I’m so excited to say that I'm officially an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor! The days of studying for and stressing over this exam are finally over. I'm writing this post because I want to share the story of how I passed, in case there’s something you can take away from it. Keep in mind that what worked for me may not work for you. Everyone is unique, and different things will work for different people :)
The first step I took toward getting my ACE certification was selecting a study program. I chose from 3 programs that ACE was offering at the time: Pro Essentials ($299), Pro Plus ($449), and Pro Advantage ($599, but currently discounted to $449). ACE often has sales and promotions, so be on the lookout for pricing changes.
I chose the most inexpensive option, Pro Essentials. This option contained the bare minimum: exam registration, one practice test, the eBook, and the ACE Digital Classroom (chapter quizzes, videos, etc.). The two more expensive options included extra practice tests, a free exam retake, and additional study materials.
I went with the cheapest option for a few reasons. First, I have a science background; I took anatomy/physiology in both high school and college. While I had forgotten most of the material, I knew I'd only need a refresher for the anatomy part. Second, I had confidence in my ability to study my butt off and pass the exam on the first try. Third, the thought of spending almost $450 for a self-guided study program and exam seemed a bit ridiculous to me. I wasn't willing to pay more than $299.
If you're new to basic human anatomy, new to exercise, new to nutrition, or not a good test taker, one of the more expensive options may make sense for you. I didn't excel on the exam by any stretch of the imagination… But hey, I passed!
I had to renew my CPR/AED certification before I could register for the exam. They make it so that you can't register for the exam until you have your CPR/AED certification with a live skills check. The cost of this certification isn't included in the cost of your ACE study program, so be sure to factor that in.
I got my CPR/AED certification on February 23rd and registered for the April 6th exam date for a couple of reasons:
I tried to spend about one to two hours studying on most days. I read the entire book, watched the associated videos, and took the chapter quizzes. You HAVE to read the entire book and watch EVERY video! It's important that you don't skip over the videos; many of them cover information that isn't in the book. You don't want to miss out, especially if you're a visual learner. I found some of them very useful.
Be sure to read the explanation for every answer on every single quiz you take. These will be your most important takeaways from the quizzes. They'll help prep your mind for reasoning through the questions you'll see on the actual exam. I took most of the quizzes more than once, and I read through the explanations each time. The explanations also tell you where you can find the relevant information in the book. Take advantage of this! Use it to go back and study what you struggle with.
I took my practice test a few times and read through the explanations each time. Along the way, I took notes on anything I still needed help remembering. Some of the questions from the exam were the very same questions I saw on my practice exam and the quizzes.
I also spent some time on Quizlet studying flashcards that other people made. If you look up "ACE GFI" on Quizlet, you'll find tons of flash card sets from previous exam-takers! Unless writing things out helps you remember them, don't waste time making flash cards. The "Learn" feature on Quizlet is a Godsend. Use it until you feel 100% comfortable with the terms!
In my opinion, these are the most important areas to focus on in preparation for the exam:
This is NOT an exhaustive list; these are the topics I found to come up on the exam the most. You should be comfortable with as much of the material as possible!
Don't rush through the exam. Take your time. There are 150 questions (only 120 questions count toward your score but you don't know which ones!) and you have three hours to complete them. I finished in about two hours. Be sure to get lots of rest the night before and eat a nutritious breakfast.
I also did some last minute studying the night before and the morning of my exam. There were a few questions I definitely wouldn't have gotten if not for that. But do whatever works for you.
If you already have a personal training certification, the anatomy and exercise science sections might seem easier for you. However, you'll still need to understand the material on the class environment, which is very different from training one-on-one clients!
I’d imagine that many of the people who take this exam specialize in one or two group fitness formats. For example, you might teach (or want to teach) Les Mills, Zumba, aqua fitness, Tabata, or cycling. I'm a barre instructor, but to pass this exam, I had to know the basics of some other formats.
I found that ACE uses a lot of examples from cycling, step, and aqua fitness. For example, it was important to know the correct water temperature for an aqua fitness class and who that type of class suits best. You'll also need to know things like the proper BPM for music in a mind/body class like yoga or pilates vs. step or cycling. Even if you never plan to teach a cycling class, you'll need to know the proper bike setup! Remember that if ACE mentions it in the handbook or videos, you should know it (even if it doesn't apply to your format of choice)!
Ultimately, I didn't find the exam difficult. If you know the information, there's no such thing as a "trick question". However, it's A LOT of information to absorb. Give yourself enough time to read all 13 chapters and learn the information. Unless you're already a fitness expert, this exam is not something you can prep for in a couple of days. Even if you consider yourself a fitness expert, there might be new topics or topics you should brush up on. Don't wait until the last minute to start studying!
Do you have an ACE exam or another group fitness instructor exam scheduled? Are you interested in becoming a certified group fitness instructor? Have you taken the ACE exam? Any questions about the ACE GFI exam that I didn't answer? I'd love to hear from you!
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
If you liked this post, check out these other ones!
How I Became a Barre Instructor
Group Fitness Audition Tips
Les Mills Bodyattack Review
Dominique Cheylise, 25 year-old engineer and group fitness instructor.