Update 9/4/20. Jennifer Bauer is a personal trainer in Chester County PA. She recently sat for and passed the ACSM Personal Trainer test and I wanted to interview her to further help those trying to be ACSM certified. For more information also see my interview with ACSM personal trainer Pamela Hernandez.
JC. What do you want to do as a personal trainer and why did You pick the ACSM CPT over other certifications?
JB. My overall goal is to improve the health and well-being of individuals seeking assistance. My long term goal is to obtain a certification specializing in training cancer patients both before, during and after treatment throughout their recovery. I have my full bio on my website which further details my motivation.
The ACSM has a reputation among other trainers in the field as the “gold standard” which is perceived by many as “the best” and I wanted to challenge myself to earn the very best to provide my clients with solid science-based programs designed for their needs and goals.
JC. Did you need a college degree in order to take the exam?
JC. How much did the exam cost?
JB. The ACSM CPT exam was $279.
JC. Did you have to pay the full amount at once or could you pay in installments?
JB. People have to pay the full amount upfront.
JC. How much did your study materials cost?
JB. The materials I used were $150.00
JC. Did you need a CPR/AED cert before you could take the exam?
JB. Yes, a CPR/AED cert was needed before we could take the exam.
JC. How long did you study before you took the exam?
JB. Approximately 6 months (while working full-time and raising 2 kids).
JC. What study materials did you use to help you prepare?
JB. I used the following study materials:
JC. Did you take any practice tests before the exam? If yes which ones?
JB. Yes, the Certification Review and Prep U (more on this below).
JC. Where did you take the cert?
JB. Person Vue, Delaware County Community College (PA), Media, PA.
JC. What ID did you have to show on the day you took the exam?
JB. We had to show our driver’s License.
JC. Did the ACSM-CPT have an online option?
JB. No, people could not take the exam online.
JC. Did the ACSM require you to take other ACSM certs before you were permitted to take the CPT exam?
JC. Did you have to pick an exam date when you registered or were you able to do this at a later date?
JB. We could pick a testing date later after we registered.
JC. What happens if someone needs to push back the date of the exam to a later time? Is there a fee for that?
JB. I do not believe there is a charge if rescheduled prior to the 24-hour mark.
JC. What was the minimum score needed to pass the ACSM CPT exam?
JB. you need a score of between 550 of 800 to pass.
JC. How many questions were on the test?
JB. The exam was 150 questions.
JC. Was the test T/F, multiple-choice, etc?
JB. The test was all multiple choice
JC. Was the test timed? How long did you have to take the test?
JB. Yes, it was timed. we had 2 hours. I took 1.5 hours.
JC. Did the exam contain case studies?
JB. Yes, there were case studies.
JC. Was the exam proctored? How did they make sure nobody cheated on the exam?
JB. Yes, there were live monitors, and the exam was recorded.
JC. Did you have to do any math during the exam?
JB. Yes, you needed to know math. I remember we needed to know the formula for BMI, and knowing simple addition for nutrition questions.
JC. Did you have to use a calculator? If yes, did they provide calculators or did you use your own?
JB. Yes, calculators were needed. Pearson Vue provided them.
JC. What about cell phones? Could you use them during the exam?
JB. No cellphones were allowed. No personal items whatsoever were allowed. Pearson Vue provided a locker for people to store their personal items prior to the test.
JC. Was it computer-based? Did you have to write anything by hand?
JB. The exam was done on a computer. No writing by hand was needed.
JC. Did you have to design an exercise program in the exam?
JB. No. There were case study questions with 4 possible answers on the most appropriate design based on the case study provided.
JC. Did the test have a practical portion where you performed/demonstrated exercises?
JB. No there was not a practical portion to the exam.
JC. Did the test cover anything about rhabdomyolysis?
JB. Yes, I remember at least one question covering rhabdo.
JC. Did the test have questions about nutrition?
JC. Did you find out immediately if you passed or not?
