CSCS Exam Info - Pass rate, costs, and more. CSCS textbook and exam worksheet laid out on table in preparation for CSCS exam.

Welcome to the PT Pioneer NSCA CSCS exam information breakdown, and I hope this article assists you in learning about the NSCA-CSCS. This article discusses the details of the National Strength and Conditioning Associations Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

This is a complete FAQ and CSCS information page to learn everything you need to know about the CSCS certified strength coach program. This page will cover topics like:

  • CSCS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • General NSCA CSCS Certification Info
  • Exam and Other NSCA Costs

Get your copy of the CSCS exam cheat sheet and our study plan. It helps immensely in studying for the exam and provides an excellent PDF format you can use offline.

Make sure to check out Trainer Academy for premium NSCA CSCS study materials. They will reduce study time by 50% and have an exam pass guarantee. Read my full review of them here. You can save $100 on their MVP study system with the code: PTPSUB.

NSCA CSCS Study Series


CSCS Exam FAQ in Video Form

CSCS EXAM FAQ 2023 - CSCS Exam Pass Rate, CSCS Test Difficulty and Info ✔️

CSCS Exam Breakdown

NSCA CSCS exam breakdown

The current 2024 CSCS test is comprised of two exam sections.

The first exam section consists of 80 scored and 15 non-scored multiple-choice questions. This test encompasses 3 domains. The testing structure was updated most recently in 2021.

Test two is a bit bigger and features 110 scored and 15 non-scored multiple-choice questions. This test comprises four domains. 

If you are wondering how to become a strength and conditioning coach with NSCA, then you will need to pass these two separate tests of the CSCS exam.

Test 1 (1.5 hours/95 questions): Scientific Foundations. This section covers the fundamental principles governing exercise science.
This is the basic stuff you need to know before learning how to apply it in a client scenario. This section is 1.5 hours long.
Section one consists of the first 3 domains out of seven. Domain 1 focuses on physiological and biomechanical elements of exercise science, Domain 2 focuses on the psychology behind exercise and sports, while Domain 3 focuses on nutrition and energy transfer systems.

  • Domain 1: Exercise Science. Percent of section (55%). Total questions (44 questions) Anatomy (musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, joints, and connective tissue). Biomechanics (movement patterns, mobility, agility, functional range of motion). Biochemical activity (metabolism, energy pathways, endocrine system).
  • Domain 2: Sports psychology: (24% of section score/19 questions). Psychological techniques and knowledge to enhance training.
  • Domain 3: Nutrition. Percentage of section (21%). Total questions (17 questions)
    Nutrition as it affects performance and general health. Nutritional choices, macro monitoring. Diet-related psychology and disorders.
  • 15 non-scored questions

Test 2 (2.5 hours/125 questions): Practical/Applied Section. Here you will be focusing on applying the principles of Test 1 into actionable instructions and programs for your clients and the administrative side of operating as a PT. It includes image and video resources to test your competence across its domains.
Test two consists of the remaining four domains out of the seven total domains. Domain 4 covers exercise techniques, Domain 5 looks into the design of programs, Domain 6 tests your organizational and administrative competencies, and Domain 7 is over client testing and evaluation grading.

  • Domain 4: Exercise Technique. Percentage of section (36%). Total questions (40 questions) In this domain, you will be tested on resistance, agility, sprinting, and plyometric training. Energy systems, ATP cycle, and metabolic conditioning. Also, flexibility, conditioning, and spotting techniques.
  • Domain 5: Program Design. Percentage of section (35%). Total of questions (38 questions) In domain 5, you will be graded on your proficiency in creating tailored plans and programs for your clients. The focus will be on training methods and modes, exercise selection, exercise order, exercise intensity, volume determination, progressive overload, unloading, and reconditioning. Determining functional range, one rep limits, and warm-up and recovery protocols.
  • Domain 6:Organization and Administration. Percentage of section (11%). Total questions (12 questions) This domain will cover what you need to know to run a business effectively. You get tested on the organizational structure, administrative layouts, legal and ethical standards, insurance, and bookkeeping.
  • Domain 7: Testing and Evaluation. Percentage of Section (18%). Total questions (20 questions) Domain 7 will test the selection and administration of tests and the testing methods, tools, protocols, and more. Some other parts will be over-reading, interpreting, evaluating, and applying results.
  • 15 non-scored questions.

Non-scored Questions

You will notice that each section has 15 non-scored questions. These questions do not count towards the final score but are used by the CSCS Exam Development Committee to evaluate potential new questions.

