ACSM Exam Prep 2022 - How to pass the ACSM Exam First Try!

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    ACSM Exam Prep

    Prepping for and taking your ACSM exam can be a stressful time. And that’s why it is so important to ensure that you PASSFIRST TIME, right?

    The only way to do that is to prepare in the best way possible! And that’s what we intend to help you with through this blog post.

    It’s the ultimate ACSM CPT exam preparation guide!

    Also, make sure to check out my free ACSM study guide/practice test here or check out the premium ACSM study materials from Trainer Academy to cut your study time in half and receive an exam pass guarantee. Check out my review on Trainer Academy here.

    Get the ACSM exam cheat sheet for free here. Courtesy of Trainer Academy.

    Here, we cover everything you could possibly need to know about the excellent ACSM CPT course and certification exam that would make you a qualified personal trainer.

    So what can you expect to find out in this piece? Well, we look at the following:

    • The top three most difficult ACSM test questions
    • The top three most difficult ACSM CPT text answers
    • ACSM study tips
    • Essential ACSM study materials
    • ACSM exam tips
    • Plus plenty more information that you will find super useful

    I highly recommend that you take the quiz to find out which personal training certification is the right one for you.

    The menu at the top of this page will answer any question related to personal training that you have. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment here (I’ll respond within 24 hours). Also, visit the home page for the most recent and popular articles.

    Now, let’s jump straight in shall we?

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      How to pass the ACSM CPT exam

      How to pass the ACSM CPT exam

      The first place to start when looking at the ACSM CPT exam and prepping properly for it is to try and find the most difficult questions that you are likely to come across during the certification exam.

      And so, we have done that for you!

      Top three most difficult ACSM test questions

      The first thing to note is that the ACSM CPT exam is 150 questions long and all of them are multiple-choice. So in this section, we are going to take a look at some of the questions that you might encounter in your exam. Remember, its not the same exam for everyone, so bear that in mind.

      Note also that these questions are never going to be the exact same as you encounter in your test. ACSM are alway updating their tests and changing things up to keep it fresh.

      Ok, let’s take a look at a few tough questions. If you want more practice exams (which I recommend) make sure to check out Trainer Academy as they have five full ACSM practice exams.

      Question 1

      As a certified professional trainer, you can pass on even more help to your clients and help them reach their fitness goal by giving them suitable direction and information through each of the learning phases they will pass through.

      In what order do these phases occur?

      • Cognitive, Automatic, Associative
      • Automatic, Associative, Cognitive
      • Cognitive, Associative, Automatic
      • Associative, Cognitive, Automatic

      Question 2

      When training special groups there are a number of things to consider. You recently have a new client and its the first senior citizen you have trained. What’s one of the most important concerns for seniors as they get older?

      • A lack of vitamins and minerals in their system
      • Their muscles and bones are weaker than younger clients
      • They often lack nutrients and all are unfit
      • None of these answers are correct

      Question 3

      One of your regulars has recently been diagnosed with hypertension. Which of these situations below should now definitely form part of their training regime?

      • While training, they should clench their fists whenever they can
      • While training, they should focus on breathing properly and cut out any heavy lifting exercises
      • While training they should always rise as quickly as possible when standing up from a seated training position
      • While training, they should complete their workout as quickly as they can

      Top three most difficult ACSM CPT exam answers

      Top three most difficult ACSM CPT exam answers

      Ok, so now we have had a look at three difficult questions, let’s take a look at the answers and a little bit of an explanation around each of them.

      Question 1

      You know the learning phases when using motor skills, right? So this question just takes that into account. And those learning phases start with cognitive, then move to associative and finally automatic.

      But let’s break it down.

      Say a new client is trying a weight machine for the first time. They begin in the cognitive stage where every move they execute sees them thinking about what they are doing by keeping the correct form, for example.

      They do this while you guide them through how to use the machine properly. Later, they move onto the associative stage where their movements become a little more natural as they get used to keeping their form as well as how the machine works.