JB. Immediately after taking the test, the results were given. You receive a printout with your test score and the percentage earned for each domain so you will know your weak and strong areas. Also, Prep U will help you prepare based on your quiz results.
JC. Was there anything about the exam you did not like or thought was unfair?
JB. I feel like the test was fair but definitely challenging.
JC. What happens if someone fails the ACSM-CPT exam? You can pay to retest?
JB. The retesting fee is $150.
JC. How long do people have to retest?
JB. I believe it is 2 weeks, fortunately, I did not have to confirm this policy.
JC. Do they have to take the whole test over again?
JB. Yes, people have to retake the entire test again.
JC. If you could change anything about the exam to make it better, what would it be?
JB. The exam was actually challenging and having passed I feel capable and prepared to properly train. I believe anyone taking the test should have the same feeling of accomplishment so I would leave the exam as it is. I would make recommendations that the study materials be more specific to the CPT as the Certification Review has 2 additional reviews for unrelated ACSM certifications. I basically was forced to pay for 3 Reviews and only needed one.
Also, the Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription was so over the top in terms of information that was completely irrelevant and way out of the scope of practice for a CPT. The information in this book was about 2/3 more than a CPT would need and unfortunately you have to read and retain the entire book to fully prepare for the exam.
JC. How long is the ACSM-CPT good for – 1 year, 2 etc?
JB. The cert is good for 3 years.
JC. How many CEUs do you need to maintain the cert?
JB. Trainers need to have 45 CEUs to be able to recertify.
JC. Any tips for people to help them prepare for the ACSM-CPT exam?
JB. I recommend the PreP U study course. Many people talk about the webinars and clinics offered by ACSM but the Prep U was sufficient especially if you already have a science background. I have been a paralegal for 18 years and was still okay with the study materials and the Prep U course. A link for Prep U can be found on ACSM’s website.
JC. After the test, how did you learn to apply the knowledge you learned?
JB. I found a mentor to help me apply all that I have learned on a practical level. Studying and being able to pass an exam is the start to being a good trainer. Actually using what you have learned and having a reliable mentor for solid guidance is what will make a great trainer. My mentor is Ben Claus, a strength and conditioning coach in Blandon PA.
JC. Can you take people through how your mentor helped you?
JB. I shadowed my mentor, Ben Claus, for 40 hours. He would introduce me to clients and explained that I was a trainer in training. He walked me through the client's goals and any physical limitations they were working with. Ben explained the exercises used in their programs and why he decided to use them. Eventually, I was writing my own client programs and Ben was kind enough to review them for safety and appropriateness.
It can be intimidating to have someone in the field who is so educated, experienced, and knowledgeable critique your work; however, when your programs are approved you're going to feel confident and also know you're clients are safely and effectively training. It was wonderful putting the information learned from the textbooks into a practical setting. Finding a mentor is definitely the key to helping you become a great trainer.
Tip. Here's my review of how to find a personal trainer mentor.
JC. Are you working as a personal trainer now?
JB. Yes, I am working part-time in a fitness center and in the process of building my own personal training company.
JC. If you are working as a trainer, did anything come as a surprise to you about the fitness industry or what personal trainers do?
JB. I did a lot of research on the fitness industry before making the decision to leave my stable career. During my research, I read many reviews from clients who were frustrated, dissatisfied and even injured by their trainer. So, no, unfortunately, I was not surprised but actually prepared to find the type of facility I would like my name associated with and the type of trainers to pursue as mentors.
JC. Do you think the ACSM-CPT exam prepared you to be a personal trainer?
JB. Absolutely. I really do feel prepared. I also decided to find a mentor who was willing to answer questions for me regarding my program designs and the appropriateness of the exercise selections I made. This was a wonderful way to build my confidence and gave me peace of mind knowing my clients were safely training which is always my first priority.
JC. Where can people learn more about you?
Thank you for asking me to conduct this interview, I hope the information can provide some clearance for your readers and anyone considering the ACSM for their CPT certification.