6 Best NASM Prep Books (2022)

The NASM personal trainer certification exam can seem daunting for many would-be personal trainers. Those who haven’t gone through the ten-week training course or aren’t confident in their tests taking abilities might want some extra help preparing for this course.

With a NASM prep book, you’ll be able to take some practice exams and prepare for what the NASM test will be like. Many practice books include flashcards and study guides, so no matter your optimal style of learning, you can commit the essential terms to memory.

What Is the NASM Test?

The National Academy of Sports Medicine test is the exam required by the NASM to certify personal trainers to begin working. The NASM test usually follows a ten-week prep course offered by the academy or an accredited offshoot. Students learn the essentials of personal training and fitness nutrition.

The NASM test isn’t known for being particularly difficult if you’ve studied well. However, it can be tight on time, so it involves good test-taking skills and mental preparation. With a study guide, practice tests, and flashcards, you should pass it with flying colors.

What Are the Components of the NASM Test?

The NASM test covers several different categories related to health, fitness, and leadership. When you take the test, you can expect to see a similar ratio of questions based on each category. Here are the categories and approximate ratios:

  • 22% of questions involve exercise technique, training, and instruction
  • 21% of questions are about the CPT program design
  • 18% of questions are assessment-related (testing your overall knowledge)
  • 17% of questions related to health science and nutrition
  • 12% of questions test you on coaching methods and client relationships
  • 10% of questions are on business development and personal responsibility

These percentages are estimates and might not exactly reflect the specific test you take. However, it’s good to study with these concepts in mind, because they will be covered in the exam. Any of the prep books will help you with these.

What Are the Requirements for the NASM Test?

To become a personal trainer, there are more requirements than the NASM test. It’s about more than just wanting to help people achieve their fitness goals. To take the NASM test and become a CPT, you need to have at least a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and be AED and CPR certified.

These requirements are relatively simple, meaning that almost anyone can take the NASM test and become a certified personal trainer. The flexibility of the job is attractive to many people who would rather be their boss or work for a local gym.

How Long Is the NASM Test?

The test has 120 questions, 100 of which count towards your grade. Twenty questions don’t count towards your score; NASM uses these for future versions of the exam. However, it’s important to answer every question given to you.

You have a time window of two hours to complete the NASM exam. If you’ve prepared using one of the best NASM prep books, you probably will have no problem answering all 120 questions in that time frame. However, you must pace yourself and pay attention to the clock. It comes out to about a question a minute.

How Soon Will I Know If I’ve Passed the NASM?

The NASM is taken on a computer at one of the NASM-approved testing centers. Once you’ve signed up for the test at the NASM website, you will get a confirmation. Because it’s taken online, you’ll be able to see unofficial results quickly. To pass the NASM, you need a score of 70 (out of 100). While the individual tests vary, this score remains the same.

Immediately after you finish the exam, the computer will show you a preliminary pass or fail score. While the committee will review your test and ensure that you passed, this indicator is official enough to show potential employers until you get your actual certification credentials.

Best NASM Prep Books

When it comes to NASM prep books, there are a few things that make these books stand out from the dozens of other prep books available. Most of them have complete practice tests in them (or at least extensive amounts of practice questions with answers).

The other factor is completeness; it’s essential to know everything that could be on the test, and these books supply that information. Here are the seven best NASM prep books and guides for 2022.

Best Overall
NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training
Best For Introductory Studying
NASM Personal Trainer Exam Prep: 2023 – 2024 Study Guide – Covers...
Best For Targeted Studying
Secrets of the NASM Personal Trainer Exam Study Guide: NASM Test Review for...
NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training
NASM Personal Trainer Exam Prep: 2023 – 2024 Study Guide – Covers...
Secrets of the NASM Personal Trainer Exam Study Guide: NASM Test Review for...
Best Overall
NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training
NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training
Best For Introductory Studying
NASM Personal Trainer Exam Prep: 2023 – 2024 Study Guide – Covers...
NASM Personal Trainer Exam Prep: 2023 – 2024 Study Guide – Covers...
Best For Targeted Studying
Secrets of the NASM Personal Trainer Exam Study Guide: NASM Test Review for...
Secrets of the NASM Personal Trainer Exam Study Guide: NASM Test Review for...

1. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training

Of course, the best NASM prep book is the one provided by NASM. The National Academy of Sports Medicine published a test prep book with a complete and comprehensive amount of knowledge needed for the test. Using this increases your odds of passing the test and retaining the knowledge.
The book features knowledge checks, full-color diagrams and photos, and extremely helpful chapter summaries. The most important thing is that the book is always updated by NASM themselves, so buying the most recent edition will guarantee you a comprehensive exam preparation course.

Even if you choose another book on this list, owning the NASM Essentials is a great choice if you plan on being a CPT for many years. It is currently on the seventh edition and is updated every time there is new information to be had.

Many CPTs keep their copy of NASM Essentials and refer back to it when they are working. It’s by far the best book on the market, and a worthwhile investment if you want to pass the test on the first try.


  • The official test prep book
  • Fantastic summaries to reinforce important concepts
  • Organized in a logical way


  • One of the more expensive choices

2. NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam Prep

This book is similar to many of the other books on this list. It provides detailed information on the NASM test and what to expect, as well as knowledge about personal training, a practice test, and detailed answers for each question.

