How I passed the NASM CPT exam

So, I know from experience that a person looking forward to taking the National Academy of Sports Medicine’s CPT exam researches some opinions on the exam. I read SO MANY blogs trying to figure out how hard the exam would be, how long it would be, and what the content of this exam would be. Here, I’ll give you a few handy insights that REALLY helped me going into this life-changing test.

First off, if you’re signed up for the NASM CPT course, you obviously have the goal of becoming a fitness professional. Whether your goal is to work in a gym or become an independent contractor, this particular certification is a must have. NASM is nationally accredited, and just about any gym will accept you when they see NASM on your resume. If this certification is your goal, you have to know that you’re going to need to BECOME this material. Don’t memorize it, don’t “learn” it, LIVE IT! Asking questions like “Is this test easy?” completely defeats the purpose of buying this certification. If you want to truly be a professional, you should aim to EARN it.

Okay, so enough with the lecture. How on earth did I pass this notorious exam?


It was actually very simple! I studied HARD. I literally lived this material. I studied, and then took my newly developed information to the gym and integrated it. I learned all the muscles by going up to the machines, deducing which muscles it was meant to work, then watched in the mirror as certain muscles flexed or extended. If you don’t have access to a gym, try my second tactic; take a marker and scribble the names of the muscles on top of their sites on your own body! It sounds cooky, but hey, it worked 🙂

I have a couple out-of-shape family members, so another step I took to learn this material was to help them out by practicing the fitness assessment on them, as well as creating “pretend” programs for them based on the OPT model. I bought a cheap pair of calipers on Amazon and took everyone’s body fat. This is how I learned where your Iliac crest is, how much BF a person should have, etc. It sounds time consuming, but again, you’re studying to become a fitness pro. If you’re going to very soon be giving the general public advice on how to get fit, you need to KNOW the ins and outs of how to do it.

Here are some of the more important points to know for the exam:

  • Fitness assessment (this is incredibly important and you need to be very familiar with the fitness assessment portion)
  • Vocabulary from the nutrition and supplement portions
  • Vocabulary from the Cardiorespiratory System
  • Vocabulary from Basic Exercise Science
  • The Code of Professional Conduct
  • Lifestyle Modification and Behavioral Coaching
  • The ethics and business advice in the last chapters
  • Appendix D (contains all of the muscles shown on their attachment sites as well as their functions)
  • Appendix A (all of the exercises that are applied in the programs)
  • Again, I will reiterate how VERY IMPORTANT it is to know the fitness assessment portion (this is where you learn about the compensations and which muscles are affected by certain compensations and imbalances)
  • The OPT model
  • Again, I will reiterate how VERY IMPORTANT the fitness assessment portion is (this is where you learn all the compensations and which muscles are affected by certain compensations and muscle imbalances

I will stress that the fitness assessment sections are on the exam. They’re not hard once you’ve learned them, but I unfortunately waited until the last minute to learn them and the absorption was harder than I thought. I panicked, and I researched and every time I saw a post that stressed “fitness assessment” my stomach dropped. I kept thinking “I’m screwed! Everyone is saying fitness assessment  was most of their exam, and I can’t figure out which muscle is weak if the head protrudes!!”. DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN TO YOU!!! I promise, if you learn the muscles, the functions, then tackle the fitness assessment early on, your life will be easier.

That all being said, a good resource to have it the CPT study guide. You can find that here:

I suggest also using the course access code for and taking all the little quizzes as you go. Some of the questions from those were on my exam. Also, NASM gives you a practice exam. Take this a max of 3 or 4 times! I took one in the beginning as a bench mark to see how much I had to learn, then used the next couple chances as a way to brush up on my weak points. Do not try to memorize the questions and answers from the practice exam! The exam questions are sometimes worded differently than they were on your quizzes.

That brings up a good point. I saw a lot of forums discussing how “NASM deliberately rewords the questions to be tricky!!” and that the wording was enough to throw them off and fail them. Now, are things worded a bit differently? Yes. But are they backwards and confusing? Not at all! Honestly, if throwing in a couple “ands” and “ors” tricks you up to a point of failing, you probably didn’t know the material very well in the first place. 

Take lots of notes. The text book is yours, so go highliter crazy! Write words next to muscles, mark pages with sticky notes! Anything you need to do to remember a section, do it.


So, how did I pass? Hard work, lots of studying, confidence in my knowledge, and use of the resources given to me. I bought the cheaper package, and I had lots of materials. We should all have them, so use them! Don’t waste any time getting into the materials. You have 180 days, but that doesn’t mean you have an endless amount of time.

Get to it!!

Best of luck,





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