ACSM Group Exercise Instructor Certification

ACSM logoThe American College of Sports Medicine describes the Group Exercise Instructor (GEI) as someone who works in a group exercise setting with apparently healthy individuals and those with health challenges who are able to exercise independently.  The GEI role is to enhance quality of life, improve health-related physical fitness, manage health risk, and promote lasting health behavior change. They lead safe and effective exercise programs using a variety of leadership techniques to foster group camaraderie, support, and motivation to enhance muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, body composition, and any of the motor skills related to the domains of health-related physical fitness.

Because this certification is relatively new, I asked a recently certified instructor, Katelyn Livingston if she could share her impression of the exam and preparation process.  She recently graduated with a Clinical Exercise Science degree and is completing her internship.  Katelyn is planning to pursue her doctoral degree in Physical Therapy and is studying to take the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist exam.  Here is what she had to say about her GEI exam experience.

The exam cost is $219 for members and $279 for non members, which I thought was reasonable because there were not a lot of materials required and I already had one recommended study guide, which was the ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription because it was required for one of my Exercise Science courses that I had taken. The other recommended book was  the ACSM’s Resources for the Group Exercise Instructor.  So essentially, I only had to pay for the exam and one study manual that was about $70, putting me under $300 for the whole thing.

Materials for the exam as mentioned were helpful for me because I had not taught exercise classes before so it had good information for how to design classes and how to communicate best with students in our classes.  However, there were quite a few concepts that seemed common sense to me and also having the Exercise Science background from college classes helped tremendously.   Many concepts were review of my coursework.  Specifically, a laboratory class I took helped me with questions related to metabolic rate and other calculations, so if you don’t have that background, I recommend spending a considerable amount of time to practice problems.

I signed up to take the exam at a testing center. It was very similar to taking the Graduate Record Exam, which I had to take to apply to graduate school, so I was already familiar with the procedures. Every question on the exam is multiple choice, with no practical or hands-on portion. You are told your results immediately after taking the exam.

The test is broken up into Domains and they include Participant and Program Assessment (10% of exam), Class Design (25% of exam), Leadership and Instruction (55% of the exam) and Legal and Professional Responsibilities (10% of exam).   In order to prepare, I bought the GEI manual about six months before taking the exam and read the entire thing throughout when I had time. I didn’t schedule the exam until about a month before I was going to take it. Then I studied the whole week before.

Preparing for the exam, I advise giving yourself as much time as you can so you can really understand unfamiliar concepts and go over them again. That way, you won’t just know them for the time you take the actual exam, but can apply them as an instructor.  One topic that I feel I could have been better prepared and definitely recommend taking plenty of time on is facility related topics and procedures.  The other area would be related to behavior related questions, including how people/clients are motivated (there is a whole chapter dedicated to this in the GEI manual).

Hopefully Katelyn’s insight helped you if you are considering this exam.  Just to be clear, the only qualifications necessary to take this exam are that you be 18 years old or older, CPR certified, and have a High School Diploma or equivalent.  For those who are not enrolled of have not completed an Exercise Science or related degree, more time and materials may be necessary to be adequately prepared for the exam.

3 thoughts

  1. I’m a Registered Nurse with a passion for fitness prepping for this exam, any recommendations as to how and what to study?! I have the manual and have planned to just throughly read it, any practice exams or quizzes out there? Thank you for any info.

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