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 20 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 and the A book 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 It’s pretty much been replaced by the book called Personal Training.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 website supplement-geek.com. I have also written a book about supplements that I recommend all personal trainers read. Trust me, personal trainers always get asked about supplements. My book is honest.
When you get the AAAI/ISMA books, you should study both books. 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.
Tip. 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 probalby true for many other certification organizations as well. The AAAI phone number is 609 397 2139.
How long should I study?
It really depends on where you are starting from. If you have a college degree in exercise science you probably could pass right now. If you are a novice, it’s wise to study a few hours a night for at least a month.
I studied for over 3 months for my CSCS cert –and that’s with a degree in biochemistry under my belt.
What should I bring to the 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 and Maryland each year.
How should I dress for the class?
Do I learn everything I need in class for the test?
No. There are things you will be expected to know before you take the test. 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. When I teach a class, I want you to succeed so I hold nothing back. I try to be your mentor for that day.
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.
If you don’t know what you are doing, you WILL hurt somebody (e.g. rhabdomyolysis). That will boomerang back and hurt your personal trainer reputation. This test is no different than any others you took. Study for it.
People sometimes 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 just 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.
Once I’m certified, how do I get re certified?
I have written a detailed review of how to get re certified by AAAI/ISMA. I really suggest you read this. You will have to know this one day.
What happens if I fail the AAAI 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. 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 personal training 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.
Can I use the ACE books for the 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 you’re on a budget 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. I feel their book may be 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?
Tip. My resource page has the textbooks, practice tests etc for most fitness organizations as well as other information.
Is your book the AAAI/ISMA book?
If you’re serious about being a personal trainer, I do recommend my book – Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics - but it is not the AAAI/ISMA book. AAAI does use my books on Nutrition and Advanced Personal Training and you can get those from them when you sign up for those classes.
My books are on Amazon but if you get them from me, on my website, they come with a 30 day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.
Fact. Nobody has ever returned a book to me.
What’s the best way to study for the test?
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
Is the test done on a computer?
Is the test multiple choice?
Is there a time limit to the test?
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 can not 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.
Is there a practice test?
If you want an idea of the types of information you should be familiar to be a personal trainer, with I have created a 200 question personal trainer practice test to help. This test will help with ANY fitness trainer certification. The practice test is not a substitute or shortcut to studying. The questions are not the same as the AAAI test -but it will help show you the types of information you need to know in order to pass – and be successful when you are certified. For best results, use the test along with a book about personal training. Do not use the test in place of studying.
Can I get the test back to see what I got wrong?
No. If you only studied a test, then you would only know what was on the test. What if when you re-tested you got different test?
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 the test. 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 at least 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”.