exam There are two types of formats for the NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer exam. One is computer based and the other is paper and pencil based. [5] Regarding the computer exam, the test is offered all year round at AMP testing centers which are located in H & R Block offices. Test fees for the computer exam are $285 for members of the NSCA and $420 for non-members. If an individual wants to take the paper test they must refer to the NSCA website as paper exams have predetermined dates and locations. The paper test has a fee of $235 for members and $370 for non-members. Any cancellations or changes to an exam date need to be made at least one week prior to the testing date and be aware that additional fees may be required for such requests. Scores for the computer test are available immediately following the exam while it takes 6-8 weeks for paper test results. There is no limit on how many times a person can take this test in order to pass, however one must wait 90 days to retest. There is also a re-take fee of $235 for the computer test and $185 for the paper exam. Individuals requiring accommodations for disabilities must make requests at the time of test registration and at least 45 days prior to the exam date. Those needing special accommodations may be asked to provide additional documentation. [5]

Test Format

Sections of the NSCA-CPT
NSCA-CPT Subject Areas # of Questions Percentage
Client Consultation/Assessment 32 23%
Program Planning 45 32%
Techniques of Exercise 45 32%
Safety, Emergency Procedures, and Legal Issues 18 13%
Total 150 100%

Test Environment

Both the Computer version and the Paper and Pencil version of the Certified Personal Trainer exam are offered at many test taking sites. For the paper and pencil format, test-takers will find out their results around 6-8 weeks after taking the exam. For the computer-based exam, test-takers will find out their results immediately after the exam is completed.[6][7]

Test Structure

The NSCA-CPT is a written examination that consists of four main domains: Client Consultation/Assessment; Program Planning; Techniques of Exercise; and Safety, Emergency Procedures, and Legal Issues. Along with 10 pretest questions, there are 150 questions total. The exam allows candidates three hours to complete all 150 questions. It is offered both on the computer and on pencil and paper.[8]

Sample Questions

More free NSCA practice test questions.


The NSCA-CPT exam is scored through a process based on the Angoff Method. A panel of experts has determined the score necessary to show a minimum level of competency. For this test the score of 70 on 140 multiple choice questions is necessary to earn a pass.


  1. ^ National Computer Science Academy 23 April 2014
  2. ^ Candidate Handbook 23 April 2014
  3. ^ Professional Fitness Institute 23 April 2014
  4. ^ Personal Training Business 23 April 2014
  5. ^ a b c All Exams 23 April 2014
  6. ^ Paper and Pencil Exam 24 June 2014
  7. ^ Computer-Based Exam 24 June 2014
  8. ^ NSCA-CPT Exam Outline 24 June 2014