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Psst! Want to know what’s on the test?

Psst! Want to know what’s on the test? | April Merritt | Exam Preparation Blog | 6/7/2011


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Secrets to the Personal Trainer Certification examWant to know what’s on your certification exam? Check out Appendix B in the back of your manual – it’s all there! That’s right; the Exam Content Outline (Appendix B) is the blueprint to passing the exam.

Each manual – Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach, and Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist – has a Certification Examination Content Outline in Appendix B.  You can also go to to find the latest version of the ECO for each certification.

So how does the Exam Content Outline tell you what is on the test? First, the ECO identifies the major categories of responsibility for the professional; otherwise known as Domains. Each certification currently has four Domains which can be considered the ‘big topics’ for the exam. Professional Responsibility is Domain IV for each certification, but beyond that each certification is unique. Group Fitness Instructors need to know about Group Leadership Methods, while Personal Trainers are asked to understand Client Interview and Assessment and so on.

But if you have four big topics on your exam, how are you supposed to know which one is most important? There is a chart or bold explanation at the beginning of your Appendix B which indicates the total weight for each domain – a big clue as to where you should spend your studying efforts. In the Group Fitness Instructor ECO, Domain I (Exercise Programming and Class Design) is 19% of the exam, while Domain II (Group Instructional Methods) is 37% of the exam. From this information, it looks like Domain II topics should receive a lot of attention during your studies. (But don’t forget that all topics/Domains are important!)

Within each Domain are Task Statements, which detail the job related functions under that domain. Task Statements are the nitty gritty everyday things you need to do or know to be successful.  For example, under Personal Trainer Domain II (Program Design and Implementation), Task 2 states ‘ Establish specific client goals using the interpretation of interview and assessment results and current standards to provide program direction’ (whew).

But how are you supposed to do Task 2? Well, right below each Task is a list of areas you need knowledge of…such as anatomical positions (anatomy & biomech pt.2), behavior change principles in goal setting (psychology pt.5), and areas you need skill in…such as assisting the client in setting personal goals based on the SMART framework (psychology pt.1)

Domains, Tasks, and Areas of Knowledge/Skill all work together to help ensure you are focusing your studying in the right direction. And yeah, some things like knowledge of general anatomy repeat in several of the tasks. But that repetition occurs because those topics influence so much of what we do as professionals – that’s why they are the background sciences.

No matter where you are in your studies, take a moment to glance at Appendix B. Check out what your Domains are called. Check out what each Task is for those domains. Maybe look under the Knowledge/Skill areas if you are ready.

 Refer back to your Exam Content Outline occasionally to make sure you are on the right track for a successful exam. It might save you from spending 4 weeks on professional liability, when you should have spent three of those weeks reviewing client assessment. Don’t forget that the ECO can help you to review what you really know by checking to see…can you talk about it?

Got questions? Contact one of our Education Consultants at 1-800-825-3636 x782.