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The Best NASM Study Guides For 2018-2019

Article by Jane Newsom. Last Updated: Monday, Oct 15, 2018.

Overview Of The NASM Exam

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) provides certification for personal trainers through their CPT program.

Becoming a certified personal trainer through NASM brings respect from your fellow CPTs and clients, as their evidence based certification is widely regarded as top notch! The flexibility of being your own boss, working when you choose, and doing so in your gym clothes can be a huge draw for prospective CPTs.

The NASM-CPT exam covers a lot of material, and if you haven’t taken a science course in a while, it can be super helpful to pick up supplemental study guides and flashcards to make sure you pass on your first try.

Below, we’ll cover the exam in detail and give you our picks for the best NASM-CPT study guides to help you pass the exam, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:

NASM Exam Details

The NASM-CPT Exam has 3 prerequisites:

  • You must have a valid high school diploma or equivalent.
  • You must have a current CPR and AED certification.
  • You must have a passion for fitness and helping people live healthier lives!

The exam is multiple choice, has 120 questions, and is given by computer at testing centers across the country.

There are 6 broad domains covered in the certification, and the questions are distributed roughly as follow:

  • Basic and Applied Sciences and Nutritional Concepts (17% of questions)
  • Assessment (18% of questions)
  • Program Design (21% of questions)
  • Exercise Technique and Training Instruction (22% of questions)
  • Client Relations and Behavioral Coaching (12% of questions)
  • Professional Development and Responsibility (10% of questions)

Exam Registration

Once you’re ready to sit for the exam, you’ll register on the NASM site. They recommend you do so at least 60 days before your desired test date.

The exam is administered through PSI test centers, and their locations can be found through their website. Once you register, you’ll receive confirmation directly through the test center and only be permitted to take the test at that location and time.

In order to sit for the exam, you’re required to produce a valid government issued photo ID as well as a current CPR/AED certification card.

Exam Scoring

NASM scores are calculated immediately after you complete the exam, and you’ll be given a preliminary pass / fail result directly from the test center. This isn’t official until after the NASM reviews and approves your results, but you can provide these results to prospective employers as an indicator that your passed successfully.

The exam is scored using a scaled method, with scores ranging between 0 and 100. This allows for result comparisons between different variations of the exam. A minimum scaled score of 70 is required to be considered passing.

Each test includes 20 pre-test questions that are being trialed for future exams and don’t count towards your final score. You won’t know which ones these are ahead of time, so it’s important to treat them all as if they are being scored.

Best NASM Study Guides

NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training

NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training
6th Edition
by NASM
Price:$68.00
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: The official study guide, straight from NASM - comprehensive and accurate.
Cons: Small number of typographical errors.
Our Rating: 5.0 / 5

When it comes to NASM-CPT study guides, there’s one very obvious choice and that’s the NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. This is the official guide from the NASM organization, and is strongly recommended for anyone taking the exam.

We’d recommend that if you decide to go with any of the other books on this list, you also pick this one up.

The full list of features include:

  • Provides Quick Check Concepts, test taking best practices, as well as updated science relevant to the personal trainer
  • Protocols for building stabilization, strength, and power program
  • Exercise techniques, purpose, and safety tips
  • Memory Joggers highlighting concepts and program design instructions
  • Chapter Summaries with key point reminders
  • Extensive full-color images and charts

This book basically pays for itself if you consider the significantly reduced chance of passing on your first try if you don’t pick one up. It’s the most comprehensive and well organized book on this list, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t have one to reference.

The illustrations in this book are top notch, and you’re sure to refer back to it once you’ve started your career as a CPT. There’s a reason this is our Editor’s Choice and top overall recommendation - see for yourself!

Secrets of the Nasm Personal Trainer Exam

Secrets of the Nasm Personal Trainer Exam
1st Edition
by Mometrix
Price:$65.22
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: Good condensed version of the material without losing important parts.
Cons: Some people find the practice questions to be too easy.
Our Rating: 4.8 / 5

Our second place recommendation is Secrets of the Nasm Personal Trainer Exam from Mometrix. It’s a more streamlined review than our top pick, which makes it great for people doing a final review in the days leading up to the exam.

