What to Expect When You’re Expecting to take a CPT exam


To some, becoming a Certified Personal Trainer sounds like it’s a breeze. Trainers workout frequently, maintain excellent health, and all of their friends ask them for fitness advice. How hard could it possibly be?

For others, becoming an exercise professional sounds difficult and intimidating. They can’t imagine memorizing the names of so many muscles and bones and fitness principles. As a recently certified trainer, I have a few words to say to both of those individuals and just about everyone in between.

Are you thinking of becoming a personal trainer?

Here are 3 important questions to ask yourself before deciding to register for an exam and start your journey as an exercise professional.

1. Why do you want to become a personal trainer?

Is it the idea of spending all day in a gym talking about one of your favorite hobbies? Is it because all of your friends want you to give them advice on how to get fit like you? Is it because you value individuals and their health and well-being?

If you truly want to become a personal trainer, I don’t believe that it’s something you can want for yourself. Personal training is a service that requires you to carefully consider the safety, needs, desires, goals and overall well-being of your client. In order to do that you need to have the main desire to better the lives of each of your clients. If you can have that mindset, then other positive motivations will only make your passion grow.

2. What is your knowledge background?

Does your knowledge of exercise come from magazines and “bro-science” or have you studied in related areas? When you approach the NFPT exam and most others, you shouldn’t read the study materials as the absolute rulebook for personal training. You’re going to need some sort of foundation in anatomy, physiology, fitness principles and professionalism. You don’t need to have a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology, but a good base in these topics will only help you.

3. What other certifications do you have?

Are you already certified in yoga, strength, and conditioning, spinning? If you already have a specialty certification then adding a personal trainer certification may be an excellent step. You likely already have a good foundation of anatomy, physiology, fitness principles and professionalism, so a personal trainer certification may just be the icing on the cake for you professionally, depending on what your goals are.

4 tips when preparing to take the test

1. Plan your study sessions

When I first started studying for my exam, it was just whenever I could find the time or remember to do it. Once I realized that wasn’t going to work, I scheduled a half hour to an hour per day to reading, working through study guides, and taking quizzes. Scheduling made studying less frustrating and majorly increased my self-efficacy.

2. Supplement studying with other resources

The NFPT exam tests over 5 main categories, which include anatomy and physiology, so if you’ve read material from other education/certification agencies that cover these topics, then you could be supplementing your studies already with the education that you have from multiple different sources. Solidifying your understanding of the NFPT education manual can be done by using various textbooks or resources, whether from NFPT or other accredited certification programs. For example, I had read multiple texts prior to becoming NFPT certified. Texts like, NSCA’s Essentials for Personal Training, ACSM’s Foundations of Strength and Conditioning, ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, and Human Anatomy and Physiology by Marieb and Hoehn – these and books like them can be of huge help to reaffirming your knowledge. It’s not necessary to read these, but IMO, the more the better (and the more you know, the better trainer you will be too)!

NFPT offers supplemental resources that are also very helpful for reaffirming knowledge, they are optional, but helpful. Depending on what you already know, or how hard the concepts are for you, these could really help – check out the Trainer Videos, or maybe the Anatomy Fundamentals course.

3. Take the practice tests

Practice tests are an excellent way for you to get an idea of what you need to work on studying and practice and it’s also an excellent way to mentally prepare for the structure of the test. Jot down the incorrect answers and go revisit the sections they came from.

4. Complete the study guides

Whether you prefer to do everything online or have a hand-written study guide, NFPT and most other accredited organizations off both options and they will be your strongest asset to mastering the material. Much like the practice tests, the study guides help to draw your attention to concepts that need work.

Whether you are undecided about becoming a trainer or preparing for an exam, the test is not the end of your journey. Your preparation is for your profession. Your clients won’t ask you to recite every muscle in the body or explain innervation of muscle fibers, but they do want you to help them reach their goals and to keep them safe.


Hanna Riley B.S. in Kinesiology, NFPT CPT is a passionate trainer, writer, and graphic designer. Hanna's greatest passion is working with people who want to better themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. She believes that we are all stronger than we think and she aspires to extend patience, kindness, education, self-motivation, confidence to her clients to help them unleash their strength. For more from Hanna, connect on social media on Facebook as Hanna Riley and Instagram as @house.ofhanna.