Complexity of NSCA CSCS Examination Questions

CSCS examination questions are written at varying levels of complexity that reflect the job-related tasks of a strength and conditioning professional.

Questions are categorized as follows in order of difficulty

  1. Recall
  2. Application
  3. Analysis

Recall: Only memory is required. This information can be found directly in a textbook or other resource. The question asks, “What is x?”

Example Recall Question

Through which of the following valves does blood flow after contraction of the right atrium?
a. Pulmonary
b. Aortic
c. Tricuspid
d. Mitral (Bicuspid)

Application: The correct response or desired outcome varies based on the situation at hand. The questions may include calculations, pre-post situations, and the application of knowledge based on the specific client’s characteristics.

Example Application Question

You are designing a training program for a 70 year old female golfer, which of the following should be evaluated first?
a. Upper body strength
b. Core strength
c. Flexibility
d. Medical History

Analysis: Requires the combination of a variety of concepts to solve or evaluate a specific problem. Many variables must be considered and combined to answer the question. The question may include complex calculations or situations where the given data does not fit the typical pattern. Read these questions carefully, do not answer quickly, consider all options, and utilize good test taking strategies when attempting to answer these questions.

Example Analysis Question

A 6’7”, 230 lb college basketball player would like to gain muscle mass during the offseason. Which of the following should be his number one nutritional priority if his current 2600 kcal/day intake consists of 20% protein, 30% fat, and 50% carbohydrate?
a. Increase protein
b. Decrease fat
c. Increase kcals
d. Decrease carbohydrate

While the easiest of all question types, it is imperative that you have good recall knowledge of all content areas that a CSCS examination candidate is tested on. Without good recall knowledge you will score poorly on the application and analysis questions and subsequently the CSCS examination. Recall knowledge serves as the foundation for answering the higher level questions.

If you have dedicated time and effort to your CSCS examination preparation plan, thoroughly read Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, committed the information to memory, and took and memorized the answer and rationale to as many practice questions as you could find, then recall knowledge questions should be very easy once you are ready to sit for the CSCS exam. You should get most if not all of these questions right on the actual exam.

Practice questions of the recall type serve as a self assessment of your progress and help commit the required information to memory. You will need to combine your recall knowledge from multiple domains in order to answer the application and analysis questions.

Analysis questions are the most complex and typically found in the following categories, so be prepared.

• Bioenergetics
• Bimechanics
• Nutrition (Manipulating food choices)
• Program Design (Based on athlete’s status, training goals, periodization)
• Testing and Evaluation