AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips

AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips*Update – I passed! Yay!*

Yesterday, I went with 8 of my Zumba friends to take the AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification. This is hosted by AFAA, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot but boy was it a loooooooooong day! We were there from 8:30am-6:30pm.

For those not familiar, AFAA Primary Certification is a widely recognized certification in the group fitness industry. You have to take the workshop and pass the written and practical exams to get your certification. You have to do continuing education to maintain your certification over time. Basically, it’s no joke.

When I was preparing for this certification, I didn’t find much information online, so I wrote this post in hopes of helping others. In this post, you’ll find some high level descriptions of the day and events, as well as my personal tips and tricks to help you pass. Read on forΒ myΒ AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips.

AFAA Primary Group Fitness Certification Components

  • Practical Exam
    • Group cardio demonstration (8-9 minutes of warm up, cardio, and cool down demos)
    • Group muscle strength + flexibility demonstration (they call out 10 different muscles, or muscle groups, 1 by 1 and you show 2 strength moves and 1 flexibility move)
    • Individual demonstration (you get 1-2 minutes to teach your group a single move with 3 levels of intensity)
  • Written Exam (100 multiple choice questions – harder than you may think)

I went to the APEX version in Charlotte, NC. Because the event was an APEX event, it was $99 instead of $299, which resulted in a very large number of participants. Normal certifications have closer to 15-30 (I believe). We had 98! We were supposed to have 115, but we had 98 people! That’s a lot!

Sweat Happy: Click here to learn more about my fitness story and why I believe in happy workouts

Morning Portion of the Day (Workshop)

AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips

(Here’s Katherine demonstrating a strength move in preparation for the group portion of the certification)

I was glad to know so many people there…we were sort of our own little Zumba crew…lol. I rode to the certification with Katherine and we quickly found our Zumba friends and chatted it up before things got started. I was glad we got there early, because there were a lot of people trying to register at once. The start time was 9:00am, but we arrived at 8:30am.

AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips

(And here’s Megan demonstrating some cardio moves)

Before things got started we talked about what kinds of practical moves we’d been practicing.

Things got started around 9:15am. I’d go into detail about what went on, but I think this blog, GroupFitPower, has some great detail and sums things up nicely. Click here to read some super-detailed posts about AFAA Primary Certification (GFP had multiple posts about this certification at one point, but many of the links are broken. I checked this one on 10/3/15, and it’s still working).

The first half of the day we had an introduction, got some general information, went over the group cardio workshop and finished about 3/4 of the group muscle demonstration workshop.

Basically, the morning part of the dayΒ is more presentation. The test portion happens in the afternoon.

AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips

Lunch Break

At around 12:40 pm, we broke for lunch. We had a 45 minute break.

AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips

I lucked out that Kat was sweet enough to bring me a chicken/cheese/lettuce sammie. (Kat, you rock!)

Be sure to pack your lunch! You will most likely not have much time to go anywhere to buy lunch (and actually have time to eat it).

AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips

Above is a picture of the gym we were in during lunch break when everyone was out getting food. Not everyone had yoga mats, so you may not be able to tell, but envision this gym packed full of people…we took up TWO basketball courts! That’s a lot of people!

I should have eaten more, but I thought we’d have time for snacks later. I was wrong (I had a couple minutes to down a Clif Zbar). After lunch, we wrapped up the muscle workshop, went over our study guides, took a quick break to hit up the restrooms, etc and then it was on!

Afternoon Portion of the Day (Exams)

Here’s where things got kind of serious. We were each assigned numbers, which were on stickers to put on our stomachs. We were separated into groups of 30, 30, and 38. I “lucked out” and got the group of 38 (was hoping for the small group!).

Cardio Group Demo

For the cardio group demo, we stood in several, long lines across the length of the gym, about arm length apart from each other. When they started the music, we had to start our demo.

The first 3 minutes were for the warm-up. Then, they cued us to start doing our cardio workout. After about 4 minutes, they cued us to start our cool-downs. The time seemed to go on and on…it’s weird how when you’re nervous the 8 minutes can seem like an eternity.

You really have to focus here because it’s easy to get distracted by all the action going on around you.

I’m pretty unsure of how I did on this portion of the practical. I tried to prepare what I’d do in the week before certification, but changed things up once I saw what they did in the cardio workshop (the part earlier in the day when they go over what they’re looking for). I prepared and practiced the moves I’d do for the group cardio during the lunch break, and I know I showed different levels of intensity, but I’m not sure how they graded them. There were so many people there…I wonder if they noticed I started at a low level, went to mod, and then high…or by the time they made their way to my side of the room, did they only see me doing mod or high level and mark me down because they missed my low? Did I land on my whole foot (and not just toes) for my high-impact moves or did I maybe flub that up just for the time they happened to be watching me. I’m not sure.

