How I Passed the NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam….The 1st time!!!


Tuesday was the big day. I took my NASM Certified Personal Trainer exam and PASSED. WOW! That is a huge relief and weight off my shoulders.

I started the process of researching how to become a personal trainer way back in the Spring. I compared and contrasted certification organizations. I spent hours looking at websites and comparison charts. I changed my mind a million times. But, ultimately, I settled on NASM, or National Academy of Sports Medicine. I never found anything outright negative about them.  I can carry that certification anywhere I go, even overseas.  It looked thorough and solid.  I chose NASM, signed up for a class, and off I went, starting in June.  I was thrilled to find out from a mentor trainer that NASM is the Gold Standard of certifications and I made the right choice for my career and my clients. Whoo!  Thank goodness all this studying was for naught.

I was made nervous when researching online brought me to the standard statement that the NASM exam is one of, if not THE, toughest PT exam out there.  Eeeek!  It has been over ten years since I took any exam of substance.  It is true that I graduated from college and graduate school.  I am no stranger to studying and testing but it had been so long.  I felt like my brain had cobwebs in it.  The good thing is that I had six months to study and test.  I can do this!

Then that fateful day in June arrived.  My package from NASM was delivered to my doorstep.  I got a snazzy backpack and textbook.  Oh crap!  That textbook is HUGE!  Flashbacks to college quickly followed.  I sat down and started reading.

I read.

I read.

I read.

I read.

I read that whole entire textbook….cover to cover.  I highlighted and I took notes.

After I read the book all the way through I started watching the tutorials online that NASM provides in their online classroom.  I watched every single one.  They are kind of boring but in many instances they did make the science make more sense. (Note: I was a HISTORY major in college.  This level of science was completely new and daunting to me.)

I went online and I printed out study guides that other bloggers and personal trainers have provided over the years. I especially liked the one Peanut Butter Fingers provided here. I also found a document on the forums of rather thorough outline of the textbook.  THAT was a HUGE help. (It is a .pdf file). I think I read that outline ten times, highlighting, hashing out points, making lists, etc.

I printed out the flashcards that NASM provides in the online classroom.  It provides 100 flashcards for the four sections in the textbook.  I carried those flashcards everywhere.

I talked to my husband a lot about what I was learning.  Talking about it helped me process the information and make it practical.  I remember one night when I gave a full explanation of how self-myofacial release (foam rolling) works and my sweet husband said, “YES!  My investment is paying off!”  Funny, funny man. I love him.  And yes, it will pay off.

I downloaded an app that has over 400 multiple-choice questions.  It has a study mode where you can go through all the questions, answer them, and then have the question explained to you.  I did all 475 questions.  There is also a test mode.  I probably did over 20 practice tests on this app just to get a feel for the questions.  Oh, and I DID see a handful of the questions on the actual exam…word for word.  You can get the app here.

Finally, I did the practice exam provided by NASM online probably 5 times or so.  And I did see questions from this test on the real test as well.

Practice exams were helpful in building my confidence.  When I started taking them I was scoring in the low 70’s.  You have to have a 70 to pass the exam.  Not good.  As I studied more and tested more that score inched up into the 80’s.  My goal was to have at least one practice exam in the 90’s.  I think it happened once. LOL!

Lastly, I prayed…A LOT!!

I was so nervous going into the exam.  It didn’t help the computer lab was absolutely freezing.  I mean frigid. I am so glad I thought to bring a sweater.  I marked questions I wasn’t 100% sure about and I returned to them after I went through the entire exam.  Then I clicked through every single question one last time just to be sure.  I marked ‘End’ and I prayed hard again.  The proctor came into the lab, looked up my information on her computer, and gave me a thumbs up.

I celebrated with the Hubs with a nice lunch.

It is done.


How I Passed the NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam….The 1st time!!!

13 thoughts on “How I Passed the NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam….The 1st time!!!

  1. Love this post! I don’t think people realize just how much personal trainers really do have to know and study. Personal trainers are not just people who used to work at a gym and decided one day to make more money by taking on clients. You really know your stuff! And good for you not wanting to settle for a pass only! That says amazing things about your character. Good job!


  2. Christine says:

    Congratulations! I LOVE that you prayed, and obviously studied very hard! I will be taking the exam later summer or early fall…I am reading the book now, but very nervous. Thank you so much for this post!


    1. Sarah says:

      YEAH!!! Best of luck to you! Study hard and you will do just fine. 🙂 While you are at it—->subscribe to my newsletter!! 🙂


  3. Nicole says:

    I am SO glad I found your blog. I just signed up to start the NASM cpt course on Saturday. I am really nervous because I have three kids that demand a ton of time from me but fitness is my passion (outside of being a mom of course). Thank you for sharing your studying resources! I’m sure I will reach out to you in the future with questions about the exam and your experience as a personal trainer. Thanks again!


  4. Rhonda Speights says:

    Thank you for sharing, I just signed up and start my online course next week, I’m reading the book as we speak and will be doing a lot of reading over the weekend. You have eased my nerves. Thanks again.


  5. Alanna says:


    thank you for this… i started the NASM program then took a break… i was so overwhelmed and nervous about the entire process. i wasn’t sure if this was what God wanted me to do… then this post showed up randomly in my Pinterest feed.


  6. Devin says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I just wanted to thank you for all the information and resources you compiled here. I recently purchased the NASM self study course and have been feeling like I’ll never understand this stuff but you’ve definitely boosted my confidence.



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