I get a lot of questions about the AAAI/ISMA personal trainer test. It makes sense as this is the most popular class I teach. I want to help you if you are trying to pass this certification test. What I’d like to do is tell you about how the AAAI/ISMA certification works and try to answer some of the questions and clear up misunderstandings. I also want to offer you some tips about how to how to study and prepare for the AAAI test. Feel free to leave comments at the end and I will help you if I missed anything.
What Is The AAAI/ISMA Fitness Organization?
AAAI/ISMA stands for the American Aerobics Association International / International Sports Medicine Association. The organnization is based in Pennsylvania. There are people all over the world who are AAAI/ISMA certified.
AAAI – which is how most us of abbreviate the organization –has been around since the 1980s and there are well over 180,000 people who are certified by AAAI /ISMA. That is more than many other certification organizations you've heard of.
Everyone who teaches for AAAI has at least an MS in a health-related field.
Where is The AAAI-ISMA Fitness Cert Accepted
AAAI has over 30 different certification programs and is accepted at most – if not all – major gyms and health clubs including:
- LA Fitness
- Bally Total Fitness
- Retro Fitness
- Gold’s Gym
- Jewish Community Centers
- Planet Fitness
to name a few.
What Is The Class Format?
The AAAI Personal Trainer Class
This is an all-day class (usually 7-8 hrs), and a test is given at the end of the class. Your job is to study before that class. There are both in-person and virtual classes. The registration process and preparation are the same for each format.
- Register for a course on the website.
- Obtain the study materials (from their website).
- Study the books prior to class.
- Attend the class.
An exam will be given after the class and graded by the instructor.
This set up is just like when you studied for your driver’s test or when you were in high school or college. We call this the university model – because it works the same way as testing in schools.
During the class, there is a practical portion where various exercises are demonstrated, and you may be asked questions about the exercises.
When you register for a class, you will be given the chance to purchase the AAAI/ISMA study materials. The books are called:
- “Studies in Exercise Science
- A book called “Personal Trainer.”
I suggest you read a book about “personal training” first. This will make the book about exercise science easier to understand.
Note. Depending on when you purchased the AAAI books you may have a “supplement” Book. The “supplement book” is NOT a book about dietary supplements. Rather, the book contains supplemental material to what is in the studies in exercise science book.
If you want to know more about dietary supplements, check out my Supplement Clarity website. I've been investigating supplements for over 20 years. All reviews are unbiased and science-based.
When you get the AAAI/ISMA books, you should study both books completely. Study them – don't just read them.
What Happens During The Class?
During the all-day class, the person teaching the class reviews the information that fitness trainers need to know to work safely and effectively with people. For example, as a trainer, you will need to know about:
- anatomy and physiology.
- exercise science – and how to use it in the real world.
- safety issues during exercise.
- how to make exercise programs that are safe and effective.
The person teaching you will also likely share real-life information that is not found in most books. You need to know this also for the real world.
Book smarts will only help you a little bit as a trainer. Learning personal training from a personal trainer will take you to the next level.
There is also a practical component to the class where you may have to demonstrate different exercises.
Remember, the person teaching the class will review the material. They are not there to teach you everything for the very first time. You can’t remember it all in one day anyway in a day, so don’t try.
Where Are AAAI/ISMA Fitness Classes Held?
If you go to the AAAI/ISMA website you can see a list of every class that is being held.
On my website, the Classes Page has all the classes I personally teach.
Tip. On the AAAI website, the name of the instructor who teaches each class is usually listed. Most instructors have websites. If you find their website, you can learn about the instructor.
If you want me to teach the class, email me directly.
How Long Should I Study?
It really depends on where you are starting from. I studied for over three months for my CSCS cert –and that’s with a degree in biochemistry under my belt. That said, I'd say that if you have a college degree in exercise science (and recently graduated), you probably could pass right now.
If you are a novice, who has never opened a book about exercise science, I recommend you study a few hours a night for at least a month.
What Should I Bring To Class?
You’re probably going to be taking a lot of notes, so a pen and paper is smart. I often advise people to bring earplugs also. This will block out noises and help you concentrate during the test.
How Should I Dress?
Do You Teach Everything I need To Pass The Test?
No. You are expected to study BEFORE you walk in the door.
Remember, there is more to personal training than just passing a test. I – as well as all the other AAAI/ISMA faculty – provide to you a gigantic amount of information in a day. There is no way you will remember everything in class without prior studying.
Most importantly, the teacher does not cover everything on the test. When I teach a class, I try to be your mentor for that day. I want you to succeed, so I hold nothing back. You will be overloaded with information if you do not study.
Tip. The class is YOUR chance to ask questions. All people who teach for AAAI/ISMA are personal trainers or have been trainers. We want to share our knowledge with you. By asking questions you help yourself.
My Friend Told Me I Don’t Have To Study
If you listen to your friends, you will fail.
You studied for every other test in your life, so why would you think you wouldn't have to study for something as important as a personal trainer test? This test is no different than any other exams you took. Study for it.
Even if by some fluke you passed by the skin of your teeth, odds are you will forget most everything in a few days. If you don't know what you are doing, you WILL eventually hurt somebody (e.g., rhabdomyolysis). This will hurt your personal trainer's reputation. The end result is you have no clients and can't make any money.
Personal trainers PRESCRIBE a drug called exercise. It's the most powerful drug in the world. To prove this, here are just a few things exercise can do.
My Friend Told Me To Study This…
People may try to tell you what they remember from the test they took. Don't assume the test your friend took will be the same test you will take. Study everything.
