I get a lot of questions about the AAAI/ISMA personal trainer test. It makes sense as this is the most popular class I teach. I want to help you if you are trying to pass this certification test. What I’d like to do is tell you about how the AAAI/ISMA certification works and try to answer some of the questions I think you have and clear up misunderstandings. I also want to offer you some tips about how to how study and prepare for the AAAI test. Feel free to leave comments at the end and I will help you if I missed anything. Also see my post on how to be a personal trainer too.
AAAI/ISMA stands for the American Aerobics Association International / International Sports Medicine Association. The office is based in PA but there are people all over the world who are AAAI/ISMA certified. AAAI – which is how most us of abbreviate the organization –has been around since the 1980s and there are well over 150,000 people who have attended AAAI workshops. Everyone who teaches for AAAI has at least a MS in a health related field.
AAAI has over 30 different certification programs and their certs are accepted at most – if not all – major gyms and health clubs including Bally Total Fitness, YMCAs, Retro Fitness, Gold’s Gym and Planet Fitness to name a few.
Basically this is how the AAAI certification works. There is an all day class and a test at the end of the class. Your job is to study before that class.
This set up is just like when you studied for your driver’s test or when you were in high school or college. We call this the university model – because it works the same way as testing in schools.
You usually register for a class by finding a class in your area and calling AAAI/ISMA (their office is 609 397 2139). When you register, you will be given the chance to purchase the AAAI/ISMA study materials. The books are called
- “Studies in Exercise Science
- Abook called “Personal Trainer“
I suggest you read the book about “personal training” first. This will make the book about exercise science easier to understand.
Note. Depending on when you purchased the AAAI books you may have a “Supplement” Book. The “Supplement book” is not a book about supplements. Rather, the book contains supplemental material to what is in the studies in exercise science book. It’s pretty much been replaced by the book called Personal Training.
If you want to know more about dietary supplements, check out my book about supplements that I recommend all personal trainers read. Trust me, personal trainers always get asked about supplements. My book is just facts, no hype.
When you get the AAAI/ISMA books, you should study both books completely. I know the book says to study only certain pages but trust me – study both books completely. Study them – don’t just read them.
Tip. If you are studying for the personal trainer test, you don’t have to worry about anything that has to do with teaching aerobics classes (grapevines, cadences etc). Anything that has to do with exercise science, anatomy, physiology etc, is fare game on the test.
During the all day class, the person teaching the class reviews stuff that fitness trainers need to know. For example, as a trainer you will need to know about:
- anatomy and physiology
- exercise science – and how to use it in the real world
- safety issues during exercise
- how to make exercise programs that are safe and effective
The person teaching will also share real life information that is not found in most books. You need to know this also for the real world.
Book smarts will only help you a little bit as a trainer. Learning personal training from a personal trainer will take you to the next level.
Remember the person teaching the class will review material. They are not there to teach everything to you for the very first time. You can’t remember it all anyway in a day so don’t even try. There is also a practical component to the class.
Where Are AAAI/ISMA Classes Held?
Tip. The name of the instructor who teaches each class is usually listed on the AAAI calendar. Most instructors have websites. If you find their website, you can learn about the instructor. Email him her and maybe even ask them questions. This is probably true for many other certification organizations as well. If you have a facility that wants to host a class, you can contact AAAI directly. You can even request an instructor if you like.
If you want me to teach the class, email me directly.
How Long Should I Study?
It really depends on where you are starting from. I studied for over 3 months for my CSCS cert –and that’s with a degree in biochemistry under my belt. That said, Id say that if you have a college degree in exercise science (and recently graduated) you probably could pass right now. If you are a novice, who has never opened a book about exercise science, I recommend you study a few hours a night for at least a month.
What Should I Bring To Class?
You’re probably going to be taking a lot of notes, so a pen and paper is smart. I often tell people to bring ear plugs also. This will block out noises and help you concentrate during the test.
Tip. Ear plugs are a very good idea if you take your test at one of the AAAI/ISMA fitness conventions. AAAI/ISMA has conferences in New Jersey, Colorado, Cape Cod MA and Maryland each year.
How Should I Dress?
Do You Teach Everything I need To Pass The Test?
No. You are expected to study BEFORE you walk in the door. Remember, there is more to personal training than just passing a test. I – as well as all the other AAAI/ISMA faculty – give you a gigantic amount of information in a day and there is no way you will remember everything in class anyway. Most importantly, the teacher does not cover everything on the test. When I teach a class, I try to be your mentor for that day. I want you to succeed so I hold nothing back. You will be overloaded with information if you do not study.
Tip. The class is your chance to ask questions. All people who teach for AAAI/ISMA are personal trainers or have been trainers. We want to share our knowledge with you. By asking questions you help yourself.
