Steps to Getting AFAA Certified, Post #3


We’re still discussing the AFAA Primary Group Certification workshop.  You can check out the prior posts here:  Post 1 and Post 2.  In this post, we’ll get into what happens the day of the workshop.

You’ve registered, got your CPR certificate, studied your text book, brought your number 2 pencil, a sweatshirt and snacks.  I hope you got plenty of sleep the night before, because you are in for a long day.  You will spend the entire day in a group fitness room or a gymnasium-type room.  You will probably sit on the floor, and if you’re lucky, the facility has enough mats/balls/Bosus to go around.  Bring your own if you are concerned that you might not get one.  That or be sure you arrive early.

The Intro

After check-in, and after all the participants have gathered in the room, the first presenter introduces herself and the team.  Then, s/he gives a rundown of what the day will include and other pertinent information like where the bathrooms are.  They will also provide reassurance that by the time you are tested you will have reviewed everything that will be on the test.  The presenters are there, after all, to help you succeed.  This certainly seemed to be the case.  With the exception of 3 questions, I heard the answers to all 100 questions on the exam at some point during the workshop.  The other three were probably mentioned while I was in my own little world or the bathroom.

The Anatomy Review

After the introductions, the first major section of information is presented.  A presenter talks and points and gestures you through basic anatomy, muscle names, joint actions, and planes of movement.  All of the muscle groups that are asked on the practical and the written exam are discussed.  It helps to have a working knowledge of these areas prior to attending, because they do move quickly through the information.   It takes an hour to an hour and a half to discuss this topic. 

The Group Demonstration Preparation

A (usually) different presenter will now come forward to help you prepare for part one of the practical — the group demonstration.  Advice and instructions are given on how to successfully pass the group demonstration section of the exam, where you are asked to show movements appropriate for warm up, cardiovascular exercise, and a cool down.  Our presenters were well aware that many participants are not “aerobics instructors” but instead are cyclists or kickboxers or yogis, but need AFAA to get or keep their jobs.  Because they are sensitive to people without strong aerobics skills, the breakdown and advice is very useful.  They tell you what the bare minimum is to get by and ensure you know what they are looking for.  The basic structure of this section of the exam is outlined in the Study Guide, which I encourage you to read carefully before you arrive so you can be thinking about what exercises you might like to demonstrate.  It doesn’t have to be fancy — in fact, simple is encouraged because it makes it easier for them to grade you higher — so avoid going nuts with choreography.  If you are one of those folks with little-to-no experience in a traditional group fitness class, like sculpting, step or hi/lo aerobics, I also recommend that you attend at least one of these classes or rent a video.  This will help you gain a feel for what style they are looking for.  In the next post we will discuss more in depth what you will be tested on in this area.

The second part of the group demonstration includes demonstrating exercises appropriate for each of ten major muscle groups, including two strength actions and one stretch.  Again, it helps to have prior working knowledge of your muscles and how to effectively implement weight training.  They give you tons of information, but you don’t want to have to cram it all in your brain on one day, so if you don’t have a background of weight lifting, personal training or teaching sculpt classes, I recommend taking a couple of sculpting classes or renting videos.

The Individual Presentation Preparation

Advice for passing the individual presentation part of the practical is sprinkled throughout the group demonstration discussion.  But they do set aside time for you to rehearse what you will exhibit when you are called up to demonstrate a single exercise.  Again, they are senstive to the “less-aerobically-inclined,” so they give plenty of tips on passing this section even if you aren’t experienced in general group fitness classes.  Again, we’ll get into more specifics as they pertain to the actual exam in the next post.

Final Review

After discussing the aspects of the practical exam you need to know, there is a review of the material on the written exam.  Here is where all of the questions/answers that haven’t come up yet are pointed out exclusively.  I was quite surprised by how blatant the assistance with exam questions was, but I certainly was not one to argue.  I like help where I can get it.  In addition to giving help knowing what actual questions and answers to look for on the written exam, they discussed some common methods to choosing the correct answer.  If you listen closely during this section, you are going to be in great shape for the exam.

