At the end of April, I was very excited to announce that I would be working towards getting certified in personal training. As I am transitioning from dancing to getting back into the fitness industry, I am extremely anxious to get there and start teaching group fitness again!
As far as studying for the CPT Exam goes, I have my good days and bad days. Some I am pumped and ready to attack the material, while others I have trouble focusing and end up getting discouraged.
Currently, I would say I am a little over a third of the way through the material, which is further behind than I had originally hoped. You have 180 days to take the exam once you sign up for the program, so I’m not worried, but it’s important for me to stay on track from here on out.
To help be get back into the swing of things, I thought it would be helpful to remind myself of the tips I’ve learned while studying with NASM along the way. Hopefully this post also helps those of you who are going through the process of studying for your CPT!
NASM: Tips For Studying
• get into a routine of studying
Just like any class or course, the CPT Exam requires commitment and dedication to the material to pass. I’m trying to look at this process similar to a semester at college, where I used to have my own routines of study times and places.
So far, I have gone back and forth between studying every day to just on the weekends, and I know I would do much better if I just gave myself a routine and stuck to it.
As of right now, I’m holding myself to studying at least every other day with a long (two or three hours) on the weekend. Every week.
• print out the syllabus, then use it
Cracking the textbook open for the first time was very intimidating.
Where you do even start?
Per Julie’s suggestion (<- lots of great info there!), I found the syllabus online in the NASM eLearning Center. It suggests to start with the end chapters, then move back to the beginning which totally made sense once I got into the material.
It’s put together for a 75 day study plan, and even if you use every other day, it will get you through all of the material in plenty of time before your 180 days are up.
• go online and utilize the online study guide
Speaking of the eLearning Center, I can’t recommend using it throughout the entire duration of your test preparation enough.
In the syllabus, it assigns a total of three study days to each chapter. It suggests watching the online videos first (Day 1), reading the correlating text (Day 2), then reviewing both the online content and chapter (Day 3).
I liked the idea of this schedule, but I just couldn’t sit there and read all of the text it suggests in one sitting. Some of the chapters are 50 pages long, and when that includes learning a crazy amount of terms and definitions, my mind freaks if it doesn’t wander off first.
Instead, I have been taking each chapter step-by-step. I watch each video one at a time (rather than all ten or so for the chapter at once), then read along in my textbook with my highlighter and make sure to mark everything mentioned in the video.
I also write notes into the tables and on the sides of the content to make sure I have a full understanding of what they’re saying.
This way, I’m introducing myself to the material with the video, learning more detail about it in the textbook, and at the end of each chapter I watch the videos again to review.
Once I figured out this video-text-video format, studying has become so much more enjoyable!
Also, at the close of each chapter, I check my online study guide to make sure I mark the topics it tells me to focus on.
• put your phone in a completely different room
During the first full month or so, I always had my phone near me. I put it on vibrate, but I could still tell when I was getting notifications for things and it drove me crazy. Eventually, I ended up checking my phone and could easily be on it doing who knows what for ten minutes.
Do yourself a favor and put your phone along with any electronic distractions far, far away. Out of sight, out of mind.
• make note cards as you go and review them often
I started making note cards of all of the definitions and terms throughout the chapters. To avoid using more than I need, I put as many definitions on the front as I can along with the vocabulary terms on the back.
This way, I can test myself of my knowledge without seeing the cheat glance of the term next to it.
Generally, I’ll skim the chapter before I start it, make note cards, then review them after I’m finished with the chapter.
Also, I label each note card with the associated chapter, so I can easily reference something. I try to go back and review my note cards at night whenever I can before bed!
• download the NASM apps for your smart phone
So far, I have only downloaded two NASM apps, but there are more than plenty of them out there.
Currently, I am using NASM Prep, but will more than likely purchase a few more in the next month or so. They even have some made into games to test your knowledge, like NASM Personal Trainer for CPT.
My hopes are to finish the material a month ahead of time to be able to take the last 30 days to review and utilize these apps to their full potential when I’ve learned more.
• take it one chapter and step at a time
The entire study process can be very overwhelming. Just like any huge goal in life, take it in baby steps.
Instead of stressing about passing the test and what you might need for the test day, concentrate on the material. Start with Chapter 1 (or Chapter 20, according to the syllabus) and focus on that material that week. Then move on to the next chapter.
It’s a good idea to read about what the test day entails and everything you need months in advance, but there’s no need to stress over it until the time comes. Focus on the material and take it a page and chapter at a time!
• make pacing goals, but don’t get discouraged if you fall behind
At first, I was determined to stick to the study guide and finish the entire book in 75 days. You can study at least an hour or two every day, right?
You can, yes, but it doesn’t always happen. It’s summer. I really don’t have any excuses, but life happens and so do travels. The last thing I want to pack in my suitcase is a heavy textbook, so I haven’t brought it with me and have fallen considerable behind on my own schedule as a result.
It used to really stress me out, but then I got over it. I don’t have to finish in 100 days, or even 150 for that matter. I have the full 180 and I’m going to take advantage of it to allow life to happen.
Procrastination, however, is another story. Don’t fall into that trap either!
Make weekly and monthly goals to get through the material, but don’t let it eat you up inside if everything doesn’t go exactly according to plan.
• study in an environment without distractions
At first I thought this meant at home locked in my room. And sometimes that works. But, majority of the time when I study at home I get distracted by things. Whether it’s laundry buzzers going off, the doorbell ringing, or even Roadie’s puppy eyes staring at me, it can be somewhat of a challenge to get a serious amount of studying done when I’m at home.
Now that I have my new laptop that supports the videos (YAY!), I’m excited to take it to coffee shops, libraries and even book stores with my textbook, note cards, highlighters and ear buds.
I’m sure there will be more tips regarding studying as I truck along, but I wanted to at least share what I’ve learned so far.
I hope this helps. Now it’s time for me to go study!