Episode 16: How To Perfectly Prepare For and Pass Your Certification Exam with Kathryn Russell

Kathryn Russell

It’s the big question that stresses out so many- how do I study so I’m successful on my certification exam? In this episode I talk to Kathryn Russell

Kathryn Russell

Fitness Professional

It’s the big question that stresses out so many- how do I study so I’m successful on my certification exam? In this episode I talk to Kathryn Russell, the Education Manager at the NSCA. She’s an incredible intelligent woman, and an amazing educator. The tips that she gives away in this episode are going to completely change the way you approach studying for the exam, and will lead you to not only success when taking the exam, but ultimately success in your career as a trainer.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

• How to prepare for the exam in order to succeed on the exam and your career

• A study technique that’s so simple it’s ridiculous.

• The number one question you need to make sure you can answer when studying

Here’s the Complete List of Tips:

1. Don’t study facts to prepare for the exam. Instead, think about what is happening inside the human body to understand why you’re doing it.

2. Ask yourself (when thinking about coaching/ teaching) why am I asking this person to do this, and what effect is it having on the human body?

3. These exams have three styles of questions:

-Recall: pure memorization

– Application: “if I do this, this will happen as a result”

– Analysis: having to think about the bigger picture and analyze the situation, since no two situations are the same to determine whether it’s the best method or exercise for the situation.

These three types of information are stored differently in the brain. You probably have to study in different ways to understand the material in the right way and engage the whole brain. This might involve reading, verbalizing, writing, and listening. Then we have long term memorization.

4. Writing flashcards isn’t enough! How do you move to application and analysis?

5. Information we put in our brain is there- but we have to know how to easily access that “file”. It’s not that we don’t know the information, you have to know how to utilize the information. The practical application of what you learn is very important- like verbalizing why you’re having someone do a leg press instead of a squat.

6. Remember, the job of a personal trainer isn’t about knowing facts, it’s about applying them- so don’t just study facts!

7. How to study: read the textbook, and focus on what the paragraph is actually saying. Don’t just take specific facts, focus on the information.

8. As you take notes, ask yourself, “do I understand my notes”. Ask yourself how you would begin to apply that information.

9. Now, take the information, and make questions for yourself so that the information is an answer.

10. If you have to look at the answer to trigger the memory of the answer, then you need to hand the flashcards to someone else. If you can’t explain the information in a way that they understand, then you don’t know the information well enough.

11. Or, look at the flashcard and write out the answer. If you know it and can’t put it in words, then you don’t really know it.

12. At this stage, look at the exam practice questions. But don’t just look at which questions you got wrong. Also, as you go through the questions, if you have any hesitation, you have to mark that one too- because you weren’t 100% sure.

13. Always answer “why” you chose an answer and why the other answers are wrong. Think about what happens to the body, and the correct answer should become clear. Knowledge is not just knowing the answer, but knowing why it’s the answer.

14. Surface, strategic, and deep study methods:

– Surface study: just finding out what you have to know

– Strategic: what materials should I use, how often should I study

– Deep Study: every time you learn something, you continue to ask why. this is the study technique you need to utilize

15. In summary… always be able to answer WHY.

16. How much time should you allot to study for the exam? Well first keep in mind that we didn’t go to school one day a week. We went five, or in some cases, every other day (like college). For individual study, it really depends on your background- do you know Anatomy and Physiology? What’s your background. Also, everyone learns at different rates.

17. Do a brain dump after the exam- write down the content (not specific questions) that you feel that you were expected to know. And remember that it’s ok to fail!

18. Do a brain dump when you start the exam too! Once you start, you can write down notes on your note paper for things that you want to refer to.

19. Client assessment, program design, and safety and administration are all the sections that people generally struggle with the most.

Other References in This Episode:

1.Recommended materials:
– NSCA-CPT Exam Content Description Booklet
– Essentials of Personal Training 2nd Edition
– Exercise Technique Manual 3rd Edition
– NSCA-CPT Practice Questions

2. Online Study Course – can be purchased from NSCA in a package only or from Human Kinetics

3. Purchase individual study materials!

4. Preview the online study course from Human Kinetics!

5. Find an exam prep clinic to meet with real people and review/ prepare for the exam!

6. Want to learn more? Check out Episode 001: Becoming a Fitness Professional (Part 1 of 2). This episode will also teach you all the steps you need to go through to get your certification, you can download a checklist to help you know all the steps, and there’s also links to additional study materials!

Also check out Episode 001: Becoming a Fitness Professional (Part 2 of 2) where I discuss with Jonathan Goodman what to do after you get certified, like how to find clients, market yourself, etc.

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