How to Pass the NASM-CPT Exam: 10 Steps for Success

National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine
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NASM Master Instructor Rick Richey concludes his journey through the CPT 7 product with an episode focused on understanding the requirements necessary for success.

Topics include what you’ll need for your registration, the overall agenda for the test taking process, Rick’s own Top 10 tips for success, and much more.Let the “NASM-CPT Podcast” help you take those last steps as you prepare for your exam with this final version in the series of personal study guides.

 Rick Richey is a NASM-CPT, CES, PES, and Master Trainer.

Top 10 Tips to Pass the NASM-CPT 7 Exam

At NASM, we give you everything you need to successfully pass your exam and step into the role you were meant for. From online resources to engaging video content to hardcopy text you can take home and study, we want you to feel supported in your quest to become an influential Certified Personal Trainer.

But when gathering all those resources, we understand that it might seem a little overwhelming. That’s why these 10 tips can help to keep you engaged and keep your studies together:

  1.   Schedule to take your exam: Make sure you stick to your study schedule and have your exam date logged. This will help you stay on track.
  2.   Obtain your CPR certification prior to taking the exam: While you can still take your exam without a CPR certification, you can’t become a full-fledged personal trainer. Make sure you take time to get your license.
  3.   Use the study guides: Our in-depth study guides are full of helpful insight and expert advice from our top trainers and instructors.
  4.   Understand how questions can use more than one domain to derive an answer which we've reviewed: This will come in handy when you feel stuck on certain questions. Getting familiar with practice questions and your notes can help you tie things together.
  5.   Know the overactive and underactive muscles: Get familiar with these muscles and their concentric actions. It will help you have a clearer understanding of how the body works and how you can implement that knowledge in your programming.
  6.   Understand how to progress and regress exercises: Every future client will be different, and you need to be able to speed up, slow down or personalize their progress.
  7.   Understand how to categorize and cue exercises: It’s important to look for the right cues in your training exercises to help clients avoid injury or kick things up a notch.
  8.   Know the acute variables for each phase in the NSM OPT model: The OPT model is a uniquely built system meant to maximize your clients’ overall progress. Get familiar with it and understand why it’s important to stay engaged.
  9.   Trust your instincts on the exam and don't overthink the questions: Your worst enemy can end up being classic overthinking. Trust your studies and your knowledge of what you’ve learned.
  10.   Answer all the questions you know first: Don’t waste time poring over question by questions. Start with the questions you know and use the remaining time to review any of the questions that you flagged.






Rick Richey:

Hey y'all, and welcome to the "NASM CPT Podcast."

My name is Rick Richey. And we've been on a journey together. For the past several weeks, we've gone through the CPT seven product, the certified personal trainer study course, we've done an overview of it, we've created a podcast version of a study guide to help you as you go through your study process. There have been a lot of things that we've hit, but now we need to make sure that we have a very clear understanding of what some of the requirements are.

So, this is a CPT exam prep for CPT 7. And what that means. So many of the other things that we've talked about are you've studied for the NSM CPT seven, if you're already a certified personal trainer, then you benefited from listening to that learning and relearning and reacquainting yourself with content, getting nice little reminders about some of the things that you studied when you're on your CPT course. But this one, if you're already certified, you don't need to listen to this episode, because this is about the setup and preparation for those of you who are trying to take your exam.

I know doing setups and preps for exams, getting an idea of what it's like to register what you need for registration, all of that kind of stuff, what to expect on the exam. Reading that can sometimes just be challenging, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Listening to a, I don't know, 20-30-minute podcast is my guess. But as you know, if you listen to me, I could talk a lot. So that may be longer. It's easier sometimes just to listen to somebody talk it through.

So, let's get into it. Let's start talking it through. Let's talk about the agenda. And by agenda, what it means is, what your expectations are and your agenda from signing up for the test. And then going into the test-taking process.