However, what makes the NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam Prep book stand out is the organization. Its pages are organized by subject, with reference pages to help you focus on the most important topics in each area. Once you’ve used it to study, it’s a great book to skim through the day of the test and make sure you have all the knowledge you need.

This book is thorough and well organized and will prepare you well for the test. However, one of the few complaints users have is that the test questions are outdated and don’t match the difficulty of the actual test. If you use this book, keep that in mind. These questions will help you learn, but the actual test won’t be quite so easy.


  • Contains 50 practice questions
  • Explains common misconceptions
  • Breaks concepts down into understandable bites


  • Best used in tandem with the official test prep book

3. Secrets of the NASM Personal Trainer

Mometrix Test Preparation has put together a more condensed version of a NASM test prep book. Because this book isn’t as detailed as the others on this list, it works extremely well as a cramming guide or a last-minute study guide. However, by definition, it can’t have all of the information in it.

The Secrets of the NASM Personal Trainer includes a NASM practice test. This is extremely helpful if you want to get familiar with the style of the test and get used to the multiple-choice aspect of the test. However, the practice questions might not be as updated as the test itself, so always study the book as well.

One of the best parts about this guide is that every practice question comes with a detailed explanation of the correct answer, with practical applications. If you struggle with test-taking, this is a great option. It will help hone your knowledge while increasing your test-taking skills. Overall, the preparation level is much higher.

Although many of the NASM study guides are more thorough, this prep book has a more relatable tone. If you struggle with the academic tone and words throughout the official book, Secrets of the NASM Personal Trainer might be an easier way for you to digest the information and prepare for the test.


  • Condenses relevant material into manageable reading
  • Uses simple language that’s easy to understand
  • Great for those who struggle with anatomy


  • Not all information presented is relevant

4. NASM Personal Training Prep Book

A smaller guide than most, the NASM Personal Training Prep Book doesn’t have the in-depth subject comprehension of many others on this list. However, it does cover all the necessary subjects and offers a full practice test with detailed answers.

Because it is a smaller book, this option is cheaper than the others and offers a more practical approach to exam prep. You might not need to know everything in-depth, but if you have a working knowledge of the information and how the test works, you are more likely to pass.

NASM Personal Training Prep Book also covers some information that’s not generally on the NASM exam. By talking about the basics of health science and nutrition, this book prepares future CPTs for their careers in the field. It was created for students and professionals and is a versatile little resource.


  • Contains three full practice exams
  • Gives real-life examples for difficult concepts
  • Has thorough explanations for each test


  • Does not cover all the info that will be on the real test

5. NASM Study Guide

If you are looking to save money when studying for the NASM test, this book might be a great choice for you. It is cheaper than many of the others on this list because it’s not quite as comprehensive. However, for students on a budget, it’s still a great study guide.

The NASM study guide offers a thorough review of the exam content with practice questions and answers. However, it doesn’t have a complete practice test. If you want to practice taking the full exam in the proper amount of time, you’ll need a different exam book.

For students who are pretty confident in their skills and only need a review book, the NASM Study Guide is an excellent option. It covers all the basics of the test and offers practice questions to give you an idea of the exam itself. While it’s not as thorough as others, it will get you a passing grade if you use it well.


  • Fantastic explanations for the test questions
  • Written in easy-to-digest language
  • A comprehensive guide to many different subjects


  • The organization is different from official NASM materials and may be harder to follow

6. Flashcard Study System for the NASM

Another great way to study for the NASM test is by using flashcards. All necessary terms and knowledge match their definitions to provide a quick method of testing your knowledge. However, making flashcards can be tedious and a waste of paper.

Instead, try this flashcard study system made especially for the NASM exam by Mometrix Exam prep. There are over 600 cards with information from all the test areas, so you’ll be ready.

Flashcards are proven to help students learn and retain information, and this official set will help you prepare for the test.

If you are studying by yourself, flashcards are a great way to test your knowledge and see which areas need more studying. With a set of flashcards and a good test prep book, you can streamline the exam prep process and be confident in every area of the NASM exam.


  • Breaks the assessment into three sections
  • Incredibly comprehensive in their coverage
  • Contains a huge number of cards


  • Each card is crammed with information and can be difficult to read trough

Free NASM Study Guide

If you want to prepare as best you can but can’t afford to buy a book, that’s understandable. The internet offers many free study guides, materials, and even practice exams. While these might not be as thorough or complete as the more expensive books, they can help you prepare for a test you’ve never taken.

Be cautious when signing up for things on the internet, of course. Know that the free practice exam is likely not as difficult as the real NASM test. However, it can help you get a feel for the timing and the type of information on the actual test.

You can use free guides to complement your regular studies to offer more information. Several practice exams exist on the internet, but they aren’t official. The only official practice test is in the NASM Essentials of Personal Training book or the NASM Website.

Final Thoughts

If you are ready to get your certification for personal training and start your own business, these NASM prep books will help you prepare for the big exam. You’ll be able to drill the necessary knowledge into your head, use the practice tests, and be confident in your ability to pass the NASM certification exam.

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Matt Lane

Matt graduated with a BSEd in Kinesiology from University of Georgia and is now pursuing a medical degree. He enjoys sharing his experience with other ambitious young people.