The full list of features include:

  • Full length practice exam
  • Examples with step by step explanations
  • Great review of all majr test topics

This is a great overall review book, and good alternative to the Official NASM-CPT guide in our top spot. It’s slightly more condensed than the top pick, so it does well as either a last minute crash course or as a longer term detailed study guide. The practice tests are pretty well done, but some of the questions can be a little overly simplistic relative to the actual exam.

Generally, this is a good pick and you won’t be disappointed with it!

NASM Study Guide

NASM Study Guide
1st Edition
by Test Prep Books
Price:$34.99
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: Good number of practice questions and exams.
Cons: Not as comprehensive as other resources on this list.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

NASM Study Guide is another viable option for NASM exam takers preparing for the exam, and great for those on a tighter budget. It lacking a bit in full length practice test content, but does a good job of covering the material included on the exam.

Features include:

  • Quick overview for last minute refreshers
  • Detailed review of the exam content and structure
  • Proven test taking strategies
  • Realistic practice questions with detailed answer explanations

It didn’t quite make it into our top pick due to the strength of the top two guides, but this is definitely a great study guide. If you’re not interested in the practice tests and some of the other content offered in the top two picks, this is a good alternative.

NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam Prep

NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam Prep
2018 Edition
by CPT Exam Prep Team
Price:$47.49
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: Excellent accelerated review of exam material.
Cons: Practice questions and exams are not always representative of the actual exam difficulty.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5

NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam Prep is another great option for NASM-CPT exam prep. Be sure to pass on the first try with this or any of the guides on our list!

Features include:

  • Quick reference pages for Areas of Focus, Formulas & Conversions that are required for exam
  • Practice questions with detailed answer explanations
  • Thorough review of all exam topics

This is an overall great book and would be the perfect compliment to the official course materials. There’s a ton of awesome content, that’s covered in an organized and logical fashion. The practice questions are good, but some people find them to be too easy relative to the actual exam.

Best NASM Flashcards and Practice Question Booklets

In addition to the excellent books mentioned above, CPT students will see significant benefits in prepping for the exam using flashcards and practice question supplements Our top picks for Best NASM Flashcards are outlined below.

NASM Flashcard Study System

Flashcard Study System for the NASM
FLC Edition
by NASM Exam Secrets
Price:$57.78
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: Comprehensive list of terms covering major exam topics.
Cons: Cards are relatively dense and contain a lot of info.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

Flashcard Study System for the NASM Exam is our top pick for flashcards to help you prepare for the NASM exam. It has over 600 cards containing key information across all test topics.

Key features include:

  • Over 600 flashcards.
  • Covers all major topics and themes covered by the exam.

If you plan to pick up flashcards to help in your studies, these are your best bet. Repetitive drilling on major topics is a good way to help in the days leading up to the exam. Flashcards have a tremendous benefit for students who elect to use them in their test preparation.

NASM Flash Cards

NASM Flash Cards
1st Edition
by Ascencia Test Prep
Price:$39.99
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: Comprehensive flashcards set covering major exam topics.
Cons: Not actual flashcards which some people find off putting.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5

NASM Flash Cards is another great flashcard option for people who choose to use them. This item is actually a book containing flashcard content, rather than actual cards, so if that bothers you, you might want to go with the set above. On the other hand, if it doesn’t bother you this book is a totally useful option.

Key features include:

  • Over 300 flashcards.
  • Covers all major topics and themes covered by the exam.

If you have time to review flashcards prior to your exam, it can be a good way to drill tricky information that you’re having trouble getting to stick in your mind. This flashcard book does a good job of covering key exam components, and is well organized and easy to use.

Wrapping Up

For prospective CPTs, the NASM is one of the most important exams you need to prepare for. Study manuals, flashcards, and practice tests are a huge help to many people, and if you’ve read this far you’re probably one of them.

We’ve rounded up the top NASM study guides, flashcards, and practice questions and presented them above. To recap our recommendations:

Top Study Guide RecommendationNASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training
Top Flashcard RecommendationNASM Flashcard Study System

Our top pick for best NASM Study Guide is NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training which is the official NASM guide. It’s the most comprehensive and accurate guide on our list, and is the most well-rounded resource available.

For top flashcard pick, we recommend Flashcard Study System for the NASM Exam. It’s got over 600 highly relevant cards covering all topics from the exam.

Whatever your circumstance, supplemental study and review materials are a key part of ensuring success on the exam. We’ve listed some of the best NASM resources available. Good luck, and study hard!

Sources and Further Reading

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