The Grande Finale

The final two hours of the workshop are for the written exam (1 hour — 100 questions) and the practical (2 30-minute demonstration segments).  You will be given a number that is used during the practial exam for scoring purposes.  Make sure you put it someplace visible.  Depending on the size of the audience, you might divide into groups, so that one can take the written exam while the other takes the practical.

You have one hour to complete the written exam.  It has 100 multiple-choice questions.  That means you need to answer questions at a clip of no more than 40 seconds per question.  That is quick, so it is important that you brush up on your test-taking skills, especially if you ever suffer from test anxiety.  Basically, you’ll want to eliminate nonsensical answers, then choose the best answer from what remains.  AFAA questions are worded in a way that you can usually find the best answer using some easy observations.  One question asked, “What muscles make up your quadriceps?”  Well, if you remember that “quad” implies four and you notice that only one of the answers even listed four muscles (the other choices all had three) you can’t go wrong.  Many of their questions can be deduced using similar logic — you just have to read carefully.  And always go with your gut response.

The practical is the most discussed and most nerve-racking section of the exam.  We’ve already discussed how they assist you in preparation for the exam.  In the next post, we’ll disucss in greater detail what you will need to succeed in this section of the test.

 Next post >>

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14 thoughts on “Steps to Getting AFAA Certified, Post #3

  1. Thank you so much! I wish I would have found this info. before the test. To be honest I thought I didn’t pass the written part of the exam but to my surprise I did, however I was not ready for the practical part. I think I did well with the group demonstrations but when it came down to the individual part, I did not feel I had enough time to prepare and I couldn’t think of 3 levels to demonstrate for exercises other than push ups and abs (a lot of people end up using the same exercise and I think that is what they want—like you said nothing fancy).
    I became very nervous and forgot half of what I was going to demonstrate. Now I have to retake it in two weeks. I am only planning to teach spin class and maybe some strength training and floor exercises so I feel a bit limited with the aerobic part of the test.
    I also believe that the instructor may have noticed I wasn’t very assertive but now I feel a lot more confident with what I know especially after reading your website.
    Thanks for the examples and tips. You mentioned the 1st time you took your test; did you have to take it again? How many people end up having to retake? Just wondering if the instructor just did not like me?:(

  2. Congratulations on passing the written exam and good luck with your practical retake. I’m afraid I don’t know what the retake percentage is, but I believe they work hard in the workshop to keep the number low. That doesn’t mean we don’t have our slips along the way. You have the advantage of knowing what to expect firsthand now, plus the tips you can add to your presentation to be certain you will succeed!

    I also do not think the instructors and testers allow any personal bias to affect their scoring. They have a list of items that you must fulfill to earn the passing grade. If you miss any of them, you won’t pass. But since you’ve seen what they are looking for, you are in good shape for trying again. Thanks for sharing your story! Let us know how it goes.

  3. Thanks for your quick response. I was hoping to sit through the practical part of the review but today I was told that I am only to show up for the test. I live about 1.5 hours away and was planning to get there early but I don’t want to wait until 2pm, do you think they would kick me out if I show up a bit before the practical retake? I didn’t realize the fee is another $85.00!

  4. Honestly, I have no idea whether or not they will prevent you from listening in. I would plan to arrive early on the chance that you can get in. Worst case scenario is they say “no” and you are left with all the time you need to rehearse!

    Yes, the retest fee is a bit steep in my opinion too, but unfortunately you either forfeit all of the money you invested up front or fork the fee over. Best of luck!

  5. Thanks so much for this great info. I have a question I hope you will answer for me. I am studying for my test this Friday, and the group demo portion for strength training has me a bit confused. It says they are looking for “primary movement.” Is that the same as “prime movement” as discussed in the manual? If so, a squat would not be allowable to demonstrate quads as it involves multi-joint action and not just the joints associated with the quads. Thanks so much again!