We'll get into actually the exam development, how it started, how it develops, what are some of the testing domains are included in this? What are you going to be tested on which we've reviewed already, but we're going to go through that exam information, what's going to be some things about the exam, you need to know and what are some things that kind of key areas to maybe hone in on in-person and remote proctoring as these are proctored exams, especially in the time of the pandemic, then they are not in-person exams, in many places so that it will be a live Proctor, which means you can take it online, but somebody is online watching you take that exam.

There are domain crossover examples. So, domain five crosses over to domain six. What are the heavier weighted domains are the areas of study within this course? What are some key things to study some questions you may have, and then exam-taking tips and tricks?

So, let's talk about what we're going to talk about. And that is exam development, testing domain or topics determine exam blueprint. So you have a list of the testing domains. And that is going to plan out what the exam looks like. The domains are decided by third-party experts nationwide.

So, it's not just it's not at all the NSM people sitting back coming up with the test. It's a third party that comes up with what's going to be tested on the exams, not NSM. And so that way it is it's a bit more objective. So, as you study through it, then other experts will weigh what it is that they believe you need to be familiar with. They're going to be 120 multiple choice questions on your exam.

So, there are 120 exam questions total of 100 of those questions, Count 20 of those questions do not count. So let me explain what's going on there a little bit. There are three types of research questions that you're going to see the first one, testing for a future test. So, what it looks like, for you, and other people taking the test from the book, you're not going to know the difference.

By the way, you're not going to know if this is a test, or this is a research question. But it's testing to make sure that it is a good test question. So, there's even research on the test questions that go through, they're going to be critical thinking questions on there. And the answers are not going to be found directly in the textbook, but they're going to be based on the information that you learned. And you should feel a bit more comfortable with it as you've been developing this process of studying.

And then finally, there's going to be outside industry knowledge, not information from an ASM, it's going to be information found out in the industry. And what that does is it allows us to track for the industry some of the information that new trainers know about the industry that doesn't have anything to do with the NSM content. And when we talked about the third-party questionnaires, here's what's happened. It's pretty interesting.

They bring a lot of people into the NSM process. And they will say, “Okay, I want you to come to this testing center”, and you're a personal trainer, you have more than 10 years of experience, which is the case, and they are going to teach you how to ask questions. And they teach you about test-taking and test writing. And then those personal trainers that have had 10 plus years of experience, along with third-party experts, people who are good at sight, psychometrics. And it's their job, to write questions and to validate them.

And so, it's all part of a process. And this changed a lot of years ago when NSM started doing this and working with a company to make sure the questions were done based on science, as opposed to just somebody who wrote the chapter and then threw some questions out there for people to answer.

So, there's a lot of science even just behind the testing process here for NASM. Let's do a brief review on the domains and domain one basic and applied sciences and nutritional concepts to be 15% of your total examination chapters 56789 and 10. So 15% of the exam will be on those chapters are in domain one, domain two client relations and behavioral coaching another 15% taken from chapters three and four, that's domain to domain three, assessment, chapters 11 and 12 16% of your exam will be weighted on the assessments. Then there's the domain for program design 20% of the weight of your exam on program design, chapters 21, 22, and 23. Domain five exercise technique and training instruction 24% of the weight of the exam will be on domain five, chapters 13 through 20.

And then finally, chat, start domain six professional development and responsibility 10% of the weight of the exam, chapters one and two. And we have already done a high-level overview of all of those domains. We've reviewed them on the NSM CPT podcast. And now let's get into talking about some more information about the exam.

For those of you who have not taken it, you're like yeah, yeah, get to the exam stuff. So here you go. Exam information to earn your certified personal trainer certification, the only requirement is passing the NSM examination, the exam expires 180 days from the date of your purchase to the purchase of the program to when you take that exam.

So, you have 180 days from the date that you purchased it, not the day that the book shows up. So be aware of that. Be prepared to provide proof of a valid CPR ad certification at the time of your test. This is important, you will need to have that and a photo ID if you do not have it you will be turned away you need to be CPR, ad certified and the name on the card the CPR card should match what you registered with NSM or you cannot take the test.