You won’t be able to spot which questions are non-scored or scored as they are interspersed within the exam sections.

CSCS Test Difficulty – How Hard is the CSCS exam?

CSCS test difficulty – How hard is the NSCA CSCS exam?

The CSCS exam is known to be quite a challenge. It is considered one of the highest strength certifications available at present.

The actual pass rate is around 57% in the most recent exam studies. That is just barely over half of the test takers passing the test.

This is why I recommend my students use Trainer Academy study materials. Check out my free CSCS study materials here.

The difficulty level is understandable, considering the level of development given to the CSCS certification and the level of credibility it grants successful candidates.

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The CSCS exam was developed for use with top-performing athletes. It goes far beyond a personal trainer level certification.

Because of this, it is a prerequisite if you have any ambitions of getting into the pro athlete training game, and the exam challenges you appropriately.

The CSCS is designed to separate the wheat from the chaff. It requires a level of technical aptitude needed to push college or career athletes to the podium, and as a trainer, you’ll want to aim for that same top-tier level.

That’s also the reason why the prerequisite even to be allowed to take the exam is:

  • A bachelor’s degree or enrollment in exercise science or an equivalent degree
  •  Up-to-date AED/CPR certification.

With all that said, it’s not impossible. It really boils down to prep. Many people who have tried and failed probably didn’t put in enough time and focus on preparing, which is why I’m here to help.

I think the best way to prep is by taking advantage of a fresh mindset full of cutting edge exercise training or hands-on experience. As an idea, I recommend that you only take on the CSCS off the back of a good cert, such as one from NASM or ACE. Studying for a degree in exercise science is also a great platform for preparation.

So aside from just honing in on the study material, you should:

  • Be fresh off a degree or a degree-level certification
  • Have regular experience working with athletes
  • Be stuck in or just completed an athlete training internship
  • Have a well-rounded and tested applied knowledge of high-level exercise science.
  • Devote yourself to the study material. 2 – 3 months of dedicated immersion will give you the edge you need

Using CSCS flashcards will make studying for CSCS testing less stressful as you prepare for final exams with the CSCS test questions 2019 that are available online.

How long is the CSCS exam?

The actual test will take you around 4 hours in total, with 2.5 hours reserved for one part and 1.5 for the second part.

Knowing how to study for CSCS testing is important to do your best.

So to sum it up, the CSCS exam is difficult, but with the right kind of prep and immersion in the world of hands-on exercise science, you will nail it. This one is not for the first-timer, for sure.

CSCS Exam Pass Rate

NSCA CSCS exam pass rate

As I’ve just covered, the CSCS is a challenging exam meant to equip you for a challenging career. It covers tons of concepts that go beyond typical personal trainers. NSCA certification is not something to be taken lightly, so I highly recommend a serious approach to your study schedule when preparing for your CSCS examination.

These topics and areas of knowledge for the CSCS test include:

  • Advanced exercise physiology
  • Adaptations to resistance training and aerobic training
  • Bioenergetics
  • Factors affecting performance
  • Sport psychology for athletes
  • Performance enhancing substances and methods, including supplements and steroids
  • Speed, agility, and quickness training
  • Training differences between special populations
  • Application of exercise technique and program design

As such, the pass rate hovers around 56%. That means you’re almost as likely to pass as you are to fail on your first try. Another reason I recommend picking up Trainer Academies’ study materials is because they boast a 99% pass rate. This is especially true with the grueling retest costs one needs to pay if one fails.

As of 2018, the exam statistics were as follows:

  • 66% Pass Rate for the Scientific Foundations (Section 1)
  • 67% Pass Rate for the Practical/Applied (Section 2)
  • 56% Pass rate for both sections.

When you consider that the CSCS passing score is 70%, which many would consider generous, it just shows the level you are gunning for when taking this exam.

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So with a 44% fail rate, I cannot emphasize the importance of preparing correctly.  Good thing you’re reading this!

On a related note, I should mention again that the Trainer Academy CSCS MVP Prep Course is an excellent option for students and other individuals who want the best chance of passing on the first try. This is by far the best CSCS training course on the market for ensuring you pass the CSCS exam the first time around. You have a ton of options for courses that teach you the skills needed to pass the CSCS exam.

This study course bolsters your understanding of the material through spaced-repetition flashcards, which focus your studying on the areas of knowledge where you are the weakest.

Additionally, you get over 800+ CSCS practice questions and a very in-depth study guide.

