ACSM Exam FAQ – ACSM Exam Pass Rate, Test Difficulty, and More Info

ACSM Exam FAQ - ACSM Exam Pass Rate, Test Difficulty, and More Info

So you’re nervous, anxious and probably excited, all at the same time because you’re finally going to sit for your ACSM certification exam? Congratulations! You came to the right place.

In this article, I will be breaking down every section of the ACSM exams and explaining to you how they are composed and what role each part of the overall exam structure plays towards your final score.

You will be introduced to the ACSM size, scope, pass grade and difficulty and also the current ACSM exam pass rate for the year 2019. You will also get to know the differences between the training exercises vs. the final exam.

You will also get to know the ACSM test fees in addition to other related ACSM frequently asked questions. So with that being said, let’s dive right into it.

ACSM Exam Breakdown

The 2019 ACSM test comprises of 4 performance domains. It is a multiple-choice test that has 150 questions (120 scored and 30 un-scored) in which participants have 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to complete the test.

So what the ACSM test actually contains is 150 multiple-choice questions, where only 120 will count for the final score.

The rest 30 questions of the test serve as un-scored trailer test questions designed to narrow down the range of the questions’ accuracy in future exams.

You will have no way of distinguishing between the real exam questions and the “fake” integrated questions, hence why you will have to answer each question with your full abilities and set the intention for every question counting in your final score.

You will have165 minutes to complete the whole test.

The content of the ACSM test revolves around four main performance domains where every domain covers a set of topics separated into cognitive levels; recall, application, and synthesis.

The outline above will give you a clear idea about the domains, calculated percentages per domain, cognitive levels, and the overall topics covered:

Domain 1: Initial client consultation and assessment; (Represents 25%)

Domain 1: Initial client consultation and assessment; (Represents 25%)

Cognitive levels: Recall, application, synthesis

Covering: client consultation, successful communication, fitness examine, program overall design, physical testing, behavior readiness, risks included, typical physical structures (i.e. skeletal, muscular.), specific measurement, assessing physical goals, and other similar subjects.

Domain 2: Exercise programming/implementation; (Represents 45%)

Cognitive levels: Recall, application, synthesis

Covering: The customer’s medical records, assessment results, exercise instructions, exercise modalities, FITTVP (frequency, intensity, time, type, volume and progression), exercise presentation, and client feedback.

Domain 3: Practice leadership and client learning; (Represents 20%)

Cognitive levels: Application, synthesis

Covering: communication, behavioral exercises, motivational powers, client education, and other related topics.

Domain 4: Legal and professional Aspects: (Represents 10%)

Cognitive levels: Application, recall

Covering: Working hand in hand with healthcare specialists, minimizing risk factors, designing a comprehensive risk management plan, the ACSM Code of Ethics, industry accepted business, ethical and professional minimums, copyright standards, intellectual property, and customer confidentiality.

ACSM Test Difficulty – How Hard is the ACSM Exam?

ACSM Test Difficulty – How Hard is the ACSM Exam?

The ACSM exam can be quite challenging for some and could be extremely easy peasy for others. It is known to be one of the highest strength certifications of all times.

The difficulty of the test actually makes sense taking into account the level of development granted for those who will receive the certificate in addition to the level of credibility it holds to the successful candidates.

The ACSM test was designed to be used by the best performing athletes in the world. It is more concentrated than just a regular personal trainer level certification.

Due to this, it is a real accomplishment if you ever intend on getting into the professional athlete training game, and the exam tests you accordingly.

The ACSM exam focuses on separating the weak and average from the excellent. This test requires a high level of technical aptitude to drive college and/or career-focused athletes to the podium, and as a professional trainer, it is best if you aim for a similar top tier level.

In addition, these are the minimum requirements before getting approval to sit for the exam:

In addition, these are the minimum requirements before getting approval to sit for the exam

Master’s degree in CEP (Clinical Exercise Physiology) or equivalent

At least 600 hours of hands-on exercise experience

Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science or equivalent

To sum up, it’s definitely not impossible to succeed! It is all about how ready you are and how good you prep for the final test.

Those who have sat for the ACSM exam and failed are mostly people who didn’t put in the time or effort to prepare beforehand, and that’s the reason why I want to help you.

I believe that the best way to prep for ACSM is to adopt a new, unique and fresh perspective of exercise training and/ or personal experience. I recommend applying for a degree in exercise science and passing it which will present a perfect platform for the preparation of the ACSM exam.

In addition to regularly preparing for the exam using the study material you should also:

Pass the test when you’re fresh off a degree

Have any type of experience working with athletes

Be a participant in, or have completed an athlete training internship

Possess a generally decent tested and applied knowledge of high-level exercise science.

Be strict about studying the exam material for at least 2 to 3 months

So in conclusion, the ACSM exam can be challenging, but with the right amount of prep and indulgence in the world of on-ground exercise science, you will certainly succeed.

ACSM Exam Pass Rate

ACSM Exam Pass Rate

As you may now have already noticed, the ACSM can be quite a challenging test, but the good thing is, that the pass rate has jumped through the roof in the last 3 years.

This exam is meant to be somewhat difficult, which will gear you up for a pretty challenging career. As challenging as it might be, the pass rate revolves around 68%. That means you’re most likely to pass on your first try.

As of 2019, the exam statistics were as follows:

66% Pass rate for the ACSM Certified Personal Trainer

72% Pass rate for the ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist

65% Pass rate for the ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist.

You should be aiming at a pass mark of a minimum of 65%, which can be considered a generous percentage.

With that said, even with a 32% fail rate, you cannot take this exam for granted and just sit back and enjoy the experience! I can’t stress enough how important it is to thoroughly prepare for the ACSM so that you don’t only have a chance at passing the first time, you guarantee it.