So, if your name is john on your NASM account, but your ID says Jonathan, you may run into some issues on your exam.

Now, I would like to think that the proctor could be like, I could see how that's related. I could see how that would happen, right. But there are some names out there that aren't as easily equatable. And so, what they do sometimes is just say, if it doesn't say this, it doesn't say it, you may need to address that.

Because psi, which is the testing company has its own set of rules, they have their own set of guidelines, and then make sure that you review those guidelines before your exam date. For example, psi locations, do not allow baggy clothing or water bottles in the testing center.

So, you come up in with baggy clothes, then they may ask you to change clothes, or they may not allow you in for that exam. So just be aware of it, review the rules before going in. So, make sure you complete your CPR ad well ahead of time so that you get your card and you're there and then review any of those rules from psi at the testing center before the date of your exam.

Here's some more exam information depending on which option you selected at the time of purchase, your NASM examination will either be live remote or live remote proctoring or in-person proctoring.

But either way, it's going to be proctored, somebody will be there watching you take the exam, final exam information. Final Exam information, here we go passing score, you need to have a 70 or better, you need to have a 70 or better as a scaled score of 70 or better. The format, it's computer-based, you're going to be taken on a computer. There are 120 multiple-choice questions. As we talked about 20 of those are industry reviews. Questions and the other 100 questions are the actual countable questions that go in your exam, you have two hours if a two-hour time limit to complete it 180 days from the date of purchase, and you have to earn your CPR Ed certification, it is required and it has to be in your hand when you show up to take the NSM CPT seven exam in-person proctoring.

So, if you have to go to a station, you have to register for your exam by clicking on the link in your course. It's located in the Welcome to CPT seven, your course. So go to that opening page and you'll find it there or you can call psi testing, that number is 1-833-537-1330. If you're in the US or Canada, again, that's 833-537-1330 or internationally, it's one or plus 1-702-939-6797 plus 170293967974.

International note, if the country in which you are looking to schedule your exam is unavailable for registration online or over the phone through psi, contact the NHSN Member Services at 1-800-460-6276 to start your registration process. And please allow four to six weeks for scheduling which means you can't just wait till the 170 a day and try to schedule for the following week, it may take four to six weeks for scheduling for that.

Alright, let's talk about live remote proctoring a little bit more register for your exam by logging into the testing platform with your established login credentials. And that's going to be your HTTPS NSM. Why is an SRY as a secure.com slash login note you're going to be required to schedule your exam appointment at least 24 hours in advance, we recommend you reference the additional exam preparation resources in your course to ensure that you are the most prepared for your exam.

So, review those core support and resources sections that are there. All right, make sure you check the network for reliable network speeds. If you're taking the test online ensure that there are no technical problems on your end. And standards for taking the exam online can be different from taking an in person. So, make sure that you review any of the guidelines before your exam date.

Now let's get into some examples of domain crossover. Here's example number one, your client exhibits their feet turnout when performing an overhead squat. In this scenario, what would be the best muscle to stretch? Well in this instance, you need to know what is an overhead squat. That and that the feet turning out is compensation that's found in the assessment section. Well, what muscles can cause the feet to turn out well that can be found in the basic and applied sciences. Well, what do you do to various muscles when movement compensations occur?

Well, that's found in the program design domain. So, see how there can be a crossover between domains just in a single question. Here's another example. muscles that need stretching are overactive, right muscles that are overactive when the feet turnout include, and then you'll see gastrocnemius soleus, hamstrings complex and table 12.5 on page 391.

Well, here's what might happen. You might get some point and you say to make sure that you're not just memorizing the muscles because you need to try to understand them both the location and the function of muscles and you could do this the test is going to be much easier for example.

Simply knowing the location, you can answer most of these types of questions, let's say your choices on this question, are leftism is dorsa. Leftism is Orissa door side B rectus femoris c gastrocnemius D rectus abdominous. And we're still talking about the feet turning out in an overhead squat?

