CSCS Study Plan

Feb 26, 2024

Edited by: Danielle Abel

If you're thinking about sitting for the CSCS exam, you probably have a lot of questions. Don't worry, in this article we're going to cover everything you need to know to study, prepare, and hopefully pass the exam the first time. 

How Long Should You Plan On Studying? 

One of the biggest questions we get is how long it takes to study to feel confident enough to take the exam. The answer to this question is very individualized, because truly it depends on what your background is. 

If you're someone who has a background in exercise science or physical therapy, you probably won't need as much time as someone who is newer to the field of strength and conditioning. 

  • Familiar with exercise science:
  • Not familiar with exercise science: 

No matter how long it takes you to prepare, it would probably still be helpful to create a plan for studying. This is why we created our CSCS Study Calendar

Where Do You Even Start When Studying? 

It might seem obvious, but usually, the best thing to start with is reading the book. Maybe you were hoping for something a bit more exciting, but unfortunately, the material in the book is what you'll be tested on, so you'll need to know the content very well. 

There are 24 chapters, which can seem like a lot, so breaking it down into smaller groups of 2-3 chapters per week, may be helpful. We really like the idea of reading a chapter and then testing your knowledge with a quiz on the chapter. For example, in our CSCS Study Course, we have a quiz after each chapter.

Typically, we recommend that students read the chapter in its entirety, watch the video module on the course, and then take the quiz. 

Is it Best to Start at the Front of the Book? 

You might be surprised to learn that starting with the programming chapter, which is near the end of the book, might be helpful. Everything in the book relates back to programming, so starting with this chapter might make it easier for you to learn about the other concepts, knowing that most of what you learn will influence how programming is carried out. 

After you read the programming section, you could either read the test selection and administration chapters (Chapters 12 & 13), or you could start with Chapter 1 (Structure and Function of Body Systems). If you're not very familiar with athlete testing, it could be helpful to read Chapters 12 & 13 after you read the programming chapter.

Test selection & administration helps you evaluate athletes & gather data to determine your top priorities for programming. 

Do You Need to Take Notes?

Note taking can definitely help you integrate the concepts you're learning. What can be really helpful when you're taking notes is to think about yourself or a client/athlete you've worked with before when learning about concepts. Applying the information you're learning about in real life can give you examples to affix this knowledge to instead of being such abstract concepts. 

It's key that you're able to apply the knowledge you're learning for the exam since a large portion of the exam is on practical application of the information in the book. Meaning you won't do very well if you only focus on memorizing facts from the book. 

Learn 1 New Concept At a Time

It might feel like you need to learn multiple pieces of information each time you sit down to study. However, it is far more effective to focus on walking away with an in-depth understanding of 1 new topic each time you go to study. 

Learning 1 new concept is a much more attainable goal, and it gives you some breathing room not to make each study session feel overwhelming. For example, pick a topic from the chapter you're reading & write down everything you know about it. Save these notes and eventually over time, you'll have a great resource to be able to study from & reference when you start taking practice tests. 

Take Practice Tests

Once you get through the full book, we would recommend you take some practice exams. The beauty of practice exams is that they simulate what it would be like taking the actual exam and give you a chance to identify the concepts you need to drill into further. 

Once you have your results, we recommend that you go back and re-read the chapter, watch any YouTube videos on the concepts discussed, or do a Google search for more information. If you have our CSCS Study Course, you could also go back and listen to the modules for those chapters again and take notes as you go along. 

Other Helpful Tips for Studying for the CSCS Exam

There are a few other things we would recommend, having passed the CSCS exam ourselves and helping hundreds of other students successfully pass the exam. Here's our top 5 tips:

  1. Get a strength and conditioning internship to gain experience
    1. If you can't do an internship, do some shadowing or network within the field to understand more about what strength and conditioning coaches actually do to help you understand and apply the concepts 
  2. Join a study group
    1. The material is very intense, so a study group can be helpful for accountability and support as you are preparing for the exam
    2. The Movement System has a no-cost Strength and Conditioning Study Group on Facebook for this very reason, you can join it here.
  3. Use online resources (Google & YouTube) to learn 1 new concept at a time
    1. It would be extremely difficult to search "Nutrition" because the amount of information you're going to get will be vast. Try to be more specific with your search, for example, "the Karvonen Formula" as it relates to  heart rate max
  4. Use online resources (Google & YouTube) to learn 1 new concept at a time
    1. It would be extremely difficult to search "Nutrition" because the amount of information you're going to get is going to be vast. Try to be more specific with your search, for example, "the Karvonen Formula" as it relates to  heart rate max
  5. Follow a strength and conditioning program yourself
    1. Find a strength coach to work with and use yourself as a subject to learn concepts like % of 1RM, periodized progression schemes, a preseason program, an in-season program, a general population program (GPP), etc. 
    2. Following an S&C program will help you apply the concepts you are learning and understand where they would fit into a longer programming plan
    3. Write your own progressive program after you've had an opportunity to apply the concepts yourself, for example, an off-season, a pre-season and in-season program for a soccer athlete; write it down on a piece of paper with rows and columns; it doesn't need to be complicated or fancy 

In Summary

You can definitely pass the CSCS exam by understanding the material that will be tested, scheduling adequate study & preparation time, and using yourself to apply the concepts you are learning. Don't forget to join our Strength and Conditioning Study Group on Facebook here if you haven't already. 

Support & Courses Available

Ready for even more? Our 24-module CSCS Prep Course has all the CSCS required concepts & applications expected for the exam completely laid out for you with even more content than what we’ve provided here, plus chapter quizzes to help you pass the NSCA exam; click the link here to check it out.



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