How To Pass The AFAA Group Exercise Exam

Multi-ethnic group of friends doing step exercise together in health club. Horizontal shot.

How long to study?

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have been working on getting my group exercise certification from AFAA. A few days ago, I was at home and rather bored. After cutting off all my hair with my shaver, I decided that I was ready to take the test right then and there. Yes, I do things like cut off my hair when I’m bored.

I had only been studying for a few weeks, and this probably wasn’t the best decision that I have made. I would advise you to spend more time studying, but in this case I still managed to ace the test. I guess it wasn’t all that bad of a decision. Though, I don’t recommend it.

One of the things that bugged me most going into this, was being unable to find a real, full length practice test. I realized that they had about 100 questions to play with, all multiple choice. However, the practice test provided by AFAA only contained 30 questions, and it was way too easy. There was no way that this practice exam was like the real thing! The first time I took the practice test, I got 3 questions wrong, and obviously, after that I never had another wrong answer.

Impulsive Decisions.

The day I made the decision to take the test on a whim, I weighed my odds of succeeding. Assuming that I walked into this test, not knowing a damn thing, I had to guess 80 questions correct. Out of 30 questions, I had 27 correct on the practice test that I took cold. The odds were in my favor. Furthermore, the reality here is that though I am no expert, I do know quite a good deal of the material. Yes, the odds of success were definitely favorable, not only due to my studying prior to the test, but also due to my years in the fitness field, common sense and that amazing process of elimination which can be applied when a test is multiple choice. You also have the chance that a later answer will narrow things down for you in an earlier one. If you are unsure, you have the option to flag a question and come back to it, but always choose an answer, you have a 25% chance that it will be the correct one, in case you run out of time. Better to have a 25% chance, than zero %, right?

In my case, turns out that I bet correctly. I calculated that if for every 30 questions, I had 3 wrong, then that would keep me at 10 or so wrong questions out of 100. Based on that number, I had about 10 more that I was allowed to mess up. Factoring in for some difficult ones, and those that may completely blindside me, I was still looking good. I phoned up AFAA and asked how much it would cost me if I had to retest, they told me it would cost me $150 to retest. I provided a pre-test AFAA process article here if you’d like to read about my process leading up to the test.


I reviewed the video lectures that I felt I was weaker in, anatomy, and exercise physiology. Then I decided to bet and take the test. I scheduled the exam via ProctorU for 5 minutes later, and just went for it. They put me through the screening process, took my picture, checked my surroundings, and put me to work. Factoring in all the questions I flagged, and coming back and double checking my work, I took pretty much the whole hour. I didn’t expect to take that long, but I did. Timing could become an issue, so stay on top of the clock. I finished the 30 question test in 12 minutes, and figured I’d finish the full test in about 40 minutes, that was wrong. So be aware of that.

In regard to the questions, those varied from simple questions about muscle names that you had to describe based off of indicators on a chart, to what particular adaptations take place from physical training? What is a ligament? What is a tendon? What is lordosis? I didn’t get the text book. I watched each video lecture once, except the ones on special populations, anatomy, and exercise physiology. Everything else I pretty much thought I could regurgitate without watching it more than once. Of course, not the best method, but it worked for me.

Practical Use.

See, here’s the thing. I know what the actual job entails. I have always hated how in school, military, and work we have to learn all this excessive material that never comes into play in the day to day functions of your life. I think it is more important to make sure that a person actually knows the job they are going to do well, rather than all this book crap that will never, ever come into play. Case in point, have you ever, ever, ever been in any training class whatsoever, where an instructor said to you, “Let’s work those bicep femoris muscles in the sagital plain, before we move on to train the gastrocnemius! Yeah!” Uhm, no, unless you are lying, you have never heard that crap!

I’ve taken martial arts classes in many arts, I’ve worked with personal trainers, and I’ve done dozens and dozens of aerobics classes across all modalities, you never hear that! You hear “Hamstring curls, go!” In order to teach an effective aerobics class, you need to be in shape to lead the class, you need to know the commands, and you need to be able to queue well. That’s all that really matters for the job, oh, and your music can’t suck. All this book knowledge, at the end of the day is not used, at least in the capacity where most of you will be performing your jobs. It’s good to know some basics, but I know that much of this is useless book knowledge when it comes to practical application. It’s just like learning calculus in college! Unless you are going to be a mathematician, this will never factor into your day to day job. Real talk! Fitness instructors don’t need to know all this stuff! But, in order to take and pass the test, you must. So, I played the game and made sure to learn it. I didn’t drive myself nuts, or become a walking fountain of anatomical knowledge, but I learned just enough to pass this test.

I’m not trying to encourage you guys to be lazy, and end up failing the test. I’m just saying that I bet on the fact that I knew enough to pass the test without having to spend much time studying. My bet worked out, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you. Every one of us has different abilities, knowledge and learns differently. I’ve read dozens of articles on fitness over the years. I’ve written just as many, and I’ve been around the culture forever. So much of what I saw, was familiar to me, or at least familiar enough where I could formulate an intelligent response. This may not be the case for you, so use your common sense when preparing.

The Study Tools.

The study guide is useful, but there are tons of online flash cards and quizlet websites out there which have the exact contents of the study guide. I even downloaded an app called “quizlet,” on their website they have a bunch of study material you can review. I printed out the actual study guide, but I didn’t look it over until about 20 minutes before the test. Only to be sure that I recognized all that I saw in there. Anything I didn’t recognize, I quickly searched and read up on prior to testing. Once again, not the best method by which to do things.

If you watch, and understand the lectures, I think you will be in good shape. Use those online study guides, and if you need it, get the text book. Pay attention to the musicality portions, know the anatomy, and exercise physiology. Also pay close attention to the ailments of the spine, I think I jacked all of those up! I don’t think it was a difficult test, but then again, everyone processes things differently. I tend to do rather well with multiple choice questions, but not everyone does. Don’t go and take the test, then get mad at me if you failed to adequately prepare. I went into the exam, fully prepared to eat the $150 if I bombed on it. It was more important for me to know what was actually on the test, pass or fail! It was driving me nuts studying without being sure what I needed to know! Wasting my time drives me nuts. So I bet on myself, and I got lucky. Plus, as I mentioned before, I know my crap! However, if you are taking that test, you better know your material too, or you better have that $150 to pay if you fail, cause I don’t have that for you. LOL.

Good luck to you, and happy training!


  1. Thanks for your review! I have been studying so much, and I am stressing myself out at this point. I have been using the Quizlet flash cards. And I made my own. I currently teach insanity at a gym, so I feel like I should do ok. It is making me nervous. I guess I just need to get it over with! The bulk of questions is on class format?

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