Study Strategy

Reader Experience: From Grumpy to Passing!

Posted by on Jul 1, 2017 in Exam Preparation, Reader Question, Study Strategy | 0 comments

This was an interesting experience, for both me and the reader in question. While it always stings a little to get critical feedback, it is always the most useful. In this case, for both parties.

Ronald contacted me dissatisfied with the book, and gave me a lengthy explanation which you can read here:

Hello Julian,

I want to give you my honest regards as it relates to your CSCS Study guide e-book. My experience goes as follows. When I ordered the book my expectations were that there would be some remedy to help me remember or understand the scientific foundations portion of the exam.

My background is I have a Sports Management degree with a concentration of Wellness and Fitness. I graduated in May 2016. I have several other certifications e.g. ACSM CPT, NSCA CPT, NASM CPT PES, CES. As we both know the CSCS is definitely the most difficult and holds the most weight. I failed the exam on February 5th, 2017. I missed the practical applied section by 7 questions. I also missed the scientific foundations part by 3 questions. I am truly seeking mastery of the exam. I literally want to know everything to defeat this behemoth!

I was expecting to see a way that I could relate things such as adaptations to hypoxia immediate and long-term. Also adaptations to resistance training and aerobic training and overtraining. One more thing the testing and evaluation, a cool way to remember those 90 vs fiftieth percentiles for athletes.

The most that I gained from your study guide is a clever way of remembering the one repetition maximum. The mathematical calculations are far too advanced for me. I have never been an electrical engineer, therefore, there were several analogies that went over my head literally. In a lot of ways I must be honest with you I was more confused after assessing the study guide.

I wish that this could work for me, or had things that I could relate to the subject-matter in a simpler format. I hope this worked for you and some others, but for me it was just daunting trying to get through the esoteric format. I respect your profession and wish that I was more mathematical savvy,  but unfortunately I’m not.

I’m glad for this exam I don’t have to know calculus or analytical geometry. I’m sorry to say but according to how the e-book is now it doesn’t work for me. It probably won’t but I wish the rest of the book was designed to be as understandable as the 1 repetition maximum protocol that you designed.

Thanks for reading my email and understanding that it just did not work for me.




I immediately issued a refund and responded, read here:

Hey Ronald,

Your detailed feedback is greatly appreciated. I have refunded you the $27.

However, it seems you purchased the book 5 days ago….so I have to provide some critical feedback of my own:

Trying to understand it in 5 days might be a bit of a stretch.

I have all that math background, and I did not ace the exam by any stretch. I passed, fairly comfortably (80ish percentish if I recall). You have given it 5 days of trying to understand math that seems over your head, at the moment.

I encourage you to give yourself some more credit. When your brain is tired from trying to understand some of this shit, that is time to set the book down and go move your body, or sleep….but then you come right back and try to grasp it again. It’s like going to the gym, you exercise the muscle until it’s your desired strength.

Look for the “NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) & CPT Study Group” on facebook, join it…and start asking some questions.

Best of luck buddy!

I really appreciate your time spent giving me detailed feedback.

You’re going to get it next time! Leave no stone unturned. DO NOT wait until last minute. Make every page in my book make sense to you, even if it means learning better math….none of which required calculus, just good algebra.


Then over the next few months the following emails came in:

Hello Mr. Julian Corwin,

I wanted to thank you for the reply to my feedback concerning the issues I had with your e-book. I have learned a lot from your book in relation to tips and tricks. I also noticed the relevance it has in preparation for the CSCS Exam.

I hope you will allow me to send you the money back. I stand corrected sir you were right. This book has enough intricate details to give me just the edge I need to defeat this behemoth! Lol..

And finally

Hello Julian,

I passed the exam Wednesday the 10th. Your book CSCSEXAMGUIDE was very instrumental in my passing this exam. I was really comfortable with the exercise science portion this time. The ten repetition maximum table memory method was invaluable. You also conveyed the anatomy & physiology/ kinesiology in an easy way to comprehend.  As discussed before I failed both sections back on February the 5th.

When we accept critical feedback and respond in thoughtful ways, amazing things happen. I received the feedback and gave my response, and Ronald did the same. His response was to re-evaluate his approach – which changed everything.

Congratulations Ronald on your CSCS!

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CSCS Online Study Group!

Posted by on Mar 24, 2014 in Exam Preparation, Study Strategy | 0 comments

Hey guys,

Just wanted to mention quickly that a reader created a CSCS & CPT online study group on facebook. Feel free to post questions and answer other readers questions. It’s a quick and easy way to discuss various topics regarding the CSCS exam and more.

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Exam Study Strategy – Honesty! Honestly?

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Anatomy, Study Strategy | 6 comments

Today after answering a few reader questions, I was thinking about what attributes make a person a successful test taker.  Some of these attributes may strike you as pretty obvious.  A test taker needs to exhibit or spend the following things to be successful.

  • Time – to study
  • Effort – Not just reading and letting the words slip past your brain while you study
  • Intelligence – The ability to grasp complicated concepts

Throughout school I met plenty of people who had all three of these things and still did poorly on test day.



