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.
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.
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.