NSCA Exam Preparation

The NSCA certification exams are based on the analysis of tasks needed to be competent in a specified job or role. The exams measure a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) compared to a predetermined level of competence. It is not a test that recalls information from a textbook like a college course. Before you start preparing ensure you have chosen the right certification for you.

NSCA certification exams are based upon the analysis of tasks required of an individual employed within the specified profession (CSCS, NSCA-CPT) or asked to perform a specific job (TSAC-F, CSPS). From these analyses, exams are developed to measure the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA’s) of a candidate compared to a predetermined level of competence. To best assist individuals in their preparation, we recommend that individuals first review the environment relevant to the profession or job and then choose an appropriate path for preparation. Additionally, it should be understood that while textbooks are available for each of the certifications, they are a resource and not the sole source of information for the given exams. 

Choosing the Right Certification

With the understanding that NSCA certifications represent different work environments and populations, the chart below provides an overview of each to assist you in making the right choice.

Content Domains
How to Prepare
CSCS Competitive Athletes; Train athletes (youth to recreational to professional) for the primary goal of improving athletic performance.
  • Exercise Science
  • Sport Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise Technique
  • Program Design
  • Organization & Administration
  • Testing & Evaluation

Note: Bachelor's Degree Required

LEARN MORE about specific topics in each domain.

How to Prepare for the CSCS Exam

NSCA-CPT General Population; Training clients (youth to seniors) seeking to improve their personal health and fitness goals.
  • Client Consultation/Fitness Assessment
  • Program Planning
  • Exercise Techniques
  • Safety/Emergency Issues

LEARN MORE about specific topics in each domain.

How to Prepare for the NSCA-CPT Exam
TSAC-F             Military, Law Enforcement, Fire, and Rescue or other emergency personnel to improve performance, promote wellness and decrease injury risk.
  • Exercise Sciences
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise Technique
  • Program Design
  • Organization, Administration
  • Testing, Assessment, and Evaluation
  • Wellness Intervention

LEARN MORE about specific topics in each domain.

How to Prepare for the TSAC-F Exam
CSPS Special Populations with chronic and temporary health conditions; Training clients with health concerns to improve their health and fitness.
  • Basic pathophysiology & science of health status, conditions, disorder or disease
  • Client Consultation
  • Program Planning
  • Safety, emergency procedures & legal issues

Note: A previous certification required.

LEARN MORE about specific topics in each domain.

How to Prepare for the CSPS Exam

Preparation Options

Your preparation for an NSCA exam should begin with assessing your knowledge, skills, and abilities relative to those required for the profession or job. Options exist from formal education to self-study and for some certifications, internships or mentorships are available.

Looking for a Formal Educational Experience?

With exercise science being the foundation to all of the certifications and practical application the basis for each exam, the NSCA provides recognition for traditional educational programs. The NSCA Education Recognition Program (ERP) recognizes and distinguishes schools with standardized, approved strength and conditioning or personal training curricula in undergraduate and graduate settings designed to prepare students for the NSCA-CPT and CSCS certifications. The knowledge gained in these programs is also applicable to the TSAC-F and CSPS, but does not often include application to the specified population.

Looking for Self- Study Options? 

There are many self-study resources available to help you prepare for NSCA certification exams. We have prepared a step-by-step guide to help aid you as you prepare for the examination. 

Need a Comprehensive Review of Exam Content Prior to Examination?

Are you looking for assistance in studying and preparing for the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exam? Check out NSCA Exam Prep Live Clinics! These clinics can benefit anyone regardless of where you are in your preparation.

The Exam Prep Live clinics are designed to provide an engaging and interactive learning environment that moves participants forward in their preparation for the exam. These in-person educational clinics are a review of the most challenging content found on the exams.

The NSCA Exam Preparation Clinic provides:

  • A narrowing of focus for exam preparation.
  • Identification and overview of the primary content emphasized on the exam.
  • Guidance by qualified professionals on how to analyze and apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to practice as a professional.
  • Identification of key preparation and test-taking strategies.
  • Opportunities to ask questions and seek clarification of the content presented.
  • The NSCA EP Live workbook with additional practice questions. (NSCA EP exclusive, not available for retail sale)
  • The 2 and 3-day options also include a practical session in the weight room.

*Disclaimer: Exam Prep instructors do not have inside knowledge of the exam as their courses are based off of the publicly-available detailed content outline (DCO). Instructors use their classroom and industry expertise to provide a comprehensive review of the DCO.


Language Options for Exams & CEUs

The NSCA has International Affiliates and partners who provide NSCA Exams in other languages.

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