The NSCA’s reference book listed below should be the foundation of your studying for the exam, but pushing through more than 700 pages is certainly imposing. That’s why I recommend supplementing with the “Secrets of the CSCS Exam Study Guide” listed below. You can use that book to identify your weak points, before attacking them with the reference book.
Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning is now updated to its 4th edition, and while it is not exactly considered a study guide, it should be your main guide as you prepare for the exam, even if you don’t read it cover-to-cover. This is the recommended (some would say required) text for becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. It is incredibly detailed at a whopping 752 pages, is an official publication of the NSCA, and covers all of the content of the exam.
Many considered this a must-read text. With it being the equivalent of a college textbook, it can be very difficult to get through because of the length and depth of the content. If you have an exercise science background, much of the information may seem like a dry recap. If you don’t have an exercise science background, it may be very difficult to begin to comprehend on your first read through. It is available on Kindle now, although you may prefer a hardcover so you can use it for many years as a reference material in your office. You can also save some money by renting it through Amazon, although you may want to buy it so you can use it as a reference throughout your career.
Secrets of the CSCS Exam Study Guide: CSCS Test Review for the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Exam may have quite the mouthful of a title, but it is actually very effective as a study guide along with a practice examination. This review book provides a broad summary of the major topics covered on the test. It is not nearly as detailed as the NSCA textbook (what could be?) and is a much quicker read as it is about 1/3 as long and is in a much easier to read or skim format.
If you feel you have a good grasp of the test material, you may prefer to go through this to make sure you understand all the concepts. Keep track of what concepts you struggle with so you can do further reading on those areas. If you are new to the exam material, you can read this book through before reading Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. It will introduce you to new concepts in an easier to understand manner. If you are new to the concepts, though, I would definitely read through the text again.
This book also has the bonus of including practice test questions. This makes it a great CSCS exam study guide because you can give yourself a score and see what your weak areas are. If you notice you are struggling with some concepts or categories in particular, you can go back to the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning text and read, or re-read, the corresponding chapters. If you are confident in your knowledge, you may want to get this guide first, so you don’t waste time studying areas you have already mastered. Instead, you will be able to focus on the areas that need more help.
While no study guide can guarantee success, they can certainly improve your chances as you prepare for the exam. If you come from an exercise science background, a guide may be all you need to brush up on your knowledge and to review the NSCA guidelines.