NASM Study Notebook

My Experience Taking the NASM CPT (Version 4) Exam

Good morning, you guys!

Yesterday was quite a day. First, I took a spill while on a run around the neighborhood. Luckily, it was nowhere near as epic as my last fall and I was able to laugh it off with a couple friendly witnesses and run home with minimal pain. In my mind, taking a spill first thing in the morning meant that the rest of the day was destined to be better.


Without getting too ahead of myself, I’ll just say that the rest of the day did get a whole lot better with some major advances on the job search front. But more on that at a later date.


NASM CPT Exam (v4) Review #NASM #studyguide


A week ago, I took the NASM CPT Version 4 exam… and PASSED! Hearing that I’d passed was a great feeling. I’d spent 6 months studying my butt off, making flashcards, taking practice tests, and trying to re-teach everything I learned to Andrew.


Something that I found to be extremely helpful along the way were the test recaps and study guides posted by bloggers who’d already been through the same certification process. The study guides posted by Heather of Life in Leggings and Julie of Peanut Butter Fingers were two particularly helpful resources. I must have referenced Heather’s study guide 20 times. So in an effort to pay it forward, today I’ll be sharing my own test-taking experience.


Setting the Scene

Last Wednesday, I drove into a sketchy part of town where I had a terrible time trying to find parking. After what felt like forever, I parked and finally found the tiny Cal America Education Institute – where I was to take my exam – tucked behind a building with bars on its windows.

I wasn’t allowed to bring my phone or purse into the testing center with me, so I locked them in the trunk of my car. Being without my phone totally added to the shadiness of the scene, but you get it, I’m just being dramatic at this point. I was expecting a big group of NASM test-takers to commiserate with, but as I mentioned last week, I was the only personal trainer-in-training at the test facility.

I was ushered into a small classroom that had ten computers set up around the periphery of the room. There were elaborate privacy panels separating each computer, just in case there had been any people for me to cheat off of. The administration of the exam took place entirely on the computer. I doubt the test proctor even knew what test I was taking. She left the room, and I went to work. When I reached the last question, I had the option to go back to any questions that I had “marked” (basically anything I was unsure of, I marked) and then “end” the test when I was finished.

As soon as I hit “end”, the test proctor came in and asked if I was through. I said I was, so she logged into the master computer at the front of the room and announced that I had passed. Of course I’m curious to know my final score, but apparently that information wasn’t even available to her.


The Test Itself

Honestly, the test was harder than I expected. I felt like there was an emphasis on some fairly insignificant details just to see if I had read all the chapters, rather than a focus on the most important concepts. Like others have stated, many of the test questions are worded in a confusing way, and more than one answer often seems correct.

Some specific things I remember seeing on the test:

  • Planes of motion (and examples of exercises in each)
  • Prime movers
  • Reciprocal inhibition vs. Altered reciprocal inhibition
  • Golgi tendon organs (GTOs) vs. muscle spindles
  • Structure of a neuron (I was surprised by this one)
  • Stroke volume vs. Heart beat
  • Types of levers
  • Body composition assessments (specifically for obese clients)
  • Blood pressure (systolic vs. diastolic)
  • EPOC
  • Overhead squat, pushing, and pulling assessments (so many questions about these!)
  • Shark Skills Test (number of seconds deducted for each fault, .10)
  • Lower extremity strength assessment (number of pounds added with each set, 30-40)
  • Working with special populations (specifically elderly and pregnant clients)
  • Specifics about lung diseases
  • Types of flexibility and the OPT model stages they correspond to
  • General Adaptation Syndrome
  • Benefits of Periodization
  • Ways to take pulse (radial pulse is preferred)
  • Durnin formula’s four sites of skinfold measurement
  • Benefits of the cool down phase
  • Supplements with the highest risk for overdosing
  • Number of calories in 1 gram of protein, carb, fat (4, 4, 9)
  • Stages of Change model (several questions on this)
  • SMART goals
  • FITTE cardio training
  • SAID principle
  • Muscles of the core
  • Benefits of Whole Body Vibration (WBV) training
  • Know the regressions and progressions for any exercise
  • Carbohydrate content of popular diets (Table 17.12, page 493)
  • I remember this question verbatim because it stumped me at the time: “Under what circumstances should a client follow a 800-1000 calorie diet?”
    A. Under the supervision of a certified personal trainer
    B. Under the supervision of a medical professional
    C. Under the supervision of a nutritionist
    D. When trying to slim down quickly


If I Had To Do It Again

If I hadn’t passed and had to take the test all over again… I’d be super bummed, for one thing! But now having seen the test, there are a few things I’d do differently.

