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ACSM CERTIFICATION Brought to you by the American College of Sports Medicine www.acsm.


Certification Exam Changes

What Do You Need to Know?
by Yuri Feito, Ph.D., M.P.H., FACSM
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INTRODUCTION and ACSM-EP ® crosswalk documents; ACSM-CPT ® —

s many of you probably already know, all ACSM certi- 2nEvRJi; ACSM-EP ® — An example of the

A fications have undergone major changes over the last

year or so. Some changes are because of the release of
the 10th edition of ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescrip-
tion, and some changes are more specifically related to updating
crosswalk can be found in Table 2.

4. How should test takers prepare for the new

Candidates typically take 6 to 9 months to prepare for an exam, but this

the exam content. To this end, I was able to “catch up” with depends on their current time commitments (e.g., full-time employment, full-
ACSM’s National Director of Certification, Francis Neric, and time student). Regardless of exam, candidates are recommended to start with
gather some insight regarding what changes should be expected the content outline. The exam content outline provides an excellent overview of
by those seeking certification. the breadth and depth of the content covered on the exam. Performance do-
mains are broken out by percentages. Candidates may want to spend time
1. What exams have changed? in areas that have larger percentages of the exam dedicated to them. In addi-
In short, all ACSM health fitness and clinical exams will have sub- tion, when a job task has greater cognitive complexity, a candidate should
stantive changes in 2018 and 2019. have a greater command of the content area (e.g., detail of processes, intercon-
ACSM launched new versions of the Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM- nection of systems). Another consideration is that candidates should rank each
CPT ®) and Certified Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-EP ®) on December 18, content domain or job task by their own relative strength or weakness in the
2017. A revised version of the Certified Group Exercise Instructor Exam area and then allocate their study time accordingly.
(ACSM-GEI ®) will launch in late 2018. Next, candidates should become familiar with ACSM Position Stands,
In addition, ACSM’s Committee on Certification and Registry Boards whitepapers, industry standards, and best practices. Wonderful resources to
(CCRB) completed its multiyear investigation into the clinical exercise physiol- find this information include the Resources for the Personal Trainer
ogist profession in 2017. A major conclusion is that employers, certificants, or Resources for the Exercise Physiologist textbooks and the ACSM
exam candidates, and university programs have difficulty differentiating between Web site (
clinical exercise physiologist and registered clinical exercise physiologist job roles. A major mistake some candidates make is reading a book for detail
As a result, ACSM will develop and maintain a single clinical certification to straight away and getting lost in the minutia. Candidates who are the most
substantially improve the clarity of the clinical exercise profession. ACSM antic- successful understand the big picture first, how concepts fit together, and then
ipates launching the new ACSM-CEP ® exam in December 2018. drill down to specific details (e.g., processes, calculations, percentiles). For
2. How are the examinations different? example, candidates may want to consider beginning with the learning objec-
Major changes to the exams include the revision of how questions are tives and summary first. Make note of all the call-outs within each section
weighted and removal of certain topics; see Tables 1A & 1B. Specific knowl- that underscore critical topics or themes. And then read the chapter for specific
edge and skills can be found in the respective exam content outlines for ACSM- details that identify how to perform a process, calculations, and so on.
CPT ® —, and ACSM-EP ® —
2FQhwQJ. Also, the exam content outlines now include cognitive levels at each
job task.
3. What are the main topics/areas where the
changes have been made?
Major content changes to the ACSM-CPT ® and ACSM-GEI ® in-
clude the inclusion of the updated preparticipation screening process (i.e.,
ACSM preparticipation screening algorithm, PAR-Q+) and removal of
the business, marketing, and management domains. Specific changes to the
2012 and 2017 job task analyses can be found on the ACSM-CPT ®

