CSCS Exam FAQ: Pass Rate, Test Difficulty, and Mock Test

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    I’m sure if you’re reading this you’re getting prepped or trying to figure out how to prep for your NSCA CSCS certification. Well, I’m here to help.

    This article will be breaking down how the CSCS exam is structured and how each section of the overall structure counts towards your final score. You will learn all about NSCA CSCS size, scope, pass grade and difficulty as well as the current CSCS exam pass rate for 2021. You will also learn about the differences between the CSCS practice questions and the actual final exam.

    If you are looking for great CSCS study materials, definitely check out Trainer Academy for study guides, practice tests, and flashcards. They boast a 99% pass rate. I also have a free CSCS study guide in practice tests here on my website.

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

    We will also go through the CSCS test fees as well as other relevant CSCS frequently asked questions. So with that said, let’s get right into it. And just so you don’t feel completely off guard, please check out my free study guide and practice flashcards here!

    If you’re still not quite sure about which PT/Strength and conditioning certification to take, I recommend you take the quiz and find out what best suits 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.

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      CSCS Exam FAQ in Video Form

      CSCS exam breakdown

      NSCA CSCS exam breakdown

      The current 2021 CSCS test comprises 2 sections.

      The first section is made up of 80 scored and 15 non-scored multiple-choice questions. This section is split into 2 domains. The testing structure was updated on Jan 31st, 2020.

      Section two is a bit bigger and features 110 scored and 15 non-scored multiple-choice questions. This section comprises 4 domains. 

      We will be looking at the January 2021 NSCA CSCS Handbook as our guide.

      • Section 1 (1.5 hours/95 questions): Scientific Foundations. This section covers the fundamental principles governing exercise science.

        This is the very basic stuff you need to know before learning how to actually apply it in a client scenario. This section is 1.5 hours long.

        Section one consists of the first 2 domains out of the total 6 domains. Domain 1 is a focus on physiological and biomechanical elements of exercise science while Domain 2 is a focus 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). Psychology.
        • 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
      • Section 2 (2.5 hours/125 questions): Practical/Applied. Here you will be focusing on how to apply the principles of Section 1 into actionable instructions and programs for your clients as well as the administrative side of operating as a PT. It includes image and video resources to test your competence across its domains.

        Section two consists of the remaining 4 domains out of the 6 total domains. Domain 3 is exercise technique, Domain 4 focuses on how to design programs, Domain 5 test your organizational and administrative competencies and Domain 6 is your 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, sprint, and plyometric training. Energy systems, ATP cycle, and metabolic conditioning. Flexibility conditioning and spotting techniques.
        • Domain 5: Program Design. Percentage of section (35%). Total questions (38 questions)
          In domain number 4, you will be graded on your proficiency in creating tailored plans and programs for your clients. The focus will be on raining methods and modes; Exercise selection, order, and intensity as well as determining volume, progressive overload, unloading and reconditioning. Determining functional range and one rep limits as well as warm-up and recovery protocols.
        • Domain 6: Organization and Administration. Percentage of section (11%). Total questions (12 questions)
          This domain is what you will need to know in order to run an effective business. You will be tested on organizational structure, administrative layout. Legal and ethical standards, insurance and bookkeeping.
        • Domain 7: Testing and Evaluation. Percentage of section (18%). Total questions (20 questions)
          Domain 6 tests you on test selection and administration. Testing methods, tools, and protocols. How to read, interpret, evaluate and apply 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. This is why I recommend my students to use Trainer Academy study materials. Check out my free CSCS study materials here.

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

      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 so to speak. 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 to even be allowed to take the exam is:

      • A bachelor’s degree or enrollment in exercise science or 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 an adequate amount of time and focus on preparing, and that’s why I’m here to help.

      In my opinion, 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 a degree in exercise science is also a great platform for preparation.

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

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      • 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 less stressful as you prepare for final exams with the CSCS test questions 2019 that are available online.

      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 doozy, it’s a challenging exam meant to equip you for a challenging career. 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. Just another reason why I recommend picking up Trainer Academies study materials as they boast a 99% pass rate. This is especially true with the grueling retest costs one needs to pay if you fail.

      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 pass mark is 70%, which many would consider generous, it just goes to show the level you are gunning for when taking this exam.

      So with a 44% fail rate, I cannot emphasize how important it is to prepare correctly.  Good thing you’re reading this!

      CSCS practice test

      The CSCS program doesn’t come with a fully crafted practice exam like some of the more general PT certs would have. Instead, they offer several practices or example questions in the official textbook.

      The Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning textbook is your bread and butter when it comes to beating this challenging exam. It also comes loaded with mini practice tests that will give you a good enough handle on what to expect come exam time.

      Remember to go for the latest possible edition of the CSCS book. The most relevant edition is the 4th.

      This is because the theory and practice surrounding the concepts you’ll be tested on are continuously evolving through research and evidence-based science.

      The CSCS exam cost is more than enough to make you dedicate time to using the CSCS study guide pdf to prepare ahead.

      There are also several useful third-party guides and ebooks out there with practice questions and relevant test scenarios to help you. You can find the best CSCS Practice tests here. Check out my free CSCS practice test here.

      CSCS Test FAQ

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

      CSCS exam conclusion

      And that’s a wrap for my in-depth break down of the NSCA CSCS exam. To be honest, 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 every day PT.

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

      The CSCS exam is simply very difficult. They also have an extremely steep retest fee for it. Make sure to pick up a fantastic study guide in practice tests in order 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 a high-pressure career in the realm of professional athletics.

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      Save 25%
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      3 Certs for 1
      A Good Option
      50% off
      Best Study Materials
      See MVP discount
      Best online PT course
      $100 Off
      The Top PT Software
      Get Free Trial

      The CSCS certification salary is one to look forward to after passing the exams

      It is designed to enable you to guide ambitious athletes towards 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.

      Until the next one…

      CSCS Exam FAQ

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