How I Passed My Certified Personal Trainer Exam (and how to succeed at any test)

There’s the obvious: I studied. But often times, studying alone isn’t enough to be successful on an exam. Have you ever looked up the answers after taking a test, only to find yourself exclaiming, “UGH I KNEW THAT!” That’s my college testing experience in a nutshell.

For my personal training exam, I tried things differently. Instead of walking into the testing room with my usual scattered-ADHD-brain, I sat at my desk with a calm and content demeanor. And I passed with flying colors.

I’m a nationally recognized Certified Personal Trainer. And dammit, I’m proud of that!

Here’s how I did it:

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I believed in myself.

I called myself a trainer/coach long before I passed my certification. In truth, I was – and still am – my own coach. I enjoy learning about the human body and exercise progression. With my personal interest driving my research in everything fitness, I realized that I was already more knowledgeable in many aspects of exercise than most of the popular Instagram “ fitness gurus.” My confidence in myself was high right from the start.

I told everyone.

I announced it on social media. I had a count down ticker on my blog. People knew my CPT exam was coming up. Friends, family, strangers… if you truly follow me, you probably knew. By telling everyone that I would accomplish something, I put pressure on myself to accomplish it. I knew how foolish I’d look if I hyped myself up over social media and failed. As unconventional as it sounds, avoiding that potential embarrassment was a huge driver in my success on this exam. Announcing my goals has always been one of my tricks to spike my motivation.

(See my favorite ways to spike motivation here)

I had support.

Lots of it. Heck, even people I didn’t know congratulated me after I passed the test! I felt supported the entire way. Many people believed in me, which made a huge difference in my self efficacy. So in a way, I passed this exam for those who supported me, because I didn’t want to let down those who pushed me up.

Thank you for encouraging me the entire way to my test.

I practice what I studied.

Not only did I read the material, but I implemented many of the training theories on myself and my friend – who became my first client. After she completed her first four weeks of strength training, her form and numbers on the big three – squat, bench, and deadlift –  improved. To top it off, her confidence in herself skyrocketed.

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Kind words from my first client/friend, which motivated the heck out of me to do my best.

This was fuel for me to continue learning and studying because I absolutely LOVED seeing my friend find success in her own life through the gym. Passing this test was one step closer to doing what I love for a living.

 I set a deadline.

When I received the textbooks and study materials, I went bonkers with studying. The subject matter was so official and interesting to me, that I couldn’t help but dive head first into the training manuals. But after the first month, my motivation tanked. The material became dry, like I was reading a high school history book. Two months went by, then three, then four. I knew I was setting myself up for failure, so I set up my exam date.

At this point, it was the end of September. I chose to take my CPT exam on November 10th. Now that lit a fire in my bum!

With a deadline set, I studied vigorously. I practiced every chapter quiz multiple times. And when the real test was in front of me, I passed.

 I stayed healthy.

Taking care of mental and physical health before a stressful test is highly underrated. Having good health is a giant umbrella to this entire list. I can’t be confident if I’m in a sugar-coma. I can’t be proud enough to ask for support if I’m always tired. Before my test, I made sure I had adequate sleep, ate right, and stayed active. (I actually stopped lifting heavy for a month, and only did cardio-lifting and yoga. More on that in a later post.)

The day before the test, I practiced flowing (yoga) for over an hour, and meditated for 30 minutes. My head was clear, and because of that, I passed.

I rewarded myself.

Positive reinforcement is a strong motivator and learning tool. Basically, after studying for an allotted amount of time without distraction, I rewarded myself. You probably think I’m lame though, because I reward myself with things like reading a chapter of a fiction novel, watching a Netflix episode, or buying a new magazine – boring things for most, but definitely big sources of pleasure and distraction for me.

The creme dela creme of my rewards was this: if I passed my exam, I would buy new leggings. My husband ended up rewarding me with this one ♥ (Like I mentioned earlier, I had a lot of support!)

If you’ve read this far, THANK YOU for your time. I know how busy life can be. If anyone is planning to get certified through the American Council on Exercise, let me know if I can be of assistance.


Was this helpful to you? Have any other tips to study and learn better? Let me know in the comments or simply like this post! Your feedback helps me create stronger content. As always, thank you for taking the time to read this. And don’t forget to follow along on Instagram, and  re-pin this for later! Happy lifting and happy living my friends.

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