Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How to Study for the ACE Personal Trainer Exam

I Just Passed the ACE Personal Trainer Exam! How You Can Do the Same. (DEC. of 2008)

My scores on the ACE personal trainer exam were as follows:

Domain Percentage Correct

Client Interview and Assessment 77.5%
Program Design and Implementation 70.73%
Program Progression, Modification, and Maintenance 70.59%
Professional Role and Responsibilities 60%
Simulation 85.25%

STEP 1: What to buy?

A. ACE Premier Personal Trainer Home Study Program. It includes the following:

1. ACE Personal Trainer Manual Set With DVDs (4th edition)
2. Master the Manual Study Guide
3. Musculoskeletal Anatomy & Human Movement book
4. Sample Test with a written simulation sample problem
5. Flashcards
6. Online Exam Review Course
7. Online Diagnostic Practice Test, versions 1 and 2
8. Consultation with ACE Resource Center staff

STEP 2: Sign up for the free study coach program.

Here, you will get a weekly study guide plus study questions based on each chapter in the "Personal Trainer Manual: The Ultimate Resource for Fitness Professionals" textbook. DO NOT DO THE QUESTIONS AT THIS TIME. JUST PRINT OUT THE TESTS AND THE ANSWERS FOR LATER USE. YOU WILL TAKE ALL OF THE QUESTIONS AS A COMPLETE TEST AFTER YOUR STUDYING IS DONE.

STEP 3: DO NOT BEGIN READING THE TEXT. As soon as you get the material, glance them over, and immediately sign up for the ACE personal trainer exam review course. Here's what you get:

Online Workshop
  • Review of the ACE Personal Trainer Manuel (4th edition)
  • Listen to pre-recorded lectures, complete fill-in-the-blank exercises and take interactive quizzes
  • Total of 5-modules...cost=$34.95/module
You do not need to know the material prior to taking the exam review course. PRINT OUT THE MATERIAL IN THE ONLINE REVIEW COURSE....THIS WILL SERVE AS YOUR STUDY GUIDE. The entire review course is a process of fill in the blanks and quizes. You will fill in the blanks with the correct information and take the appropriate quizes. You will have to memorize everything in this course except the origins or insertion of muscles. YOU WILL NOT BE ASKED THE ORIGINS AND INSERTIONS ON THE TEST EVEN THOUGH IT MAY BE COVERED IN THE MATERIAL.

STEP 4: Sign up for the exercise etc. online weekly webinars and purchase the exercise etc. cd (filled with 1300 questions) for the ACE personal trainer exam.

Here, you will attend a total of 9 webinars (2 hours each) from the convenience of your home. You will be given notes in PDF format that you can print prior to the webinars, and again you will fill in the blanks as instructor speaks.

STEP 5: Read the designated chapters in the ACE personal trainer manual prior to each exercise etc. webinar. Do the corresponding questions in the master the manual and the personal trainer home study guide.

Review your the notes you take during the webinar before and after every webinar.

Start reading the flashcards. MEMORIZE THE PRIME MOVERS.

STEP 6: Install the CD that comes with the "A Fitness Professional's Guide to Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Human Movement". This CD is invaluable (it is located in the inside flap of your book). In it you can watch videos of movements such as flexion, dorsiflexion, plantarfexion, adduction, abduction, etc. Here's where you will learn body movements by watching live demonstrations. The book itself is otherwise useless as you will not need to identify any muscle structures on the test (you might get one questions max....therefore, it's not to your benefit to sit there and memorize all the detail contained in that book).

STEP 7: Install the Exercise Etc. cd rom after you finish the 9 week course. The answers to the questions themselves have no explanations. However, you can email Laura Abbott (the instructor) with every question. She is always prompt at answering all your questions. Write all the questions that you missed in the appropriate sections of your ACE personal trainer exam review book.


STEP 9: Review the Flashcards again.  Make note of the prime movers and muscles that cross more than one joint.

STEP 10: After reading the text once and attending all the exercise etc. webinars, begin study from the ACE personal trainer exam review book (that is, the online material you printed out) exclusively. YOU MUST MEMORIZE EVERYTHING IN THE BOOK INCLUDING ALL THE CHARTS.  Cross reference with Master the Manuel book that comes with your Premier Package.

STEP 11: As you read each section in the online exam review course, go back to the ACE Personal Trainer Manual (4th Edition), and reread the corresponding section in the manual. This will help you focus only on the material that ACE considers important for the exam.

STEP 12: After you finish memorizing the ACE personal trainer exam review book, take the 100 questions that come with the Home study coach program. Go back to the text to review the answers you missed.

STEP 13: Take the 60 multiple questions and the following tests:

1. The sample test for the Personal Trainer Certification Exam (it has 60 multiple choice questions): Allow yourself only 72 seconds per question (that's how much time you will have on the actual ACE personal trainer exam).

2. Written Simulation Sample Problem that came with your ACE Premier Personal Trainer Home Study Program. Allow yourself no more than 30 minutes for all the questions in the sample test. (that's how much time you will have to complete each written simulation sample in your test. On the actual exam, you will be given 2 written simulations with a total time of 1 hour).