How do I register for an exam?

The ACSM certification exam is administered by Pearson VUE. It provides more than 5,000 computer-based testing centers spread all over the world.

You can register for the ACSM exam by clicking at this link.

What should I expect when taking the exam?

The testing of each level of the ACSM certification constructs of multi-choice questions taken from the Job Task Analysis which you can find in the exam’s Guidelines for ‘Exercise Testing and Prescription’- 10th Edition.

Every level of the certification has a set of “un-scored” questions that are still being tested for use in future exams. These un-scored questions are inserted randomly throughout the exam and will not be included in the final test results.

You will also have to leave any studying materials or related equipment at home before you step into the examination area as it is completely forbidden. You’ll need a calculator which will be given to you during the exam if one is needed.

Metabolic Calculations for the test will be provided. Participants need to check the “Exhibit” tab in the exam in order to access the calculations.

How will I know what is on the exam?

The testing of each level of the ACSM certification constructs of multi-choice questions taken from the Job Task Analysis which you can find in the exam’s Guidelines for ‘Exercise Testing and Prescription’- 10th Edition.

Every level of the certification has a set of “un-scored” questions that are still being tested for use in future exams. These un-scored questions are inserted randomly throughout the exam and will not be included in the final test results.

Can I cancel/reschedule my exam?

Due to work, studies, transportation or general health issues, I’m sure many of you are wondering if you’ll have the option to reschedule or cancel your exam if you need to. This is why I’m here to tell you, you absolutely can.

Note that all the requests to either cancel or postpone your exam need to be made by either calling Pearson Vue or logging into the account that you used to subscribe or apply for the test. It’s crucial that you remember NOT to directly call ACSM to cancel or reschedule your test.

All your requests to cancel or reschedule an ACSM test have to be directed to the Pearson VUE at least one business day in advance of the exam date. If the participant doesn’t cancel or reschedule, they will be charged for the test.

If the participant shows up 15 minutes later than the exam starting time, then he/she will be considered as absent and will have forfeited the exam plus be charged.

If candidates choose to cancel their ACSM exam application, they will be charged a $75.00 processing fee.

How can I find a list of places to take an exam in my area?

You can find the list of the nearest places to sit for the ACSM exam by checking Pearson VUE’s website at and locating a testing center near you. You can also try dialing their number for more information.

What is the re-test policy?

The participants who are going to take the test again will get a voucher number on their score report which can be extracted at the Pearson VUE. They have the right to re-sit for the exam in a fifteen days period after an unsuccessful attempt.

After completing the exam, when will I receive my results?

The participants of the ACSM exam will be able to access their exam results immediately as soon as they complete the test.

In addition, usually, in less than two weeks after you pass the test, you will get a welcome email from the ACSM and a follow-up email from the American Registry.

These will contain all the information you will need on how to download a full digital image of your certificate for free, alongside the steps for how to request a physical copy of the certificate.

Up to the point when you get the welcome email, your credential status will be ‘PROVISIONAL PENDING VALIDATION OF THE EXAM RESULTS’.

How are the exams scored?

The minimum score for passing in all ACSM Certification tests is determined beforehand and applied to all participants’ test results. Just like the scoring for a wide variety of other high stakes national exams like the GRE, SAT, and GMAT, ACSM exams are scored in a 200-800 score scale.

All candidates are required to meet the passing standard score of 550 to receive a ‘Pass’ on any ACSM certification test.

The passing standard score is determined according to the expectations of the subject experts throughout all subjects of the competency range in coordination to each credential’s exam blueprint.

The candidates who succeed in the ACSM exam need to answer a good deal of test questions correctly which proves their overall knowledge at the minimum accepted level of competency or the lowest acceptable score to pass the test.

To conclude, every subject part of the exam is calculated proportionally appropriately, according to the results of a temporary comprehensive study on the matter.

In other words, some subject parts are more crucial in the ACSM exam (thus, will include more questions) and count more in value when it comes to the general score.

The exam candidates will have access to their overall score, their pass or fail status, in addition to a breakdown by each specific content area at the end of the exam.

ACSM Exam Cost Breakdown

ACSM Exam Cost Breakdown

The ACSM exam has different cost structures depending on your ACSM membership status and whether you’re sitting for the exam for the first time or retaking it.

The costs are as follows:

ACSM Member     

  • Exam Registration fee: $279
  • Retake fee: $175

Non-ACSM Member

  • Exam Registration: $349
  • Retake fee: $475

Extra pricing info

  • ACSM’ three test preparation resources bundle: $135
  • Three different workshop options for preparing for the ACSM exam: in-person 3-day workshops: $375
  • In-person 1day workshop: $129
  • Online webinar series: $240
  • Practice exam fee: $50

Recertification: $45

Recertification fee: ACSM personal trainer certification needs to be renewed every 3 years. Thus, you will need to complete the required Continuing Education Credits and an additional fee for the re-certification.

If you’re an ACSM member and you want to take the ACSM Personal Trainer Certification exam, it will cost you $279, while if you’re a non-member it will cost $349. To retake the test will cost you $175.

ACSM Test Conclusion

And that’s all for the ACSM exam break down. It must be said that this is probably one of the most challenging exams you can ever take in the personal training field. It’s designed to be difficult and challenging because it isn’t directed towards the regular PT.

The ACSM is for the big dogs of the personal training field. It is the key to a successful professional, but a high-quality career in the domain of professional athletics training and fitness.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and their personal trainer certification program is designed to shape some of the world’s best athletic personal trainers of all times.

It’s why this exam can be the beacon for entering the realm of personal training as it has over 50,000 International members alongside a fairly large number of certified professionals whose goal is to promote a healthier lifestyle for everyone.

Find out more about the ACSM here and remember to leave a comment with your ideas below.