Well, you can eliminate a B and D by simply knowing the locations on the body that says d'Orsay rectus femoris rectus. Abdominous are far less likely to be muscles that turn your feet out than the gastrocnemius. So being familiar with the muscles, and not just memorizing them.

Here's another example while performing a push-up, your client's head migrates forward, and their low back starts to arch. What should you do on this essence, you need to know the kinetic chain checkpoints. basic and applied sciences domain need to know the potential overactive and underactive muscles found during the assessment domain. And then cueing techniques and progressions and regressions found in the exercise technique, and training instruction. So, these are domain crossovers.

Alright, what are some key things you need to know I'm going to give you some page numbers, I'm going to give you some tables to look at. So, prepare yourself if you are driving your car right now. And you're like, I want to make sure I know which tables to address. Then make a note of where you are.

And come back to this section so that you can review it Here we go. key things to know you should be familiar with concentric functions of muscles what they do concentrically especially muscles, from table 12.5 on pages 391, and 392. You should be familiar with solutions for movement assessments, all the columns, all the rows at tables, 12.5 12 712, nine, and 1211. And those are found on pages 391 through 399. familiarize yourselves with those tables.

Exercise modification how to progress and regress exercises chapters 13 through 20. Yeah, I know that's a lot much broader than some tables to look at. So, make sure you're just familiar with exercise modification. That's what you need to know as a fitness professional anyway. And then certainly the OPT model phase-specific acute variables, what are the sets in this phase reps rest range tempo? What is that based on the NSM OPT model, which can be found in chapter 21?

Questions about muscle action spectrum the muscle action spectrum are concentric isometric and eccentric muscle actions. So be familiar with muscle actions and the joint actions that go along with them. Also, identify if a muscle is an agonist and antagonist a synergist or a stabilizer for a specific movement.

You should also be familiar with what is the concentric action of the gluteus maximus, I let them invest the muscle that they were like, let's pick a muscle that you should know. The gluteus maximus. So that particular muscle what exercises would use this muscle as a primary mover or an agonist so what muscles would be used as sorry, what movements would this muscle be utilized in?

Alright, questions about movement assessments, moving on. Again, still, things that you need to be familiar with are some of the things that you need to know how to set up and perform an assessment. Primarily the overhead squat assessment, we go over it ad nauseum within the text, make sure that you're familiar with the setup process for that, but also for other assessments as well.

What are movement compensations with the movement compensation, what muscles are overactive and underactive? What muscle is overactive when the knees cave?

During an overhead squat assessment, that's a very specific question that was just asked. So that might be something that you need to be familiar with. Also, what muscles would you statically stretch if the feet turn out during an overhead squat assessment?

Again, a very specific question on something that you need to be familiar with. Other questions about exercise modifications might be questions about exercise selection and execution, understanding exercise regressions, how do I make that easier for someone? And then understanding exercise progressions? How do I make it more challenging, that can be found on page 528, for core training 554 and 555 for balanced training, 578 579 for plyometric training, and pages 636 3638 for resistance training.

Now, questions about the OPT model, and the acute variables. How can you more easily memorize acute variables? Those are things that you want to be familiar with, and try to figure out ways that you can better feel more comfortable and competent with the acute variables and the NSM Oh, PT model, why are certain acute variables applied where they are?

So, knowing why it's done the way that it's done? And then how many sets would you perform of a bench press, in phase four maximal strength as an example, but you would want to familiarize yourself with what that might look like in any phase of the OPG model as you try to remember and understand the acute variables. All right. Sometimes you just want to know what else I need to know, on the test.

I get this question a lot. And it's hard to answer that. It's hard to answer it when I get a message saying, and I get them You guys are awesome. You reach out on Instagram, sometimes they get an email from you, but it is mostly DNS, and you let me know you have an upcoming test. And I love that. And then you ask questions like, what do I need to be aware of that are on the exam, and I'm gonna say, on August 920 21, I did a podcast on it.

