If you’re reading this article, you already know how infamously difficult the CSCS Exam is. With a pass rate of around 56%, its standards are exceptionally high. And for good reason, too; this level of training is practically a requirement for Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists working at both a college and professional level. The stakes are high, so the expectations are as well. The CSCS exam is among the highest strength certifications possible.
This in-depth exam is heavily science-based and goes well beyond what is typically necessary for physical fitness in an average person. Topics include nutrition, movement coaching, biomechanics, metabolism, periodization, running versus walking gait, and nutrition, among others.
The CSCS certification establishes state-of-the-art knowledge for sports physical therapists, athletic trainers, strength coaches, and personal trainers. The textbook is nearly 700 pages and the exam itself is two parts totaling 4 hours. The first is Scientific Foundations and the second is Practical/Applied areas. With only 125 questions to answer, you can bet that they’re going to be exhaustive.
A CSCS practice test can dramatically improve your chances of succeeding on the first try. Check out our eight tips and tricks to increase your chances of a slam-dunk!
Study the Text
This isn’t an area you can slack off in. You’ll need a solid understanding of the text and will be using that knowledge throughout the exam. All of the other study tips hinge upon knowing the text well. It will continue serving you later as a reference when you’re a professional Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
Make It Work for You
You’re not there for the book’s benefit… It’s there for you! Take full advantage of it. Go through it chapter by chapter and outline it manually. Highlight particularly useful sections so you can easily go back and review them. Take thorough notes to filter out the least from the most useful content. The more “hands-on” you are, the better you’re likely to retain the information.
There’s a long history of knowing what does and does not help with studying. Instead of a 3-hour cramming session, split it up into 30-minute chunks. If you’ve ever sung your ABCs, then you know how powerful a mnemonic device can be… Create rhymes, jokes, or melodies that can help you remember important points. Quiz yourself using your notes or the review section at the end of each chapter.
Coming to Terms
Many people just assume they’ll absorb vocabulary through studying the text. That’s a risky proposition, considering the scientific expectations of a CSCS. Study hard and know the terminology well, as that is the common language of your profession. Knowing the vocabulary can also make answering some of the harder questions easier just by making them more familiar. If you need help, flashcards are a classic tool.
As you can imagine, you’ll need sweeping knowledge of human physiology to succeed as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. There is almost no anatomical stone unturned in the CSCS exam, and the depth of expected knowledge is considerable. You’ll need to know this topic inside and out, both for the exam and on the job.
Just like on the court or field, practicing can make the difference between success and failure. Take advantage of practice quizzes, as they can be helpful indicators of where you’re strong and weak. While it won’t be exactly like the real thing, don’t skip the full practice exam.
Instead of going it alone, consider finding other people to study with. Even just someone quizzing you can be a big help. Even better is someone who is also studying for the same test or has already passed it and can mentor you. If you don’t know anyone taking the CSCS exam nearby, you can use social media groups to find study partners online.
Watching the Clock
Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. You get 1.5 hours to answer 95 questions about scientific foundations and 2.5 hours for 125 questions on practical applications. Read all the instructions and questions carefully before answering. You can boost your confidence by going through the test and answering the ones you’re sure about first. Fully review your exam before turning it in.
Your Time Starts Now
Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test and don’t forget a solid breakfast. Make sure you have your ID and admission ticket handy. Paper, pencils, and a basic calculator will be provided for you; you’re not allowed to bring anything in with you. While a regular sweatshirt is fine, you’ll have to take it off if it has pockets or a hood to make sure you aren’t bringing in a cheat sheet. Just remember these tips and tricks to improve your chances!