I’m talking about being honest with yourself.  This is a different kind of honesty than just always telling the truth to other people, because being honest with yourself can be quite hard.  Let me give you an example:

I spent a good deal of time covering levers. But levers are simple right?  FLE123, boom. Done. How can that be hard?

Well for many it might be that simple, but when I sat down with the practice exams and started getting lever questions wrong…I had to stop and think. I had just learned a lot of anatomy, and so I started to overthink things.  Instead of a biceps curl being a first class lever, I started thinking everything was a third class lever because I was arguing (with myself) that the applied effort was where the muscle inserted and thus, applied its force to the bone. So for a biceps curl I was arguing effort was on the forearm, load at the hand, and fulcrum at the elbow – making it a third class lever (E in the center, third class).

But it’s not where the effort is applied, it’s NOT where the insertion is.  The ‘E’ in effort stands for where the force is generated, in this case the belly of the biceps muscle. My first run in with this topic had me thinking it was easy for me, but I was glossing over some details that tripped me up later. I had to have the conversation with myself and hash out where I was confused, but in the end I understood it more completely than ever.

So be honest with yourself, don’t gloss over things and say “I got that” when you really don’t.

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4 Key Things to Prepare for Exam Day (Plus Bonus Book Topic!)

Posted by on Jan 23, 2014 in Exam Preparation, Study Strategy | 7 comments

1. Do, and redo all 3 practice exams
2. Challenge yourself with every review question in the book
3. Know your anatomy & biomechanics
4. Know your energy systems (phosphagen, glycolysis, fast glycolysis, oxidative, lactic acid)

Bonus Topic (Book Sneak Peak!)
Know your testing and evaluation statistics!

A huge part of the second half of the exam (the practical/applied section) is knowing how to spot an athlete’s weakness based on stats. The questions will usually rattle off 3-5 stats about an athlete, some in the paragraph mid-sentence and some summarized in list form.

You know what stats I’m talking about? They look like this in the book:


And there are a couple dozen of these tables in the book, how can you expect to memorize all of them? Well, you could use some mnemonic techniques and spend a lot of time and get every table down nearly perfect…but a far more efficient technique is to simply memorize the average value.

See if you look at the above table in the book, they also list some numbers that describe the statistics they used to come up with this table.

Those numbers are the mean, the standard deviation, and n – the number of sample subjects measured.
See most statistical processes follow a pattern, and in the case of the above table that pattern would look something like this.


The mean describes where the center is, and the standard deviation describes how packed together the samples are.

Notice that the mean, and the 50th percentile don’t always match up perfectly…this is normal and nothing to worry about. For the purposes of the CSCS exam, just pick a value that is close and easy to remember. In the case of 1RM squat for high school football players age 16-18, I would tell myself:

“Average squat for 16-18 year old High School football players is about 350lbs”

Put that on a notecard, practice it, and get a feel for it. Think about it in relation to your own squat, do anything that helps you remember it.

So the take away message here is: Don’t memorize the whole table, just a number near the 50th percentile mark. Then when the question comes, identify which stat falls way below the 50th percentile mark and that is the athletes weakness and should point you to the answer.

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The Test Date is Set!

Posted by on Oct 4, 2013 in Exam Preparation, Study Strategy | 2 comments

Well ladies and gentlemen, no longer will I just talk about becoming a CSCS.  But before I get into my final round of studying, I want to talk a little bit about the sign up process, specifically the sign up process for a computer exam, NOT the pencil/paper version.

I know somewhere on this site I talk about cost of the test, but that post is probably out of date.  For me, the cost was the NSCA membership plus the member price for taking the test:

NSCA membership with no printed publications – $120
CSCS Computer Exam – $310 (up from the $295 it used to be)

Or $430 dollars in total.

As you sign up for the exam the NSCA will have you answer a few questions.  Where did you go to school, graduation date, degree earned, etc.  Also when you were CPR/AED certified or if you weren’t, that you understand your scores won’t be released until you provide proof of CPR/AED cert.

There are no refunds after signing up for the computer exam.
You do not schedule your exam immediately.  You will receive an email from the testing company giving information on how to schedule your exam.

And a whole lot more.  Read about it in the CSCS Computer-based Exam Candidate Handbook.  You actually can’t even order the test until you’ve clicked on that link during the exam ordering process.  Know the process so you aren’t confused or sign up too early or get cold feet.  You have 120 days after ordering the examination to take the test or you forfeit all $310.

My test date is Monday Novembe 4th, at 1:30pm.

Anyways back to my studying. The date is set, and so begins the final lap.  This is the part where I give it my all, or, “cram” as they say.

My Final Lap:

  1. Retake practice exams 1 & 2
  2. Answer review questions from every chapter
  3. Reread every post on this site
  4. Draw, sketch, speak, and visualize concepts
  5. Take practice exam #3

If I don’t attain a passing grade on practice exam #3 that will be a big warning sign that I haven’t done something correctly in steps 1-4.

One More Thing….
I also need to obtain my CPR/AED certification before my exam scores will be released.

I signed up for the CPR/AED through the redcross for $90 for an Adult CPR/AED session.  The cost was $90, and I’m set to take it on October 11 9am – 2:30pm.


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