If you are looking for an online course to guide you to a successful CSCS exam, the options are limited. Luckily, there is a good option out there.
Human Kinetics has, in partnership with the NSCA created a CSCS online course to prepare coaches for the certification exam. While it may seem pricey, you are getting a pretty good deal considering all of the content inside and how expensive a retake is. They currently have 3 different versions for the study course, based on if you need the recommended (pretty much required) book or not:
If you are expecting this course to simply walk you through all portions of the exam and give you answers, then you are out of luck. I purchased the course and started going through it without having read the book yet – big mistake. If you haven’t read the book yet and/or haven’t recently finished getting an exercise science degree, you might be left scratching your head.
It turns out the class is more of a companion or review for the book, rather than a straight replacement. When I finally realized this, I began to really enjoy this course that Human Kinetics and the NSCA put together.
The course goes nearly chapter-for-chapter with the book and has 6 main sections:
Once you get inside the course, you realize it is very clean and user-friendly. Luckily, it is not just dry lecture or reading slides. It is a good mix of text, audio, video, images, and interactive tools, which helps keep you interested and hits every learning style.
The setup of the course makes it very easy to jump around once you are inside. You can skip to the section or specific area you want to study more. This is beneficial if you have 1 or 2 problem areas that you need to review more. For instance, if you struggle with anatomy, you can go over those slides as many times as you need to before you can put the needed info to memory.
The mixture of interactive media makes the course much easier to get through. There are plenty of checkpoints to make sure you are on the right track that include matching and multiple-choice and they give you instant feedback. You’ll find the technique videos particularly helpful.
Overall, it was incredibly helpful to go through the online class. Going through all the information again was very useful, but also the style of the training matches that of the actual exam. So practice questions (text and video) are in the style of the CSCS certification exam. This is invaluable in familiarizing yourself with the NSCA’s style and makes so there are really no surprises on test day.
How much did this course actually help? Its tough to guess in terms of percentage points. Can you pass the exam without this? Absolutely, but I feel that it is invaluable in getting familiar with the format of the questions and also building confidence. Plus, there were at least a couple of questions that I wouldn’t have known on the test if not for the course.
You might be tempted to rush through the course or skip it completely to see how you measure up on the final exam. DON’T do this. Once you receive a passing score on the exam, you will lose access to the study materials. Luckily, I had gone through the course twice and was confident I had gotten everything I could out of it before taking the final exam.
I would recommended waiting to take the include practice test until very late in your studying cycle so you don’t miss out on any of the course. I also wouldn’t worry too much about your score on the practice exam. Personally, I found it a little more difficult than the real test and scored 10% higher on the real test after taking the course exam with no extra studying. Every course is different and that certainly doesn’t mean you will score 10% higher, but if you score well on the practice, then you should be pretty confident you are ready.
An added benefit to this course is that it may help you with continuing education (CE) credits if you already have a certification from the NSCA or another organization. For instance, it counts as 15.00 credits for the ACSM and 1.5 for the NSCA. If you have another cert and are thinking about becoming a CSCS, that almost makes this a no-brainer.
There aren’t really any other comparable online courses out there for you to take. The NSCA does have live prep courses. You can look if one is available near you here. I wasn’t able to attend one of these, but I have heard good things. The live prep clinics, which are put on by the NSCA, and the Human Kinetics online course, which is done in partnerships with the NSCA, are the only 2 review options with the NSCA’s name on them, which makes them the safest bet to prepare for the content and format of the certification exam.
While I really enjoyed this online course, taking it obviously doesn’t guarantee success on the CSCS exam. It should be one of many ways to study and prepare for the certification. You can check out the course here.