You want to become a certified personal trainer, but you don’t know quite where to start. Maybe you’re obsessed with honoring your body through movement, or you want to become something else, like an intuitive eating counselor. Either way, you’re here because you want to get your certification in two weeks.
Good news! I’m here to show you exactly how I did it. I passed my American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM-CPT) test with just over two weeks of studying, despite working a 40-hour work week.
I’ve developed five easy steps to take you from being overwhelmed and scared to empowered and prepared. Read on to learn more.
ACSM comes out with a new book every year or so, but I passed with a book that was three years old. I recommend buying one that’s used to save some cash. You can also purchase a practice testbook and an exercise prescription book, but I don’t think they’re necessary (for passing, that is). If you’re looking to become a CPT full time, the exercise prescription book is a great tool.
Schedule your test on a weekend, so you can get a good night’s rest and bypass the work week brain-fog. Don’t put this off, or you’ll never start. I can’t tell you how many times I put this step off (two year’s worth of times!). Don’t be me.
There are countless other resources, but these are the ones I’m familiar with and/or actually used.
This step is where I made a mistake, and I want you to learn from it. I purchased the study materials from Trainer Academy for $299. The materials included a study guide, five practice tests, 700 flashcards, an audio study guide, magic mnemonics, a cram schedule, and a cheat sheet.
I bought this because it guaranteed I would pass, and it offered a two-week cram schedule. However, the cram schedule required 40 hours a week of studying for two weeks, and I didn’t have that kind of time. I needed something quicker. Also, it had a ton of typos and grammatical errors, and that was incredibly annoying. Even more, I found two or three answers from the flash cards that were incorrect.
I did appreciate the practice tests and the cheat sheet. Those were incredibly helpful, but a cheat sheet is easily found with a Google search. If I had to do it over again, I would’ve chosen the much more economical Personal Training Prep by Adrian Chavez for $67. With this, you’ll receive an e-book, audio study guides, quizlets, and video training. I don’t have personal experience with this, but for the price, it’s the way to go. It’s also a revered study option in the ACSM Facebook group.
If you’re really strapped for cash, the Fitness Prep app was something I used the second week of studying, and it was phenomenal. It offered detailed explanations for each answer, and it truly solidified my understanding of each concept.
Based on the study materials and your work/school schedule, you’ll want to develop your study plan. Since I work 40 hours per week, I studied for three hours each evening Monday – Friday. That totaled to 30 hours in two weeks.
The test is based on four modules. On the first day, I took a practice test to determine the modules that needed my attention. I then prioritized those chapters for the 30 hours of study time available. I wrote every concept, vocabulary word, and formula in a three-subject notebook. The book was filled by the end of the two weeks. That baby was THICK.
Every third study day, I took a quiz on what I’d learned the previous two days. This allowed me to review the content and practice my testing skills. Every Saturday, I took a practice test, reviewed the answers I got incorrect, and wrote them down. That took six hours each Saturday. Every Sunday, I’d review what I’d written down for six hours. The quizzes and tests are so important because they get your brain in test mode. Don’t take the weekends off, as they are critical to your success.
Any time I had a free moment outside of my study routine, I was on the Fitness Prep app answering questions and reviewing the ones I got incorrect. You’ll soon realize how many times you open social media apps during the day, and that time will now be spent on Fitness Prep. I paid for the monthly membership and cancelled after the month, but that’s your choice to make!
Listening to the audio study guides as I got ready each morning and prepared for bed each evening was super helpful. I always absorb information well when I’m completing another task. This might also work for you!
The day before the test, I reviewed my entire handwritten notebook that had my study notes and practice test answers, focusing mostly on the concepts I was weakest in.
You’ve just completed two whole weeks of cramming. You did it! Now is the time for some self-care. Treat yourself to your favorite meal and take a long shower. Do a face mask or hair treatment, but try not to consume alcohol or recreational drugs. You want to be on your A game the next day.
Try to visualize the emotions you’ll feel once you pass – is it elation, confidence, relief? Really materialize those feelings in your mind and body so you’re experiencing them in the present moment. This is a critical step in the process.
If you chose a study material with the audio guide option, then listen to your weakest chapters on your big day. Eat a nourishing meal. Dress comfortably, in layers, and make sure you wear something that makes you feel confident. Bring water with you and keep chapstick in your pocket. Take that test, pass, and celebrate!
Let me know how this worked for you, as I’d love to hear about your experience.