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How Many Hours Should I Put into Studying for the NCSF Certificate?

If you’re considering getting an NCSF certification, then you might be wondering, “How many hours should I put into studying for the NCSF Certificate?” This is a tricky question to answer: Are you wondering how much time you’ll spend studying? How much reading you’ll do? How many practice tests? You could be a fast reader, meaning that you’ll blast through the textbook. You could have a photographic memory, which would mean you can read over everything once and retain all the information. What we can answer clearly is that the more you study, the more prepared you’ll be, and there are tons of resources available to you.


NCSF Certification Requirements

Getting the NCSF personal training certification isn’t just about studying and passing the exam. There are other requirements involved that you have meet before you can get certified. You have to be a legal adult, meaning you are 18 years old or older. You have to have a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. If you don’t have a GED, then take the steps to get one. You’ll need to study for those before you start studying for the NCSF exam. Unlike other certifications, you are not required to be certified in CPR/AED to receive and NCSF certification.


NCSF Textbook

Unlike other personal training certification programs, the NCSF certification doesn’t clutter its website with dozens of textbooks. Everything is straightforward and simple. There’s just one NCSF textbook you need in order to study for and pass the exam. NCSF has several studying packages you can purchase to feel more prepared about the exam, and all of them come equipped with a digital copy of the textbook. However, if you’re more tactile and want to actually hold the book in your hand, you can purchase it separately online or purchase the “Home Study Plus Package.”


Instructional Videos

The words and still images in the NCSF textbook are very helpful for studying for the exam. That makes sense as the exam is made up of words too! But sometimes text on a page isn’t enough to root a concept into your memory.

Think about it: If someone told you to stick your arms out parallel to one another, flip your palms up one at a time, set your right hand on your right shoulder, do the same with the other hand, then put your hands on your hips and move them in a little circle — would you recognize that you were being asked to do that macarena?

It’s possible! We all learn in different ways. But for those of us who are visual learners, thank goodness there are instructional videos you can watch when studying for the NCSF exam. Instructional videos are included in all four NCSF studying packages.


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Online Practice Questions

NCSF has a wealth of studying resources at your disposal, including questions and answers you can review as well as practice quizzes and even a full practice exam. The practice quizzes are included in all four of the NCSF studying packages, so you don’t have to worry about paying too much to make sure you’re prepared for the NCSF exam.


Other Online Study Resources

If you want to supplement your NCSF studying package or want to try to save a little money by just getting the book, you can boost your chances of success by using any of these online studying tools.



StudyBlue is an app that enables you to make online flashcards. This doesn’t just save you space and hand cramps (see ya, index cards!). It also allows you to use flashcards other people have created for your course. If you type in a question like, “What is serotonin?”, StudyBlue will auto-populate the answer to the question on the “back” of your digital index card.



Quizlet is similar to study blue, with a few variations: While StudyBlue enables you to study using fill-in-the-blank style quizzes, Quizlet is more for multiple-choice quizzes or simple index-card style studying. Quizlet is also free.


Wolfram Alpha

Have you ever been studying a concept, and you know you’re memorizing it well enough, but you’re not sure if what you’re studying is correct? What if you have the concept mixed up with something else? Wolfram Alpha can help with that. Ask is any science-related question, and it will give you the correct answer. You can fact-check yourself before you study all the wrong things!


Live Workshops

For those who learn better with face-to-face interactions, there are live workshops you can attend. You’ll hear instructors go over the best methods for preparing for the exam, and then they’ll answer any questions you have about exam content or format. During the course of the workshop, you’ll get hands-on training with plenty of learning exercises that require active participation. This is great for people who learn from doing rather than reading or watching.

Even if you feel like you know the textbook material well enough to pass the exam, remember: passing the exam is only part of what makes you a successful trainer. You have to know how to apply the skills you learn in the real world. For this reason, we recommend attending a workshop if you’re able.


Instructor Support

When you’re trying something new and putting in a lot of effort, you could use a little extra support. Sometimes this can look like an accountability partner, a study buddy, or one-on-one mentorship. Included in all four NCSF study packages, you’ll get instructor support. This is mainly to ensure that you’re able to navigate the online study portal, but it’s good to know that you’re not alone and that your studying isn’t being interrupted by technical difficulties.


NCSF Exam Format

Getting acquainted with the format of the exam is really going to help you succeed. You could know all the answers to the questions, but if you get tripped up by wording or format, then that could really disrupt your performance.

The exam is made up of 150 multiple-choice questions. You’re given three hours to take the exam, but people don’t usually need that much time to complete it. You’ll be tested on your knowledge of anatomy, physiology, health and fitness, client evaluation, nutrition, weight management, exercises, how to instruct clients, exercise modifications, and risk management.

If you want to know more about what’s on the NCSF exam, you can go here. Remember: The Strength Coach and Sport Nutrition exams have different contents from the Personal Trainer exam, so if you’re looking to specialize, familiarize yourself with those exams too.


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NCSF Exam Registration

Part of the time you’ll put into studying and preparing for the NCSF certification exam is registering for it. The exam will be taken at a testing center, so you’ll need to find a location near you. There are testing locations in every state and the District of Columbia. Some states have as many as 21 testing locations, so there will be a convenient option for you to choose.

Whether you selected the exam or the exam along with the study materials, you have already purchased the exam, so no need to worry about funds at this stage in the game. Just worry about selecting your location, making sure you have the right date and time, and getting where you need to be to take the exam and pass!


Strong Education: An NCSF Partner

We love that NCSF takes special populations into account in their education of new personal trainers. It’s important to know how to modify certain exercises, not just for people who are just starting their fitness journey, but also for people who may not be physically capable of performing an exercise in the traditional way.

We believe fitness should be accessible for everyone, and if you think so too, consider getting a special needs personal training certification. The process is affordable and simple enough: You can take the course online and the exam is included in the cost. Specializing makes those with special needs and with special needs child more comfortable going to you as their trainer. You’re not just doing good by getting this specialization. You’re also broadening your client base.


Perks of a Special Needs Certification

  • Sets you apart from other personal trainers
  • Broadens your client base
  • Allows you to help a population that is often ignored
  • Teaches you how to work with all types of disabilities
  • Shows you how to manage client behavioral meltdowns
  • Demonstrates exercises that make future meltdowns less likely and more manageable
  • Includes soft skill training like how to talk to a special needs client
  • Includes video demonstrations as well as digital texts
  • The exam is included in the price of the course
  • Everything is online and can be completed at your convenience


Set yourself apart with a special needs certification.


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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