I wanted to pop on here and tell what the exam studying and the exam itself were like!
First off, I want to throw in some encouragement for you. No matter how smart or not smart you think you are, you are CAPABLE of passing any exam at any time. I'm not saying this exam is super duper hard. I just want to encourage you that no matter your profession, no matter how hard the test is, if you put the practice in through deliberation, you WILL pass. This podcast by Seth Godin sums up quickly how I feel on this topic in his podcast, Genius. I also recommend reading the book "Peak" by Anders Ericsson for more of the science behind this.
So, first, is the NASM exam "hard"? Well, how much do you want to learn the material? It's really not that bad if you just learn it. They are very straight forward with what they want you to know. The beginning of the book can seem very overwhelming if you don't have a scientific background but once you get into it, you realize they don't expect you to know all of that science-y stuff for the exam, so don't panic.
What did I purchase?
I got it on sale during Christmas, and when I look back, I see that I actually was able to get the guided study for $530 if I'm not mistaken. I'm a little confused because I really thought I just got the self study, but I got a hard copy of the textbook, so I don't really know. I did not get anatomy flash cards though or a live workshop, so I legit think that they accidentally sent me a book. LOL! If you can get the hardcover version of the book then I highly recommend it, because I really like that and there's also research to show that we don't learn as well if just looking at it online. Maybe you could do the self guided study and then purchase the book elsewhere (you can add it for $50 but dang - that's a lot-sorry I'm not help lol). HERE's that link. I also see that they are always having sales and some are even cheaper than what I paid.
What else will you need?
You want to make sure to know that you will have to get CPR/AED certified. I luckily had this from pharmacy stuff, so I didn't have to get that. I took my passport to the test because you have to have some other form of ID, so just make sure you have one of those. The day of the test, they won't allow you to bring your materials into the exam. Get there early because I had to wait 45 minutes just to get through the line of people signing you in. Those that got there early were able to start before the 10am slot.
How did I study?
I read the book in it's entirety twice. I knew I planned to take the entire 6 months and do things very slow. I read 20 pages per day the first time I read it through back in Jan and it's a 600 page book, so it took me only one month. I didn't take notes then. I just read it.
After that, I went through all of the online materials little by little each day whenever I got like 15 minutes - I'd just watch one video and slowly worked my way through. After that, I read the book again but this time, I had a little more understanding of what was going on. The second time that I went through the book, I wrote down notes that I felt were both in the book and the videos.
When I completed each module, I would take the practice quiz with the online materials. If I missed a question, I didn't worry about that ONE question. I just wrote down that particular topic and made sure that I understood it. I created imagery in my head to UNDERSTAND. I did not memorize except for a few topics.
After I had read through the book twice, went through all of the materials, made notes, and watched the videos-I took the online practice exam. I wanted a raw but real vision of how I would do. I got like an 85% but I knew there were TONS of areas I needed to address. Things started to come full circle of exactly what they WANTED me to know, so I knew what to focus on.
The things that I memorized:
I am not a fan of memorization as I have studied a lot about the process of learning throughout the past year, and I memorized a lot in pharmacy school and felt that I didn't do well and didn't learn well. It was all about deliberately working to understand the material. However, I think that memorizing many of the charts can be really helpful. However, while I memorized them, I also though through why they were what they were.
But I did memorize the Assessment Charts for overhead squat, single leg squat, and gait assessments. For example, if you are doing an overhead squat and your knee goes inward, this is an indication that you might have imbalances in certain areas. I would walk through those imbalances saying "Oh well that makes sense that the adductor would be overactive in this situation", but then each day as the test got closer, I'd go memorization practices for 5-10 minutes each morning.
What was the exam like?
It's 120 questions, and the material was what I expected. To be honest, the only questions that I had on any of the questions were questions that I just thought were terrible questions and could have multiple answers or the answer wasn't there at all. This is not because of not studying the material. This is just my opinions on that material. haha! It took me 45 minutes to complete in full. It was held at a PSI center and I had to wait 45 minutes until they let me back. WHOMP. But they had computer issues and two people out, so that's probably rare to happen on the norm.
It's a lot of material and I don't want to make it out like it's not. I really enjoy learning and I am very type A on studying material, soooo it's always hard for me to assess just how hard something is because I'm not going to stop studying until it's my second language. But you can do that same thing as well! :)
What's my plan moving forward?
I am going to start training locally at the YMCA and also hopefully at the Rock which is a local gym here that has 24 assess. I also am going to do online coaching for whoever wants to hire me (cough cough). I already have such a system going with my other clients that I'll utilize the same systems to a degree that I use with my run coaching and nutrition coaching. I will be doing both run coaching solo, personal training solo, and the combined if someone wants to do hybrid athlete training.
I also would like to continue my efforts of deliberate study of exercise science and nutrition. I felt this was a good place to start, but I have subscribed to the American Journal of Sports Medicine to watch as new information comes out on the proper way of training.
Model used by NASM:
For this test, they will teach you about the OPT model that was developed out of UNC Chapel Hill actually. It focused on stabilization & neuromuscular efficiency moving into hypertrophy into maximal strength and then finally into power. It's a step wise process utilizing warm ups, stretching, flexibility continuums, speed, quickness, agility training and then resistance training followed by the cool down and the reason that you want to do it this way.
While NASM is very reputable, I want to make sure that as the new science comes out, I'm up to date on the appropriate way to train clients.
I honestly studied really well for this test and not in a bragging way but just that I took it slowwww and steady and did a little bit each day or week throughout the six months making it to where I was never overwhelmed at any time :)
Hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any questions and I'm more than happy to help you!