Important Tips for Your ACE Personal Training Certification Exam

7 Important Tips for Your ACE Personal Training Certification Exam

Important Tips for Your ACE Personal Training Certification Exam

The American Council on Exercise is one of the most renowned exercise professional/health care certification programs in the country. Becoming a certified personal trainer with ACE is a great step in your career as a fitness specialist.

The road to certification involves a great deal of preparation and studying, while you are doing the coursework itself, and as you get ready to take the ACE personal training certification exam.

The ACE exam may be intimidating, as it is known to be a difficult one to pass in the fitness industry – at least on the first try. Not to worry, though – there are some significant ways you can prepare for your exam, pass in on the first try, and go further in your personal training career even sooner.


Here are 7 important tips for your ACE personal training certification exam:


1. Buy the textbook 

Owning the course textbook (the ACE Personal Trainer Manual) and having it handy is immensely helpful, even if you are doing the program primarily based on other study techniques.

There is important information in the textbook that may not be tested on within the exam – but it will provide you with future knowledge in your career that you might not have gotten otherwise.

Carefully reading through the ACE textbook will also help you get a feel for specific terminology and how ACE itself words information, techniques, and other practical knowledge, which you will see on the exam. 

Remember that this is ACE’s exam, so the questions and answers on it will be based on ACE criteria and protocol, which is necessary to follow in order to get your certification from the program.

You can buy a new ACE Personal Trainer Manual online. You may also be able to find the book secondhand through CPTs who have already taken the course and exam.


2. Know what to study, and how to study

The passing rate of the ACE personal training certification exam is 70%. It is not an open book test, but the study materials you prepare with can help you narrow down the lengthy textbook (500 pages), and nail down the knowledge you need to know in order to pass the exam, and essentially, to succeed as a certified personal trainer. 

Studying can be done with a number of techniques. Based on your personal learning style and pace, some may work better for you than others. Some of the most practical forms of studying include flashcards, virtual exams, mnemonic phrases and more.  


A few of the most effective ways to study include:

  • Flashcards: These help you memorize tough definitions, and provide extra focus on phrases or subjects that you may struggle with. Flashcards are also a great time saver, as they can make things adhere to your memory quickly.
  • Create mnemonic phrases: These will help you remember and retain the information better. These phrases can also be helpful in your career as you explain techniques and information to your clients who do not have a personal trainer education background. Make sure to make these phrases wacky and humorous; it will help you remember things even more clearly.
  • Textbook chapter review: The end of all textbook chapters have a review on the most important portions of the particular section, and review questions that you can practice. Quizzing yourself directly from your textbook or your own notes is a great way to retain this important information.
  • Distributed practice: This involves reviewing material over several short studying periods. The repeated practice helps similarly to classroom learning, as it doesn’t require full attention for long periods of time.
  • Online resources:,, and even can offer great review guides for the exam as well, in addition to the guides already offered by the ACE coursework.

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3. Prepare with practice exams 

Still anxious about the exam even though you are studying hard? Practice tests can help answer your questions about the subjects that are on the test, and ease your worry about certain skill sets, like math and science. 

While the ACE personal training certification exam is not based fully on math or science, understanding the principles built into these subjects, such as anatomy, exercise science, kinesiology, etc., is important. The exam will have some questions with technical details, but you will be provided with the resources you’ll need for certain equations. 

The format of the ACE personal training certification exam is three hours long, and 150 questions total. The questions are multiple-choice, and focus on application and analysis, more so the recalling and defining terms. This includes questions surrounding real-life situations when working with clients. The questions will test your knowledge on applying your skills appropriately to different scenarios. 

Taking practice exams will allow you to get a feel for this format, and prove whether or not your studying techniques are helping. Practice tests also give you a good idea of how much more time you will need to put into studying before the real thing.


4. Studying requires time management 

Learning takes time, and reviewing the information is just as much (if not more) of an investment for exam preparation, so be sure to set a schedule for studying. 

Last-minute cramming sessions can be stressful and ineffective, so it is best to be strategic in order to get the best results. Just like you would schedule workouts, schedule time to exercise your brain. After all, it is muscle memory. 

Study time will vary from person to person based on learning tools and the way you learn, as well as your personal training knowledge and background. 

Remember: The ACE personal training certification coursework is a self-study program, so you set the pace. The time it takes you to complete the program before your exam is an indicator of how long you, personally, should be studying.

5. Study with peers or mentors

The ACE certification program is independent study, but there are still opportunities to connect with peers who are also getting their certification, or mentors who have already taken the exam and become certified. One way you can do this is through social media groups. These groups are a great way to network with others, who may be able to share more studying tips, test-taking tips, and overall encouragement for your common career goals. 

6. Sharpen your test-taking skills

Test taking can be intimidating, so having a strategy for the exam can be helpful. Some helpful tips for taking the test include:

  • Read slowly and carefully, and take your time with the subject matter. You will have three hours to take the test, so use it wisely by paying attention to details.
  • Make a note of the questions that you don’t know the answer to right away. You will be able to go back and review the questions and answers before you submit the test, so it is okay to skip some material as you go.
  • After you have reviewed any skipped questions, it is a good idea to review your test in full to confirm your answers before you submit them.
  • You will be able to leave the room for restroom breaks. You can also step outside to stretch and take a quick break before returning to the exam.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before the exam. This, along with fueling up with a good meal beforehand will make all the difference in your focus.


7. Have confidence

Applying these important tips for your ACE personal training certification exam will help you effectively prepare for the test. When it comes down to it, knowing your material is the best way to ease test-taking anxiety, so that you can go in with the intention of passing (or acing) the test, and achieve your ACE certification.

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In summary

The ACE personal training certification exam prepares you for real-life scenarios, including the safety and wellbeing of your clients. It also focuses on the baseline knowledge for anatomy, science of exercise and other vital information for physical fitness specialists. 

Preparing appropriately for the exam will help you go into it with confidence so that you can get your certification and begin your work in the fitness industry as soon as possible.

Becoming ACE certified is a big step for your personal training career and a respectable one at that. 


Specialized Certifications Broaden Your Reach as a Trainer

Taking it to the next level by adding certifications, such as Special Strong, can make you even more attractive to employers — and it could even impact your compensation. The coursework for Special Strong takes about eight hours to complete, and it will train you in working with adults and children with disabilities such as Down Syndrome and autism. 

Special Strong is a great way to enrich your career, and a great way to give back as well. You can learn more about becoming certified in Special Strong here.


Strong Education teaches personal trainers and service providers on how to adapt fitness and nutrition for children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities through our online adaptive special needs certification course.

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