Volume 22 | Number 4 27

Copyright © 2018 American College of Sports Medicine. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
Comparison of the 2012 and 2017 ACSM-CPT ® Crosswalk Comparison of 2012 and 2017 ACSM-EP ®
Performance Domains Job Tasks
Performance Domains Domain I: Health and Domain I: Initial Client
(2012) Performance Domains (2017) Fitness Assessment Consultation and Assessment
Domain I: initial client 26% Domain I: initial client 25% A. Implement assessment A. Administer and interpret
consultation and consultation and protocols and preparticipation preparticipation health
assessment assessment health screening procedures screening procedures to
to maximize client safety maximize client safety and
Domain II: exercise 27% Domain II: exercise 45% and minimize risk. minimize risk.
programming and programming and
implementation implementation B. Determine client’s readiness B. Determine client’s readiness
to take part in a health-related to participate in a
Domain III: exercise 27% Domain III: exercise 20%
physical fitness assessment health-related physical
leadership and client leadership and client and exercise program. fitness assessment and
education education exercise program.
Domain IV: legal, 20% Domain IV: legal, professional, 10% C. Select and prepare physical C. Determine and administer
professional, business, business, and marketing fitness assessments for physical fitness assessment
and marketing
healthy clients and those for apparently healthy
with controlled disease. clients and those with
controlled disease.
Finally, candidates can assess their mastery by reviewing a bank of D. Conduct and interpret D. Conduct and interpret
questions. Wolters Kluwer offers prepU, which is an adaptive question bank cardiorespiratory fitness cardiorespiratory fitness
( Questions become increasingly diffi- assessments. assessments.
cult as questions are answered correctly. It should be noted that the questions E. Conduct assessments of E. Conduct and interpret
in prepU may not be substantially similar (look or format) to the questions muscular strength, muscular assessments of muscular
exhibited on ACSM exams. endurance, and flexibility. strength, muscular
5. How were the new exams developed? endurance, and flexibility.
The CCRB regularly performs job task analyses (JTAs) of its exams F. Conduct anthropometric F. Conduct and interpret
every 5 to 7 years. The JTAs are a detailed job survey of currently practicing and body composition anthropometric and body
professionals; i.e., what you are expected to know and be able to perform as assessments. composition assessments.
part of a job. In addition, the JTA identifies any important changes that have
happened to the field since the last JTA. removed. As a result, beta versions of the ACSM-CPT ® and ACSM-EP ®
CCRB completed its JTAs for ACSM-CPT ® and ACSM-EP ® exams launched December 18, 2017. ACSM used results of the beta exams
exams in April 2017. Generally speaking, the number of exam questions and equating standards (how different exam versions are mathematically adjusted
dedicated to the various content areas have changed, and certain topics have been to be equal over time) to determine the passing point (who passes the exam).

TABLE 1B: I would like to thank Francis for his time addressing these ques-
Comparison of the 2012 and 2017 ACSM-EP ® tions as well as the number of individuals who, as volunteers, have
Performance Domains donated their time to redesign these certifications and the corre-
Performance Domains
sponding exams. It is my hope these questions provide some clar-
(2012) Performance Domains (2017) ity for you, the reader, or anyone else who may be contemplating
obtaining a certification moving forward.
Domain I: health and 30% Domain I: health and 35%
fitness assessment fitness assessment
As always, I hope you enjoy the column, and if you have
questions you would like me to address, do not hesitate to con-
Domain II: exercise 30% Domain II: exercise 35% tact me via Twitter (@DrFeito), or via LinkedIn.
prescription, prescription, implementation
(and ongoing support)
Yuri Feito, Ph.D., MPH, FACSM, is an associate pro-
Domain III: exercise 15% Domain III: exercise 25%
fessor of Exercise Science at Kennesaw State University,
counseling and counseling and behavior
behavioral strategies modification Kennesaw, GA. As a professor, Dr. Feito’s emphasis is
to provide a “bridge” between scientific knowledge and
Domain IV: 10% Domain IV: risk management 5%
skill application. He holds the ACSM-RCEP ® and
legal/professional and professional
responsibilities ACSM-CEP ® credentials, and before his academic
appointment, he was involved in the medical fitness in-
Domain V: management 15% — —
dustry as a practitioner and administrator.
28 ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal ® July/August 2018

Copyright © 2018 American College of Sports Medicine. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.