So, and then for about two months before that, far more in-depth. And I could provide in a response dm, where usually it's a pep talk, where I'm going, you're doing great, you did a lot of studying, do your practice exams, make sure that you're familiar with the domains, and you feel comfortable and competent, and that you'll do well on the test.

So, here's just a lot more information than I can provide than a DM on Instagram. All right, let me review some test-taking tips for you. And we will close out this particular session. So here we go with test-taking tips. You've probably heard it before but go with your first instinct on questions. Try not to overthink those answers, right? Go with the gut instinct and look at other answers to help you verify that you've done the correct one. Now, I've done this in test many times where I get later on in the test.

And I'm like, oh, my goodness, that just answered the question. For a number 13. I got to go back to number 13. and fix the answer on that. So be aware of the test as you're going through it because it may answer some questions for you.

Alright, focus on selecting the best possible answer, because some of the questions you'll look at, and you'll say, these are two answers. And I can make it make sense that both are correct, maybe, but choose the best answer, choose the best possible answer. And if you're not sure, make sure you flag the question so that you can return to it later if you either have no idea. If you've guessed, or if you're like I'm a little unsure. I feel I feel okay about it. But just in case, I'm going to flag that and then answer the questions, you know, first and return to those flagged questions after you've gone through everything else, and then select the best answer.

And don't panic. If it's become like the questions are overly complex, it might just be a research question. So don't worry about that. Make sure that you're not just only identifying the correct answers try to identify why the others are also incorrect. And that sometimes is easier for me because I can at least say well I know a is out and I know C is out so it's somewhere between B and D Now all I have to do now is selected the best answer of those two.

So also, don't get distracted by stories are going to be stories like in 1981 and a great ice hockey game was played, and the player exhibited feet turnout during the story about the hockey player has nothing to do with really what we're asking the question about so don't get caught up in the story.

Be sure to review your rapid reviews on your study guide. So be sure to review those rapid reviews and they're on your study guide.

Here we go, I'm going to give you 10 takeaways. 10 key points, and then we'll wrap it up 10 key points.

  •       Number one, schedule to take your exam.
  •       Number two, obtain your CPR ad prior to taking the exam.
  •       Number three, use the study guides never located in the course and they're going to help you prepare for the exam use those study guides.
  •       Number four, understand how questions can use more than one domain to derive an answer which we've reviewed.
  •       Number five, know the overactive and underactive muscles and they're con centric action.
  •       Number six, understand how to progress and regress exercises.
  •       Number seven, understand how to categorize and cue exercises.
  •       Number eight, know the acute variables for each phase in the NSM op t model.
  •       Number nine, trust your instincts on the exam and don't overthink the questions.
  •       And number 10, answer all the questions you know first and use the remaining time to review any of the questions that you flagged.

Alright, with that being said, I wish you the best of luck, not just on your exam, but in your study process. And don't be upset if you end up not passing the exam. It's okay. It's not a character flaw. It is something that you've made a task you made a run at.

And again, when we talk about learning from failures, then you've taken the test, you feel more comfortable, you know what the test is, you know, the questions that it asks it won't be the same test when you go back into it. But at least you're familiar with the process and how it works. And maybe some of the domains that you need to brush up on.

So don't worry about failing, but be very focused on learning, not just passing the test. With that said, I wish you the best of luck in your studies. And I hope that this helps to develop you further. And if not further then start the process of developing yourself as a lifelong learner and realizing that learning is a joy, especially if there's a purpose behind it.

And I love that you chose fitness as your purpose. Thank you so much. I appreciate your being here. If you have questions for me, feel free to reach out on Instagram at Dr. dot. Rick Ritchie on IG and then you can hit me up on Instagram Rick ritchey@nasn.org This has been the "NASM CPT Podcast."

The Author

National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

Since 1987 the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has been the global leader in delivering evidence-based certifications and advanced specializations to health and fitness professionals. Our products and services are scientifically and clinically proven. They are revered and utilized by leading brands and programs around the world and have launched thousands of successful careers.


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