  • I’d focus more on the textbook and less on the Upward Mobility app. While the app was a good way to review on the go, I eventually started to memorize the questions and their answers from seeing them over and over, not because I really knew the concepts.
  • I would also suck it up and purchase an additional practice test or two from NASM. The one official practice test I took used wording that closely resembled the actual test.
  • I would have learned the overactive/underactive muscle compensations and corrections much earlier and allowed more time to really commit them all to memory.



Even though I thought the test was hard, you only need a 70% to pass. That meant that I could miss 36 out of 120 questions and still pass. If you put in the time and energy to study and really learn the major concepts, you should do just fine.

Question: What’d I miss? Do any other recent NASM test-takers have any tips to add?


Have a good rest of your Thursday, everyone. It’s almost Friday!!




Six Months Later, My Favorite NASM Study Tools


It seems like all I do these days is study. I’m studying like it’s my job, people! That would be great, actually… to get paid to study. I feel like I could excel as a professional student.

Because I have scrambled eggs for brains my brain is full to the brim with personal training knowledge right now and can’t possibly think about anything else, I thought we could talk about studying!  Several months ago, I did a post on my NASM study plan, and today’s post will serve as a follow-up to that one, focusing on the study tools that I’ve come to love over the past 6 months.


My Favorite NASM Study Tools via


Highlighters & Alpaca Erasers – The highlighters highlight all the important info and keep me awake with their bright colors. The alpaca erasers literally serve no purpose other than making me happy because come on, they’re really cute.

Highlighters & Alpacas #nasm #studytools


Flashcards – Flashcards are my everything. I made a preliminary set of 5x7s as I went through the book chapter by chapter, and have since made a second set of 4x6s as part of my review process.

Flashcards #nasm #studytoolsPut me on an elliptical with a set of flashcards and I could learn just about anything.

Study Station #nasm #studytools


Notebook – I’m a writer, not a typer (typist?). Ok so I type all the time. But if I really want something to sink in, I need to write it out by hand.

Notebook #nasm #studytools


Sticky Flags – These little guys make the best bookmarks and it’s nice that they remove easily and don’t leave a sticky residue because I’d like to sell my textbook someday.

Sticky Flags #nasm #studytools


Coloring Books – My Human Anatomy coloring book has been a legitimately useful tool as I’ve tried to learn all of the muscles in the body.

Human Body Coloring Book #nasm #studytools

Human Body Coloring Book #nasm #studytools

My Enchanted Forest coloring book has also served an important purpose: stress-reliever.

Enchanted Forest Coloring Book


Upward Mobility NASM Personal Trainer Exam Prep App – Over the course of the past six months, I’ve tried out several CPT exam prep apps (both NASM-affiliated and not) and this is the best one I’ve found. It wasn’t free, but the $5.99 was worth it. In recent weeks, it’s become my most valuable study tool.

Upward Mobility NASM Exam Prep App #nasm #studytools


Kevin & Kevin – Have done very little to help me study, other than keep my lap warm. But that’s still something.

cat nap


So those are all of my most-used study materials. If you are in the process of studying for your certification, or have already taken and passed the exam, please feel free to share some of your favorite study materials in the comments below!


Wow. I never really noticed how colorful all of my study materials were until now. Well, that’s not true; I noticed yesterday when some highlighters snuck into a shot of Andrew’s birthday jam bars. I thought it was cute that the rainbow highlighters matched the rainbow sprinkles.

birthday jam bars

Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone.