So now that you’ve decided to enroll in the NASM CPT program, I’ll tell you exactly what you need to know to pass the test on the first try.NASM Exam | Ultimate Study Guide


As a recap from part 1, here is a little bit about what to expect from taking the NASM exam.

  • There are 120 multiple choice questions
  • You have 120 minutes (2 hours) to complete the exam
  • You cannot use any scratch paper during the test
  • You must score a 70% or better to pass
  • There are 20 unscored questions used for possible future test questions
  • You must bring a form of ID with a photo and a current CPR/AED card or certification

Check out the NASM study guide PDF to be able to see all of the information that could possibly be covered on the test.


Here are a list of my top 5 components that you absolutely need to know in order to pass the test, and what I consider the most important information. There will be a handful of questions on the test based on these topics. Make sure you know these inside and out.


The entire test is centered around the OPT model. Know each level and phase and the goals of each level and phase. Every bit of the exercises come down to the OPT model.

NASM CPT - Acute Variables

You also need to know all of the acute variable for each phase of the OPT model, this includes # of sets, # of reps, tempo, rest interval duration, exercise selection…etc.

A good way to remember the acute variables is to make a table, list all of the phases of the OPT model across the left column, and across the top, make columns for # of sets, reps, tempo, rest interval, exercise selection…etc. and print it out and fill in the blanks with a pen/pencil. The more you write it down the more you’ll remember it.


This is a very important section in the book where a handful of the test questions come from.
Know all of the compensations listed and which muscles are overactive and underactive. This shows up twice in two different tables in the textbook. The image below is from Chapter 7, Flexibility, and there are a few tables in Chapter 6, in the Assessments chapter. Know all of the compensations for Pronation Distortion Syndrome, Upper and Lower Crossed Syndrome, and the Overhead and Single-Leg Squat compensations.

NASM CPT - Compensations

The way that I thought about overactive versus underactive muscles is to consider the overactive muscles the “tight” or “shortened” muscles, while think of the underactive muscles as the “weak” or “lengthened” muscles. That way you can have a visual in your head to help you remember the compensations.

Don’t memorize all of the muscles that you would stretch or foam roll (SMR), just know that you would stretch or foam roll the tight or overactive muscles. So once you know the overactive muscles from the compensation chart, you’ll know which ones you would need to stretch.


This is a necessity. Study Appendix D which details the muscular system and each muscle’s function. You don’t need to know the points of origin and insertion for the muscles (though it helps knowing what they’re attached to), but you 100% do need to know their isolated functions.

NASM CPT - Muscle Functions

The muscles that I would know like the back of my hand would be the: Gastrocnemius, Soleus, Biceps Femoris (short head), Vastus Medialis (VMO), Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, TFL, Psoas, Latissimus Dorsi, Upper Trapezius, Mid/Lower Trapezius, Pectoralis Major, Teres Major, and the Scalenes.

A good way to study these is to get an anatomy phone app, or an anatomy coloring book. Know each muscle’s isolated function and what each of the muscles concentrically accelerates.


You are responsible for knowing how to progress or regress any exercise in the book. I didn’t read all of the progressions and regressions listed on each exercise, but the ones I did pay attention to are the ones shown in the CPT eTeach videos. I put a sticky note by each one, listing the progression or regression that was mentioned.

NASM CPT - Exercise Progressions

In order to not have to memorize each individual exercise progression, simply remember this for progressing and regressing exercises and you will be golden; Two legs stable progresses to two legs unstable which progresses to one leg stable and then one leg unstable. Also know that the immediate progression to anything using two arms is alternating arms (such as a dumbbell bench press as shown in the image above).


You also need to be familiar with each exercise described in the book an which type of exercise it is. For example, you need to know that a Single-Leg Squat Touchdown is not only a balance-strength exercise, but also a form of functional flexibility and dynamic stretching.


I didn’t study this section as much, but there are several questions on the test about these things, so pay attention.

Know the Stages of Change and what each of the 5 stages are in depth.

  1. Precontemplation – Hasn’t begun working out and doesn’t plan to become active within the next 6 months.
  2. Contemplation – Hasn’t begun exercising but is considering becoming active in the next 6 months.
  3. Preparation – Exercises occasionally and is planning to begin exercising more regularly in the next month.
  4. Action – Exercises regularly but has not yet maintained the behavior for 6 months.
  5. Maintenance –  Maintained change for 6 months, but still tempted to return to old habits.
Also know the different kinds of support: Instrumental, Emotional, Companionship, and Informational, and what type of influence a family has (behavioral reactants).

There was one or two questions on my test about calculating income and the 10 steps to success in Chapter 20.

It is also beneficial to know the behavioral strategies for exercise adherence listed at the end of Chapter 19.


There are several test questions regarding the code of conduct.

Know that a personal trainer must keep client records for 4 years.

Personal trainers must keep adequate liability insurance.

Also know what is within and not within a personal trainer’s scope of practice.


The following topics were turned into test questions on my exam:

  • How many calories/gram of each macronutrient
  • Side effects of ingesting excess vitamin A, E, D, B6, calcium and zinc
  • Energy systems (ATP-PC, Glycolysis, Oxidative)
  • Types of flexibility & stretching techniques
  • Definitions throughout the textbook
  • Cardiorespiratory assessments
  • SAID Principle and General Adaptation Syndrome
  • Types of specificity
  • FITTE factors
  • Planes of motion
  • Balance proprioceptive progressions
  • Muscle fiber types
  • Muscles as movers
  • Heart rate zones
  • Heart rate assessment
  • Hypertension blood pressure
  • Path of blood through the heart
  • Special populations (youth client progressions)
  • Essential amino acids
  • Symptoms of dehydration
  • Hydration levels for male/female
  • Recommended fat intake

This is not a complete list. Refer to the NASM Study Guide for all of the information covered on the exam.



Because consistently writing information down helps me to remember it, I created the ultimate study guide practice test – a 58 paged, 412 question test pulling information from practice tests, the NASM study guide, CPT eTeach videos, and important textbook information, and compiled them into one Ultimate Practice Test. It is comprised of short-answer, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and matching questions.

There are textbook page numbers associated with a large amount of the questions shown in parenthesis.

Click the image below to download and print the entire study guide.

Please enjoy it!

Study Tip: Go through the practice test once and answer all of the questions. Highlight any question you don’t immediately know the answer to and then look it up, find the correct answer, and write yourself a note on how you can remember it for next time. Keep going through it until you don’t have to highlight anything

As a disclaimer, this study guide was created by me to help me study and isn’t intended to be a sole representation of what will be on the test. It was not created by NASM or its affiliates.

Let me know what you thought of the study guide and how you felt about taking the test! Which questions were on your exam!?

Thanks for Reading!



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9 Comments on "Passing the NASM Exam – Part 2: The Ultimate Study Guide"

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Your blog on the NASM test is awesome, best one I’ve read. Would I be able to download the practice test you created? If so I would greatly appreciate it! I’m taking the exam in 3 weeks an I need all the help I can get.


[…] right away versus having to guess and use the process of elimination to find an answer. Click here to view the study guide I […]

Chantal Steele

This is a super helpful post! I’m scheduled to take my test this August and looking for all the help I get! Thanks!


THANK YOU!!! This has been the most helpful guide I have come across. You put so much detail into this and explained everything so simply. I appreciate this a ton and I know many other people who cone across this will as well! ?


This is AMAZING! I am knee-deep and kind of freaking out (test is at the end of June), and this post has calmed me a bit 🙂

Is there a way to print your study guide?

Thank you so much!