My Friend Gave Me Her Notes
If you have a friend who previously took the class, she /he may give you their notes to study. Don't only study your friend's notes. Think about it. What if your friend took terrible notes?
Would you go to a doctor who only studied their friend's medical school notes? Of course not.
I like to save money too. But don't cut corners on your education by just looking over somebody's notes. There is no way those notes will prepare you as well as studying a book about personal training.
What About Online Quiz Websites?
Various websites may provide test questions and answers to AAAI/ISMA and other fitness organization exams. The questions/answers are often provided by people who previously took an examination. I have looked at some of these websites. It's recommended you verify answers before trying to memorize them.
What Books Do I Need?
Is Your Book The AAAI/ISMA Book?
I've written eight books so far. One of them is a personal training textbook. It's called Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics. AAAI/ISMA does not currently use my book, but I recommend it as it covers real-life information you need to know as a trainer.
You can get the current edition of my book directly from me.
How Do I Get Re-Certified?
The first time you get certified with AAAI-ISMA the cert is valid for two years. After that, you need to get re-certified. Fortualtely it is pretty easy to get recertified. I have written a detailed review of how to get re-certified by AAAI/ISMA.
What If I Fail AAAI/ISMA Test?
If you fail the AAAI-ISMA personal trainer test – or ANY AAAI/ISMA exam- you have up to 1 year to retake the entire class and test again for just $30. The only stipulation is that you cannot retest at a college for $30.
If retesting at a college, the college will charge you full price again (that's the college's policy). You also cannot retest at AAAI-ISMA conventions for $30, either (it's full price).
On the class page of my website is a list of the classes I teach.
The AAAI/ISMA website has a list of ALL of the classes everybody teaches and where they are offered.
Can I Use Other Fitness Books For AAAI/ISMA?
Exercise science does not change from organization to organization. Most textbooks about personal fitness training cover the same main areas of information. In that respect, ACE, AAAI/ISMA, ISSA, and other organizations are going to have a lot of information inc common.
So if you already have the ACE books and study those, you should be familiar with much of what is covered on the AAAI/ISMA exam. Those ACE textbooks are big, so study all of them!
I don't recommend the NASM book to prep for AAAI/ISMA. I feel their book is overly technical. Exercise science does not have to be complicated. Study the NASM books for the NASM test only.
Tip. My resource page has the textbooks, practice tests, etc., for most fitness certs as well as other information.
I have created a 300-question personal trainer practice test to help. AAAI/ISMA recommends this test to students prepping for their test. You can get the test from them too.
My practice test will help with ANY fitness trainer certification.
Remember, the practice test is not a substitute or shortcut to studying. For best results, use the practice test along with a book about personal training. Do not use the practice test in place of studying.
What’s The Best Way To Study?
Here are some tips to help you when you study for the test:
- Skim over a section before reading it.
- Highlight important information.
- Make flashcards of important information.
- Imagine if somebody asked you a question about a topic.
- Read both of the AAAI books cover to cover. Read ALL of both books.
Is The Test Done On A Computer?
No. The teacher grades the test himself/herself.
Is The Test Multiple Choice?
You'll find out when you take the test 🙂
Is There A Time Limit?
Yes. You have 60 minutes to complete the test.
Can I Take The Test Online?
Can I Use My Notes During The Test?
You cannot use your books or notes during the test. Also, turn off your cell phone or keep it out of sight during the test. No text messaging during the test is allowed.
Do I Get The Test Back To See What I Got Wrong?
No, and here's why. If you get a test back, some people may be tempted only to study the questions they got wrong. If you only studied for a test, then you would only know what was on the test. What if you received a different test the next time?
Can I record The Class?
No video or audio recording is allowed in the class. If you are caught using a recording device, you'll be asked to turn it off.
What About Master Personal Trainer Cert?
The Master personal trainer certification (Phase 2 cert) offered by AAAI/ISMA is different in that it deals mostly with how to help and train people who have health issues. These are usually referred to as Special Populations. For example, you'll learn about training people with diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and other health problems.
The textbook used for the course is called Advanced Personal Training which I wrote. You can get it from me or from AAAI/ISMA.
Can You Take The Master Trainer Course First?
Currently, AAAI-ISMA does not mandate that you take, the “Level 1” trainer course before the Master Trainer cert. Unless both classes are offered together (one day, the level 1 class, and the next day the level 2/Master class), I will not take the Master Personal Trainer class first. The information in both classes is very different from each other.
Also, don't just take the Master cert first by itself. There is critical information in the intro personal trainer class that you won't get in the Master class. Also, in the Master class, we assume you know the other stuff too.
How Long Is The Cert Good For?
If you pass an AAAI/ISMA test for the very first time, you have two years before you need to get recertified. After that, you will need to be re-certified every year. Again, read my post on how to get AAAI recertified for more info. Make a note in your Google/ Apple calendar of when your cert expires. If your cert expires, you will have to retake the test again.
What’s The Best Fitness Certification?
You get out of a fitness cert what you put into that cert. Here are my thoughts about the best personal trainer certification if you want more insights.
I Passed The AAAI Test. What’s Next?
AAAI-ISMA has over 30 different courses you can attend as well, covering a wide array of topics that would benefit your personal trainer career. They are all listed on their website.
Remember, personal trainers are part of the health care system too. So, we should aim to be qualified fitness trainers – not just “certified”.
Check out 101 Personal Trainer Marketing Secrets for more on that topic.