  6. I’m sorry I am late to answer your questions. I hope your workshop was a lot of fun and you felt successful after your exams. I’m sure you already learned the answers, and you can share them here, but I believe that “primary movement” and “prime movement” are indeed the same thing. As for squats, yes, they are a multi joint action, but in the workshop I attended it was demonstrated by the presenter as an action for quads. Unless something has changed, which is possible! If there is any doubt, definitely go with something else, like a crunch or a pushup!

  7. hey there, first, thank you sooo much for all the useful info. I feel confident about the written and group parts of the exam, but not so much about the individual. Can you explain what exactly they are looking for, or tell me where to find it in my study material. Thanks again, I really enjoy reading your blogs!

  8. Hi again! I just wanted to leave this extra bit of information to enhance all of the great info. Krista has left for us. The 1-2 min. demo. was very confusing for me while preparing for test day. I was not sure if it meant a whole routine or what. So, I called the 800 number to AFAA and was advised to pick only 1 (one) type of exercise in all the lists of exercises available to choose from. This was a relief bec. I was actually putting together a whole routine! Wrong! You should choose the most simple exercise for you. Be it the squat, the push up, the lunge, the side step, or crunches. This will be your exercise. Then you will have to demonstrate 3 (three) variations of this exercise of your choice. Beginner, moderate, and advanced. While you are speaking and directing the others in the group. Keep in mind you will be scored based on kinetics, dynamics, hand placement, vocal, and body placement. This is your time to show how you would react as an instructor in front of YOUR class. Hope this helps. Good luck to everyone who will be taking the exam at APEX!

  9. Hi Krista! T-minus 1+ days til my AFAA cert! Super nervous, but sorta confident that I’ll be ok. I decided to do the warm-up from my usual kickboxing class, with a cardio segment from the same class. I tried a step-cardio class and I felt like a hot mess. Kickboxing is what I feel most comfortable in. Also I had to change up my ind. presentation because I couldn’t properly execute a single-leg squat, LOL! I’m going with the Lunge combo. THANK YOU again for this fantastic information.

    Also, for the Strength/flex portion, I am trying to have two strength and 1 flex for everything listed – is that being too over zealous?

    For ex. Chest and Back / Grp 1: Pecs. Grp 2: Traps, Rhomboids, lats.

    I have 2 strength and 1 stretch for both groups. Well, attempting to know them.

    Thank you again!!

  10. I just attended the AFAA cert and it was a horrible experience. The instructor rushed through everything, belittled people that asked questions. He was very confusing and even raised his voice more than once. He made it very clear he was eager to leave even asking how close we were to the airport. He made the day very long and very stressful. I was considering getting my personal training cert through AFFA but if workshops are as unpleasant as this I will find another organization to get my personal training cert.

  11. I’m taking the group fitness exam in November and although I’m preparing every day, I’m anxious about the test. I’m just a regular person interested in fitness and teaching, so I do not have a background in teaching. On the 2 minute practical part of the exam, what are the types of things we should say while teaching the 3 levels…I’m planning to teach a basic step touch, then add the arms pulling front and back, and for the high level, I’ll add a hop right, left, etc. I’m at a loss for words when I practice this. How do I talk about safety, etc., without sounding ridiculous? Any advice would be greatly appreciated !

    • If you aren’t sure what to say, I recommend taking classes and listening to the types of cues given by the instructor. If you aren’t comfortable or don’t have access to a class, you can glean cues from exercise videos or the fitness shows on Fit TV. If all else fails, just describe what you are doing, how it should feel and how long you will do it! Don’t feel like you have to be speaking every second, etiher. You can keep quiet while you are doing repetitions, although lots of instructors just count down. The best way not to sound ridiculous is to give your advice in short, concise instructions: “Keep your knees soft,” “Drop your shoulders” etc. The fewer words, the better!

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