My Friend Told Me I Don’t Have To Study
If you listen to your friend, you will fail. You studied for every other test in your life so why would you think you wouldn’t have to study for something as important as a personal trainer test? Personal trainers PRESCRIBE a drug called exercise. It’s the most powerful drug in the world.
To prove this, here are just a few things exercise can do.
People may try to tell you what they remember from the test they took. Don’t assume that the test your friend took will be the same test you will take. Study everything. Also, don’t study somebody’s notes that they took in the class they attended. What if that person took terrible notes? Don’t study somebody’s notes. Study a book about “personal training.”
Tip. Not all certified personal trainers are qualified personal trainers. Here is an example of personal training mistake I personally saw while at the gym. This person was certified – but didn’t know anything.
How Do I get Re Certified?
I have written a detailed review of how to get re certified by AAAI/ISMA. I suggest you read this. You will have to know this one day.
What If I Fail Test?
If you fail the AAAI personal trainer test – ANY AAAI test – you have up to 1 year to retake the entire class and test again for just $30. The only stipulation is that you cannot retest at a college for $30. They will charge you full price again (that’s the college policy and not that of AAAI/ISMA). You also can’t retest at any of the AAAI conventions for $30 either (it’s full price). On the classes page of this website is a list of the classes I teach.
On the AAAI/ISMA website there is a list of ALL of the classes they offer.
What’s The Best Certification?
You get out of a fitness cert what you put into that cert. Here are my thoughts about the best personal trainer certification if you want more insights. What I tell you is very different than you’ve heard before. Ive reviewed MANY different certifications on this site.
Can I Use The ACE Books For AAAI?
Exercise science does not change from organization to organization. Most textbooks about exercise training cover the same main areas of information. In that respect, ACE, AAAI/ISMA, ISSA, and other organizations are going to have a lot of the same stuff. So if already have the ACE books and study those, you should be familiar with much of what is covered on the AAAI test.
Those ACE books are big, so study all of it!
On a personal note, I don’t recommend people study the NASM book to prep for AAAI. I feel their book is too narrow in its focus. I also feel its overly technical. Study the NASM books for the NASM test only. For more on my thoughts about this, see my post NSCA or NASM: What’s better?
Read this about the NASM TV Commercial too.
Tip. My resource page has the textbooks, practice tests etc. for most fitness certs as well as other information.
Is There a Practice Test?
My practice test will help with ANY fitness trainer certification too.
Remember, the practice test is not a substitute or shortcut to studying. For best results, use the practice test along with a book about personal training. Do not use the practice test in place of studying.
Is Your Book The AAAI/ISMA Book?
I have written a book about personal training too. It’s called but if you’re serious about being a personal trainer, I do recommend my book – Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics . My book shows you what I need to know as a personal trainer. If I need to know it, you do too. AAAI/ISMA does not currently use my book however I do recommend it.
My book is on Amazonbut if you get them from me, on my website, they come with a 30 day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied. If you get my book on Amazon, make sure you get the 2nd edition as this is the most current version.
Fact. Nobody has ever returned a book to me.
What’s The Best Way To Study?
Here are some tips to help you when you study for the test:
- Skim over a section before reading it
- Highlight important information
- Make flashcards of important information
- Imagine if a somebody asked you a question about a topic
- Read both of the AAAI books cover to cover. Read ALL of both books.
Is The Test Done On A Computer?
No. The teacher grades the test him/herself.
Is The Test Multiple Choice?
Is There A Time Limit?
Yes you have 60 minutes to complete the test
Can I Do The Test Online?
Can I Use My Notes During The Test?
No. You cannot use your books or notes during the test. Also, turn off your cell phone or keep it out of sight during the test. Also, no text messaging during the test is allowed.
Do I Get The Test Back To See What I Got Wrong?
No and here’s why. If people got a test back, they would be tempted to just study the questions they got wrong. If you only studied a test, then you would only know what was on the test. What if you got a different test when you took it again?
How Long Is The Cert Good For?
If you pass a AAAI/ISMA test for the very first time, you have 2 years before you need to get recertified. After that, you will need to be re-certified every year. Again, read my post on how to get recertified for more info. Make a note of when your cert expires. If your cert expires, you will have to retake the test again.
I’ve Passed. What’s next?
AAAI also has a Master Personal Trainer cert. This cert deals specifically with how to help people with health needs like high blood pressure, diabetes etc.
Tip. All personal trainers should attend the Master Personal Trainer class because most people they work with will not be “healthy“.
Personal trainers are part of the health care system. So, we should aim to be qualified personal trainers – not just “certified”.
For more information, also read these posts:
- Personal trainer interviews
- Certified but never trained anyone before
- How to be a personal trainer step by step
- How to Find a Mentor
- What to do in an emergency at the gym
What do you think?