      Finally, after a few weeks, its the automatic stage where muscle memory helps them use the machine and keep the correct form automatically.

      Answer: Cognitive, associative, automatic

      Big tip: Note that sometimes the automatic phase is called the autonomous phase

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      Question 2

      As a personal trainer, you are going to help all kinds of people: those that are somewhat fit, other that are totally unfit, those with medical conditions, people that are obese and yes, senior citizens who want to remain as fit and healthy as possible.

      And there is certainly no one-size-fits-all when it comes to devising a training program. Everyone is different so they will need your individual attention when you draw up a unique program for them and when they train.

      Of course, for senior citizens, they cannot train as hard as people that are younger than them and you certainly need to take into consideration that they do have weaker muscles and bones than others.

      Answer: Weaker muscles and bones

      Question 3

      Now onto our final answer and that’s for question 3. If a client has hypertension, there is no playing around. Simply put, they need to really watch themselves when they exercise.

      And that means you need to make sure you teach them correct breathing and that they breathe slowly as they exercise. They should never do exercises that will raise their blood pressure so that definitely cuts out any heavy lifting.

      Answer: While training, they should focus on breathing properly and cut out any heavy lifting exercises

      ACSM study tips

      ACSM study tips

      It’s always good to have a few study tips to help you, so we have compiled a list of those tips that we think will benefit you as you study for the CPT certification from ACSM.

      Most of these center on resource materials that you should include in your studies and reviews to help you learn all the information you need to pass the certification test.

      Let’s take a closer look.

      Essential ACSM study materials

      Other than the ACSM textbook, there are plenty of materials out there that can help you as you prepare for the ACSM CPT certification exam. We will get into these in a bit, but let’s start off with the most obvious of the essential study materials, the textbook.

      The most current ACSM textbook

      And when we say current, we mean the newest edition. Currently, that is the 6th edition of ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer.

      This is the most important resource you can own and its a wealth of information with everything you need to know to enable you to become a certified personal trainer through ACSM.

      And you can rest assured in the knowledge that every question that you will be asked in the certification exam will be covered by the textbook.

      In other words, this is the most important reference work that you will have and knowing it back to front will certainly help you pass a tough exam with relative ease as long as you put in the work.

      Big tip 1: This is a fully comprehensive resource with a huge amount of information. Reading through it once or twice is not enough to get you prepared for exams. You really need to take it all in. To do that, it’s important that you make your own notes or highlight important sections.

      Big tip 2: Learn all the planes of movement and the exercises that can be used within those planes. A full understanding of muscle action will also mean easy points on the exam.

      Big tip 3: Understand health risk classifications as a number of questions in a case study format will be built around this concept.

      Big tip 4: Learn all the biomechanic terms.

      Big tip 5: These areas of focus are important: special populations, risk stratification, and exercise prescription.

      Big tip 6: The exam is broken down as follows in terms of percentage per module

      • Client consultation and assessment of client – 25%
      • Exercise programming and the implementation thereof – 45%
      • Education clients and leading them – 20%
      • Responsibilities: Legal and professional – 10%

      A Good ACSM study guide

      A Good ACSM study guide

      While the textbook is a great resource and covers all the information you need to pass the ACSM CPT exam on your first try (if you studied properly of course) having a study guide just makes everything that much easier.

      Study guides not only help identify key concepts that you need to focus on but most of the time, they put them across in a language that is simpler and easier to understand.

      And that’s why I recommend one. Here at ptpioneer we have a free ACSM study guide that you can check out here. I also recommend the premium ACSM study guide from Trainer Academy is able cut your study time in half.

      ACSM Practice tests

      Without a doubt, one of the best ways to prepare yourself for any certification exam is by finishing a few practice tests. There are a number of reasons for this.

      Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, a practice test helps you to see just how much you know about the subject. So taking an ACSM CPT practice test will quickly show you just how far along you are in your studies and whether you are exam ready. Don’t leave it too late to try a few.

      Secondly, a practice test will identify key areas from which questions in the certification exam might come from. And while knowing all the concepts covered in the textbook is important, some are certainly more important than others in terms of the scale of exam questions that come from them.