3. The free sample written simulation located on the acefitness.org website (just scroll down until your see sample question). Again do not take more than 30 minutes to answer these questions.


STEP 14: Take the  (it costs approx. 30 dollars) followed up by the 2 written simulation exams that you get with your ACE exam review book (during the 2 day class that you took early on in your studies). Take these tests back to back in order to simulate the long period of that that you have to focus on the actual exam. Allow yourself 72 seconds per question (the online test is not timed, so you will have to time yourself using a stopwatch). Take a 10 minute break after the test, and the take the 2 written simulations (you will have to take both written simulations back to back....you are allowed a maximum time of 1 hour).

Here, you will get 60 multiple choice questions. You will get a score once your test ends.
PLEASE NOTE: I FAILED THIS EXAM 2 DAYS BEFORE THAT ACTUAL TEST. THIS TEST IS NOT AN INDICATOR WHETHER YOU WILL PASS THE ACTUAL EXAM OR NOT. However, the answer key (with written explanations) to this test is invaluable. It will allow you to get into the ACE mindset and think like the examiner.

Read the entire answer booklet (you can print out the test once you're finished). You can take the test 4 times. Read the answers to all the questions and MEMORIZE the answers and the questions. You will see many similar questions on the exam.

STEP 15: That's it! You are ready to take the test. Sign up for the Computer exam. DO NOT sign up for the written test. It will take several weeks to get your results if you sign up for the written test (Note: the computer exam is a little more expensive than the written test).

On the computer exam, you will be allowed to practice how to take the test prior to the real thing. The time it takes to go through the practice will not be counted toward you actual exam.

Before the test, you will be either given a dry erase board or scratch paper to work out the math problems during your test.

WARNING: once you choose the answers on the written simulation, you cannot change your mind. So write down the answers for each section on your dry erase board, and then mark your choices on the actual test.

In the next post, I will tell you the types of questions that I got.



Now updated for the 4th edition of the ACE personal trainer manuel.


  1. Hi. Thank you so much for this blog site. I do have a question, hoping you can help. In step 11 you talk about the exam review manual. I have the Premier package and do not have a review manual??? Is this something you received in the 2 day workshop? Could you clarify for me? Did you mean the ACE Personal Trainer Manual Third edition? Thanks. -Susan

  2. Hi Susan. Thank you for checking out my blog. During the 2-day exam review workshop hosted by ACE, you will receive a review manual with the following title: "ACE Personal Trainer Exam Review Workshop". This review book (which I called the manual) is vital to your study. Here, I meant that as you read the material in the review book (that you receive during the workshop), go back to the ACE Personal Trainer Manual Third edition (the one you purchased in your premier package)and read the corresponding section in that textbook. I hope the latter explanation has clarified it for you. Best of luck!

  3. I am wondering if and how you are affiliated with Exercise Etc? I am just beginning my ACE certification and the live webinars look like a good idea. How did you find out about Exercise Etc?

  4. I am in no way affiliated with Exercise Etc. Before I decided to take the ACE test, I researched the internet for just about anything that would help me pass the test. My search led me to the Exc. Etc. website. I took a risk, I signed up, and the rest is history. I highly recommend it because the material you get is excellent unlike some other study aids that I invested in that didn't pan out.

    Best regards,

  5. Hello!
    I just found your blog today and it has been VERY helpful already. I have a quick question:
    For step 3 (ACE personal trainer 2 day exam review.) I cannot find any info about a live workshop like this on the ACE website. Do you know if they have discontinued doing this?

    -John O

  6. Yes. The live 2-day exam review course has been discontinued. The live course, however, has now been replaced by an online version. Here's the link:





  8. i dont see anything about the Essentials of Exercise Science?? Should I be studying that at the same time as I do the ACE Personal Trainers Manual??

  9. Sarah,

    The Essentials of Exercise science is a NEW BOOK that NOW is packaged with the 4th edition of the ACE CPT manual. YES, you should study it, however your main focus should be on the online exam review course.

    Good luck!

  10. Hi Ag!

    I just purchased the Premier Home Study Program. I was looking at the Exam Review Course. I even started the first module. I'm not sure how to print out the material. Any idea? Are you sure this can be done?

  11. Hi Bonnie,

    I do not have access to the online material, hence I do not know if you can print it out or not. Remember, I took the test in Dec. of 2009 and I have not had access to the ACE CPT material for almost 2 years.

    My suggestion would be to call ACE and ask them how you can print out the material.

    Best Regards!

  12. Thank you for offering this help. I have been trying to find help in structuring my study resources. Your blog is very helpful.

  13. Wow. I'm studying to take the test and just started last week. The way you are saying to prep for the exam costs a lot. I'm taking an ACE prep course at Red Rocks Community College in Denver and purchased the 4th ed. of the ACE Personal Trainer Manual and the ACE Essentials of ES for Fitness Professionals, which is what is required for the RRCC course. I'm wondering if I wasted my money on the course. The instructor just seems to be reading what's in the course work book but he is affiliated with ACE to be able to instruct the course.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. I'm working with limited funds since I'm unemployed.


