Nicole Thompson by Nicole Thompson

It can be valuable and advantageous to understand the creation process for multiple-choice questions on an exam.  One can anticipate the types of questions that could be encountered and develop a test-taking strategy. 

All the ACE certification exams – Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach, and Medical Exercise Specialist - are multiple-choice questions with a single answer. A multiple-choice question always consists of a stem (the main part of the question) and the responses (or listed options). The stem could be a direct question, an incomplete statement, or a best answer format question.  For example:

  • What muscle extends the knee? (direct question)
  • The order of fitness testing is (incomplete statement)
  • Which listed muscle would be most effective in strengthening the hip flexors? (best answer format, frequently seen in ACE exams)

When looking at the stem of the question, search for keywords or fragments. Consider what is the question is truly asking and try to anticipate the answer before even looking at the options. If you see an answer listed that aligns with what you thought, that is a good indicator you are on the right track.

Furthermore, do not to assume something (a fact, theory, detail) that isn't listed in the stem. Do not overcomplicate the question or add in theoretical or hypothetical aspect to the question that is not there. Only go with the information that is presented in the question – chose the simple interpretation. 

The three major types of multiple-choice questions that show up on the ACE certification exams are recall, application, and analysis.

Recall questions, which assesses facts, terminology, and comprehension of essential principles. Candidates demonstrate their ability to remember information. This is what we refer to as the ‘memorize and regurgitate' type of question. This type of problem is most often seen with anatomy-based questions. For example, “What muscle flexes the shoulder joint?”

Application questions, which poses a problem or situation that you might encounter when working as a professional. These types of questions demand more than simple memorization of facts. ACE exams are primarily application-based questions. For example, “Weight 160, height 5'6, age 45, Triceps measurement 16mm, suprailium measurement 25mm, thigh measurement 32mm, based on the information above, what is Sarah's body fat percentage?”

Analysis questions assesses the ability to examine information and understand the relationship between its parts. These questions are based on a hypothetical situation and require the integration of knowledge and decision making. There may not be as many analysis questions as for application questions on the ACE certification exam, but analysis questions are where you are more likely to see math equations. For example, a food label may be shown, and the question posed could be, “What is the total amount and percentage of calories from fat in the entire bag?”

Understanding the types of questions one might encounter on the ACE certification exams, can be the first step to answering confidently. As you go through the various questions/exam examples available, keep all the aforementioned strategies. Utilizing your practice exams can be exceptionally helpful for practice and review.