Test Taking Strategies for Certification Exam

Exam Content and Breakdown

exam tipsPrior to writing your exam Infofit recommends that you familiarize yourself with the exam content and breakdown.  This will help you study for your exam.

    1. ACE 
    2. ACSM 
    3. BCRPA FT exam
    4. BCRPA PT exam

Exam questions are based on an Exam Content Outline for the specific certification exam of your choice and can be found on the links listed above. The exam content outline lists the performance standards and required knowledge for each exam.  Please note, certification candidates familiar with the exam content outline can use it to guide their studies, helping to alleviate test anxiety as they prepare for their examinations and a career in the field.

Helpful Exam Writing Strategies

The following strategies may prove helpful for candidates taking any of the certification exams listed above:

  • Pace yourself and make efficient use of your time. You should be halfway through the exam (or slightly more) when half of your time is up.
  • Read each question carefully and avoid skimming or speed-reading. Be sure you understand what the question is asking. Pay special attention to phrases such as: BEST, MOST, etc.
  • Try to anticipate what the answer is but still read all response options carefully before finalizing an answer. Remember that there is only one correct answer and two response options may appear to be similar without careful reading.
  • Do not overanalyze or read into the question. Each question is written as clearly as possible and should be interpreted as it appears. There is no hidden meaning or attempt to be tricky.
  • Eliminate the least plausible response options. Eliminating one or two response options will increase your chances of selecting the correct answer.
  • Take care in marking your selected response correctly on paper answer sheets and/or the computer if testing at a computer-based testing facility.
  • Answer every question. Remember, there is no penalty for guessing.
  • Although first impressions are best, change your answer if you feel strongly about it.
  • If you know absolutely nothing about a question, it is best to simply guess and move on.

The ACE and ACSM Personal Training certification exams are competency-based assessments comprised of multiple-choice exams with 125 scored items and 25 experimental items that make up the entire credentialing exam. Candidates are given three (3) hours to complete the exam.

ACE certification exams include 3-types of multiple-choice questions: recall, application, and analysis. Application and analysis questions make up the majority (70 to 85%) of the questions on ACE and ACSM multiple-choice exams. These questions provide assessments of problem solving and decision making skills through realistic scenarios that require candidates to apply their knowledge in circumstances they can expect to experience in the field. The rest of the questions are recall questions, which are cognitive in nature and test the candidate’s ability to recall knowledge. The information that follows is designed to give certification exam candidates a better understanding of multiple-choice question design and the difference between recall, application, and analysis questions.

Anatomy of a Multiple-Choice Question

A multiple-choice question consists of a stem and response options. The stem is a statement or a question and often includes key words to help candidates understand what is being asked or assessed. The stem may be presented as a direct question, an incomplete statement, or a best answer format. For instance:


What muscle flexes the elbow joint?

 Incomplete statement:

The muscle that flexes the elbow joint is:

 Best answer format:

Which exercise MOST effectively strengthens the flexors of the elbow joint?

Response options consist of one correct or clearly best answer and distractors (all of which are incorrect). Distractors usually contain common errors and are often drawn from the same conceptual category as the correct response. Distractors are also similar in length, complexity, grammatical construction, etc. to the correct response. For example:

 Which of the following muscles is a prime mover for lateral flexion of the spine?

  1. Latissimus dorsi
  2. Rhomboid major
  3. Quadratus lumborum
  4. Transverse abdominis

(The correct answer is C)

Recall Questions:

Recall questions assess facts, terminology, and comprehension of important principles. A relatively small number of recall questions are presented on the ACE exams since they assess candidates’ abilities to remember information rather than apply it to solve problems. For example:

 Which muscle flexes the elbow joint?

  1. Bicep brachii
  2. Triceps brachii
  3. Biceps femoris
  4. Triceps surae

(The correct answer is A)

 Application Questions:

An application question poses a problem or situation that would most likely be encountered while working in the profession. Application questions assess candidates’ abilities to recognize the proper use of factual information and principles in solving problems fitness professionals might experience on the job. For example:

A new client has been sedentary for five years and is eager to begin resistance training. Results from the client’s Thomas test with each leg reveal that the back of the lowered thigh does not touch the table, but the knees do flex beyond 80 degrees. Based on this information, what stretch would be MOST important to include in the client’s initial program?

  1. Iliotibial band stretch
  2. Quadriceps stretch
  3. Half-kneeling triplanar stretch
  4. Hamstring stretch

(The correct answer is C)

Analysis Questions:

Analysis questions assess candidates’ abilities to examine information and understand the relationship between its components. In other words, how do the parts work together to make a whole? In this manner, a candidate who can correctly analyze the facts can identify a problem and its appropriate solution. For example:

The food label on a 12-ounce bag of candy provides the following information:

nutrition label

 What is the total amount of kilocalories (kcal) and percentage of calories that come from fat in the entire bag?

  1. 27 kcal, 4 percent
  2. 160 kcal, 7 percent
  3. 216 kcal, 17 percent
  4. 252 kcal, 30 percent

(The correct answer is C)