  14. No...Your class should suffice! The only other thing you will need to do is take the ACE online exam review course. Also, make sure you purchase the official ACE sample exams.

    Good Luck!

  15. where did you update the 4th edition study strategies? Thank you

  16. This page is the updated version!

  17. I just read on the ace website that when you register for the exam, you also have to hold current CPR and AED credentials. Did you have to do this too? Also, what is AED? Thanks!


  18. Yes! AED stands for Automated external defibrillator.


  19. Hi AG!

    This blog is very helpful!! Unfortunately, I can't afford to purchase everything you mentioned. I am just planning to purchase the Premier Study Bundle + Exam Voucher package. I was wondering if this would be enough, even if I have to spend more time studying for the exam? How long did you study daily for exam and for how many months?


  20. Hi Mari,

    Yes, the Premier Package is enough! Make sure though that you really focus on the "Online Exam Review Course" and then refer back to the book to study in more detail. It took me 1 year at the time, but I only studied about and an hour and 20 minutes a day.


  21. Hi AG!

    I wanted to know if there is any order you would recommend watching/listening to the Online Exam Review Course Modules?


  22. Yes! Keep the anatomy module for last. I've seen so many people trying to master the anatomy that before they know it, there's a month left to the test and now they're ready to study the rest of the material. WRONG!

  23. Thanks. Module 1 includes Anatomy.

    I was planning to do the Module 2 (covers Legal..) and 3 (covers psychological..) towards the end, since Module 4 and 5 cover the exam reviews. What do you think of my approach?


  24. Hi AG,

    A few things I was having a hard time finding/QAs I have:

    I don’t see any questions or tests on the weekly study guide. (step 2 & 12)

    The ACE PT Exam Review Online Course doesn't allow you to print out the many slides shown. (Step 3 & 11)

    In the flashcards are the prime movers and muscles that cross more than one joint the only thing I should study for the exam? (step 9)


  25. I actually signed up for the study coach program again. You're right, they have removed the questions from the study coach program. No, I would study ALL the flashcards with focus on the muscles that cross more than one joint.

  26. Hi AG,

    Read through all this. Thanks a lot for the post! So basically I am in training to be a personal trainer (without a cert) and am learning from experience. But I definitely want to get my certification. I have all the materials for ACSM, but unfortunately, it is written so difficulty and I find lack of help with the materials that I have, that I am planning on changing over to a more practical certification that is more personal trainer based (rather than outpatient/clinical).

    My question is, should I go with ACE as a beginner? And what is the cheapest way I could go about this. I know it's been years since you've taken the exam, but you appear to have a wealth of knowledge on your experience here. I do plan on following most of your steps if I go this route, but any advice would be very helpful! Thanks so much!


  27. Hi Alex,

    Your 2 best bets are ACE or NASM. They are both excellent certs for beginners.

  28. Hi AG, I have all the materials now and am going to begin to study. I was looking to save money, but between step 3 and 4, it costs about $360. They seem to be very similar, but do you still believe it is essential for passing? Thanks again for the help!

  29. Hi AG, thanks for the response, your page is very helpful.

    I wanted to ask you about the exerciseect vs. personal trainer exam review. They seem similar and both are pretty expensive. Do you think both are completely necessary to pass the exam or could I use one of them to get the idea and if so, which one would you recommend? Thanks!

  30. Alex,

    The answer is no. If $ is an issue, then I would only go with the ACE material. You would certainly have a better knowledge of the material if you did exercise etc, but I would say that there are thousands of people out there that have passed the test without taking exercises etc. Budget is always a factor and if I only had the budget for 1 set of study materials, I'd definitely go with ACE.

    Best of luck!

  31. Hey AG,

    I've had all the materials since June of this year. I got all 12 of the emails on what was supposed to be studied that week and hightlights, watched a few of the online videos, played the CDS, and have even spoken to a rep from ACE on the phone. I'm still to this day lost and confused. Even the rep went over a few of the materials that weren't essential to the test. PLEASE give me a nutshell synopsis of what I really need to focus on so I can get through the materials without wasting time on unecessary items and can finally take the test. Great blog! Thanks, Brian

  32. Forget insertions and origins in your anatomy material. Study all the equations: Karvonan etc. Know how to program based off this book:

    Exercise Testing and Program Design: A Fitness Professional's Handbook

  33. Could you clearly define what steps a person who is attending the ACE essentials 4th edition would have to follow to pass the test.

  34. Hi Daniel,

    The steps for ACE essentials 4th edition are exactly the same as outlined. I've already updated the outline for the 4th edition.

    Good luck with your studies!

  35. AG,

    The exercise etc no longer has weekly webinars or a ace prep exam bundle. Do you know the 9 you took? Or know a new good link? Thanks

  36. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  37. Hi Dan,

    You are correct. Exercise Etc no longer offers ACE prep. Now, it only offers continuing education. I looked into other options and did not like anything else that is available. So, I would suggest that you stick soly to the ACE prep material.