One of the top benefits of the Trainer Academy courses are the exam-pass guarantees, which help alleviate the stress that you might waste money, since if you do fail the exam, they will refund the cost of the CSCS course.


Here is additional NSCA CSCS exam frequently asked questions I get.

Are there CSCS practice exams?

Yes, practice tests are available online from many sources, like here on PTPioneer for free, or more premium sources of paid materials, like with Trainer Academy.

What is the exam enrollment period?

You can go ahead depending on when you feel confident with answering the CSCS card mock test free online and the NSCA CSCS practice exam.

From there, you have 120 days to take the exam. Your eligibility dates will be listed in the authorization email.

How many questions are on the CSCS exam, and what’s a passing grade?

The CSCS exams come packed with 80 scored and 15 non-scored multiple-choice questions in the first section and 110 scored and 15 non-scored multiple-choice questions in section 2. This gives you a total of 220 multiple-choice questions.

The passing grade for the entire exam is 70%.

Where can you take the CSCS exam?

You can take the CSCS exam at your nearest Pearson VUE testing center.

What are the prerequisites for the CSCS exam?

To be eligible, you must hold a bachelor’s degree or be enrolled in a college degree program in exercise science or a similar field of study. You also need to have an AED/CPR cert locked down before you can enroll.

What happens if you fail the CSCS exam?

According to the NSCA website, the retake criteria are as follows:

You need to wait 90 days to retake an exam from the last exam you took.

You can register online for a retake within the 90-day time period. You can do this 4-5 business working after a failed exam before signing up for a retake.

You have an unlimited opportunity to retake the exam.

If you only failed one section of the exam, you only need to retake that section. You must ensure you get a pass in both sections, or you’ll have to resit the whole exam.

When do you receive your certificate after taking the exam?

After successfully completing the CSCS exam, you will receive your NSCA fitness certification package within 6-8 working weeks.

How long is the CSCS certification valid?

Your Strength Training certification is valid for three years from passing the CSCS exam.

How much does the CSCS test cost?

The costs are as follows:

NSCA Member    
– Exam Registration                  $340
– Retake fee for both sections $340
– Retake fee for one section     $250

– Exam Registration                  $475
– Retake fee for both sections  $475
– Retake fee for one section     $385

CSCS Exam Conclusion

And that’s a wrap for my in-depth breakdown of the NSCA CSCS exam. Honestly, this is probably the most difficult exam you can take as a personal trainer. And that’s because this program isn’t really designed for your everyday PT.

This one requires dedication and focus, so take the quiz and find out if the NSCA CSCS is really where your path leads.

CSCS Exam Info [year] - Pass Rate, Costs, and More 3
CSCS Exam Info [year] - Pass Rate, Costs, and More 4

The CSCS exam is very difficult. They also have an extremely steep retest fee for it. Make sure to pick up a fantastic study guide in practice tests to make sure you pass on the first try. Check out my free CSCS study materials here.

The CSCS is for the big leagues, literally. It is the gateway to a lucrative but high-pressure career in the realm of professional athletics.

How much do strength and conditioning coaches make?

The CSCS certification salary is one to look forward to after passing the exams, with the average salary being in the range of 50-60k.

The highest-paid strength and conditioning coach makes around 787,000$ in a year, so there is a high ceiling for pay.

It is designed to enable you to guide ambitious athletes toward victory on the field hence the level of challenge.

It’s still a great cert for general PT clients and will give you an absolute edge in any situation.

Find out more about the CSCS here, and don’t forget to drop your thoughts in the comment box below the FAQ while you are on your road to becoming a strength and conditioning coach.

Until the next one…

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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5 thoughts on “CSCS Exam Info 2024 – Pass Rate, Costs, and More”

  1. Hi, I bought CSCS mvp package from trainer academy. Do I need to buy regular book (essentials of strength and conditioning 4th edition) to prepare to the CSCS exam? Or knowledge in this package and your free study guide are enough to be ready?
    thanks in advance

  2. Hi Tyler,

    Would I be eligible to take the CSCS exam if I have completed a bachelors degree in a field such as accounting? I’m currently working as an accountant and high school varsity soccer coach and would like to develop my strength and conditioning expertise for my player. Thanks for your help!

    • Hey Olek,
      About 10 years ago, it was required to have a four year degree in exercise science in order to take the CSCS exam. Currently all you need is a four year degree in any topic. So if you have a bachelors degree in accounting, you will be eligible to take the exam and become a certified strength and conditioning specialist coach. I hope this helps.


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