      Thirdly, practice tests will help you to identify questions that can trip you up. Some might be worded in a way that can get you to question whether you have the right answer or not. So like you would do in your final certification exam, read them slowly and make sure you understand exactly what the question is asking.

      If you are struggling to pass a practice exam, you can be sure that you won’t have any luck passing the real deal either then.

      And that makes practice tests before any certification attempt a no-brainer. Check out my 50 question practice test here on my website. Also, Trainer Academy has five full 150 question practice tests to fully prepare you to dominate the exam.

      ACSM flashcards

      ACSM flashcards

      The next awesome study tool that you should consider while you prepare for your ACSM CPT certification exam are flashcards.


      Well, these are the quickest and easiest way for you to test your knowledge as you proceed through the ACSM textbook.

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      But there is one thing that flashcards are particularly useful for and that’s for learning all the various terms and phrases that you will need to memorize if you have any hope of passing the certification exam.

      Without a doubt, flashcards represent the best way for you to not only study these but to help ensure they are engrained in your memory, ready for use when needed at exam time. And because they are a repetition learning system, flashcards WILL help you to remember all of those tricky terms as well as their definitions.

      Take note, however, not all flashcard systems are born equal. There are usually two types of flashcard systems.

      • A general system
      • A spaced system

      With a general flashcard system, you will see each flashcard as you run through the deck. So that means, concepts that you understand and concepts that you struggle with are all shown as you work through the flashcards.

      In a spaced system, however, after you have worked through the flashcards, an algorithm calculates your strengths and weaknesses, pinpointing gaps in your knowledge.

      And then, instead of showing you flashcards that you obviously know the answers to, a spaced flashcard system will focus on areas where your knowledge is lacking.

      That way, you can make sure you focus on weak areas and take in more information to build them into strengths.

      Another massive positive is the fact that using a system like this helps to cut down study time as you are no longer wasting it going over areas where your knowledge is good enough.

      Take note, a spaced system will only be found online. Trainer Academy has 700+ spaced repetition flashcards in their study system that will help you prepare.

      ACSM CPT exam tips

      ACSM CPT exam tips

      In this section, we are going to cover a few essential exam tips that you can use to help you during your certification exam. And yes, some might seem a little obvious to some of you but you would be surprised as to how many people simply don’t follow tips like these.

      Read every single question and answer

      It’s something your parents drilled into you before every test you ever took in high school, right? And I am going to do it too!

      I cannot stress it enough! Take your time to read the question thoroughly. Don’t just assume you know exactly what is wanted by just skim reading it.

      Read it slowly, a few times if you have to.


      Well, some questions might not be worded in the way you might expect. And while you might have the answer, that can throw you off a bit. That said, also take the time to read through the answers after you have read the question.

      On most occasions, if you have studied hard and are prepared, the answer will be obvious to you based on the question, even if its worded in a tricky way.

      Pay attention to specific words for questions related to exercises

      Many of the questions you will find in the ACSM CPT exam are about exercise. And they are easy to spot because they will include keywords in them.

      So keep a lookout for these, things such as stability ball, medicine ball, jumping, balance or other obvious exercise-related keywords.

      ACSM test prep conclusion

      ACSM test prep conclusion

      In closing, I cannot stress enough the importance of preparation. If you are not properly prepared for the ACSM CPT certification exam, you are simply going to fail. And that’s just a waste of your money and time.

      So the key advice over and above preparing properly is don’t rush! Even if you start with a background in the world of fitness, don’t just think you can ace the exam.

      Take your time, go through the textbook, make use of ACSM’s online adaptive quiz platform to help you study and prepare, use flashcards to build up your knowledge in areas where you struggle and take as many practice quizzes as you can.

      And don’t forget a decent study guide!

      If after reading through this post you are still not sure if the ACSM CPT certification is the right one for you, take our quiz to find which certification best fits your training style.

      If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and I really hope that this blog post has helped you out.

      Happy studying!

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