My Tips:

  • Check out the tips on GroupFitPower (as mentioned above, some of the GFP AFAA-links are broken; the one to the left was good as of 1/18/13) – they are great.
  • Check out the tips about this certification by Nutrition Nut on the Run (click).
  • Practice, Practice: Not everyone who does the Primary certification is a cardio instructor (some do bootcamps, yoga, etc). Whether you’re already a cardio instructor or not, I recommend preparing some moves…especially if you’re not already a cardio instructor.
  • How to Learn Cardio Moves: If you’re not sure what kinds of moves you should do for the cardio, I found some great ones by looking up youtube videos. This video #1 and video #2 were my favorites because they showed some great simple moves. Pick 3-5 of cardio moves that you like and feel comfortable doing and practice them. You want to get your body used to doing them with ease and to transitioning from one to the other. You’ll want to pick moves that you can easily move up in intensity because you have to show 3 different levels of intensity during the practical. An easy one is taking step-touch to step-touch with arms to hamstring curl with arms or taking basic grapevine with a foot-tap to grapevine foot-tap and with arms to grapevine with arms and hamstring curl.
  • Music: I was really curious about what kind of music they’d be playing since I’m used to doing my zumba jams. The music they play will probably vary from certification to certification, but our music was your typical non-stop cardio with one song blending seamlessly to the other. You can find some good cardio songs on iTunes. I downloaded some from iTunes and practiced various cardio moves at home. I kept the songs I downloaded to songs between 125-135 bpm (you can enter “bpm” in your general iTunes search and some albums say what bpm the album’s songs have).
  • High-Impact: For high-impact moves, should you choose to do them, our instructors really stressed to us that you land on your whole foot (not just toes)…practice this…it’s hard to do if you’re not used to it and when you’re stressed about remembering your cardio moves, you may forget this.
  • Rules: Read the study guide for rules and additional information. The study guide tells you what the testers are looking for so try to make sure what you practice meets those requirements.

Note: Please take my tips with a grain of salt. I’m not affiliated with AFAA…I’m just a regular person sharing my personal opinion…I hope my tips help you, but they certainly won’t guarantee you pass…when in doubt, ask the people who are running your certification. I found they were happy to answer any questions.

Muscle Strength + Flexibility Group Demo

As soon as the group cardio practical was over, we were instructed to get our yoga mats and come back to our places for the muscle strength + flexibility group demo. This part went pretty smoothly, but I’m not sure how strictly they were grading for form, etc. If you can, I recommend learning some strength and flexibility moves for each of the 10 categories listed in the study guide – pay attention to the guide here…very important stuff! Learn as many strength moves as you can and at least 1 flexibility move. You only need 1 flexibility move and though they didn’t say it during our certification, I believe you get marked down if you don’t hold your stretch long enough.

Additionally, if you can, prior to the certification, go over your strength moves with someone who can correct your form. It’s one thing to know a move, it’s another to do it right. I had at least 2 moves for each of the categories when I did the practical, but my biggest concern/question is whether I did them correct enough to receive a passing score. The proxies don’t tell you if you’re doing them right, so you just have to hope you’re doing your moves to their standard.

My frustration with this section is that I spent 5-6 hours researching strength and flexibility moves, but a lot of the ones I found online said different muscles were the primary movers and some that I found online, I asked the instructors about and they basically said were not acceptable. Remember, you have to demonstrate strength moves that use the muscle they’re announced as the primary mover. I wish they would have provided a list of acceptable moves beforehand because it’s hard to remember it all from that one day.

Individual Presentation

The individual presentation was stressful but at the same time, possibly the easiest part of the certification for me. The 1-2 minutes are basically over before you know it and if you follow everything they ask for in the study guide, you should be ok. I rehearsed exactly what I was going to show over and over before certification day and I think that really helped.

Practice what you’re going to do beforehand. I think the practice I did beforehand really, really, really helped me. I used a timer to make sure I stayed between 1 and 2 minutes and really worked on remembering everything I needed to say. I’m glad I practiced saying so much because when the time came, I forgot some of the things I wanted to say, but still seemed to hit each of the categories.

Oh, and if you’re going to a strength move, maybe try to do not do push-ups. We had about 15 people in our group doing push-ups and we were getting kind of tired of doing them. I mean, choose whatever you’re most comfortable with, but variety will help keep your group happy (not that you’re being judged on that, but just something I noticed).

Written Exam

The written exam was really hard. There’s a lot of material you have to learn and a lot of what you’re questioned on comes from the book, not the study guide. For example, a question in the study guide asks you to list the six classes of nutrients, but the question on the exam asked which of the nutrients provided the body with the most energy. I suppose this question may be obvious to some, but my point is that if you only look through the book enough to find the list of nutrients and don’t both reading about them, you may not know the answer to the exam question.

My personal recommendation is to fill out the entire study guide and try to not race through answering the study guide questions…try to read the sections highlighted in the study guide. For some exam questions (not all), you’ll need to know more than just the study guide answers. If you have time, try to really read through the chapters.

I’m pretty worried about this part just because a lot of the questions were so tricky. I’d much rather pass the practical and have to retake the written, but I’d really just like to pass both.

Summary of my AFAA Group Exercise Certification Experience

Overall, I’m really proud of myself for even attempting the AFAA primary certification. I feel so much more empowered from the group fitness perspective from all the knowledge I gained through this experience. Even though the day was long and stressful, I had a good time, and I’m glad I did it.

AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips

I’m crossing my fingers that I did well, but I’m really unsure because they don’t give you any feedback during the certification. I won’t know anything until I get a letter from AFAA in 4-6 weeks. I told Katherine I’m worried about the results and she reminded me that the AFAA is now over and I can’t change anything, so there’s no reason to worry. I’m trying my best to follow her advice and stay positive. *crossing fingers*

Oh, and I wasn’t sure what to bring to the certification because it’s apparently on the back of your registration confirmation (which I lost until the day of the event), so here’s just what I remember needing/using off the top of my head)…

What to Bring to the AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification

AFAA has an official list…this is just mine:

  • Number 2 pencils (the test is a bubble-test…you’ll need these)
  • A pencil sharpener
  • A clipboard (we took the written test in the gym on a basketball court… my back was killing me by the end of the written exam…a clipboard would have helped tremendously)
  • Snacks (snack bars, fruit, etc)
  • Water
  • Lunch (so much easier to have food than have to go out and buy some…our Y had food, but it was nice to not have to take time getting food…I used that time to practice what I’d be doing for the practical – group and individual parts
  • A yoga mat – yes, bring a yoga mat even if you don’t do/teach yoga. You’ll want one for the strength portion and for the individual portion. Our gym ran out of yoga mats and people were doing push-ups, sit-ups, etc on the hard basketball floors…not fun)
  • Your AFAA registration confirmation…I didn’t need mine, but you never know
  • Your ID (You need it to register)
  • Sweatshirt – there were a couple times when I needed mine
  • A change of clothes for your practical (I didn’t use mine, but I think it’s better to be prepared just in case)

What Are Your AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips?

Does any one else have any good AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips tips? If so, please leave a comment with your tips. If you’re looking for more, be sure to check out the GroupFitPower blog, which is one thing I used to prepare for my certification.

More TCL Fitness Links

Click here to read about how I got into teaching Fitness

Click here to view my Zumba page with information about teaching Zumba, Zumbawear, my favorite dance fitness shoes, etc.


Hope this helped you! Thanks for reading my AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips post!

NOTE: The above information is just my personal opinion and is based onΒ my personal experience. Certifications are open to being updated and changed as time goes on, so I can’t guarantee the above information will always be true (who knows if they’ll add a new section to the practical or change the way they do it?), but I hope that someone finds a bit of help in this post.

87 thoughts on “AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification Tips”

  1. Congrats on surviving! Wow! That seemed like a lot – I had no idea it was so involved. I am sure you did just great and will be getting that certification in the mail Halloween πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I know this post will be so helpful for others out there thinking of or in the process of getting certified. Have a great RELAXING rest-of-the-week! (you deserve it!)

  2. Great post!! SOunds about right!!! study people!! do the study guide and you should be fine! i think. I'll let you know more once I get my results!

  3. How long did it take to receive your results? I took my test September 26 and still have no results! Each day I am anxious to see if it's in my mailbox…no news!!

  4. I'm taking AFAA primary group cert. in December and now I'm nervous haha! (I'm also a zumba instructor!) How did you end up doing? You answered a lot of questions i had, thanks for the post! I'm going to go study some more now haha!

  5. I studied and studied that study workbook and practice test. I found too that many of the questions on the exam weren't in the study manual. I thought it was one of the longest days of my life! I did pass and that was 2 years ago. I sent in my recertification last week. It was a good feeling when the certification came in the mail saying I had only missed 10. Yeah!!! Study and I feel any diligent person will pass the test. Debra

  6. Thank you for the tips and post your experience. I am scheduled for APEX in NYC Feb 14 (Happy Valentine's Day, LOL) – very nervous and extra anxious over the practical. *DEEP BREATH*

  7. I am in for the APEX in February too!!! Thank you for all the useful information!
    I am still very nervous about the certification, but your recommendations help me a lot! Thanks again πŸ™‚

  8. Thanks for providing a little “insight” into the AFAA cert. as the “unknown” can be overwhelming. Having at least a little knowledge prior to walking in is helpful!

    Also, your web site is adorable… good luck to you!

  9. Hi Diana!

    Thank you for posting your thoughts and suggestions. I’m scheduled to take the exam in Feb 2011 but am overwhelmed with all the material. Trying to determine what is the most efficient way to study and your comments really helped! Keep your fingers crossed for me becuase I’m so nervous!

    Thanks again!
    Maggie πŸ™‚

  10. You kept mentioning the groupfitpower blog, but the links no longer work. I’m getting quite nervous about taking this test in September ’11. Do you know how to get to those links?

  11. Hi,
    I will be taking the primary group exercise instructor certification in Pompano Beach Florida on 9/24/2011. Talk about nervous. The textbook is pretty intimidating. I live in Miami and I’m wondering if there is anyone else who is in my area who might want to do some tag team study sessions! Just res0pond to my email if so.

    Thanks for this website and blog. It”s been a big help. I didn’t think about bringing a yoga mat, etc. I also will make sure i know specific exercises for each muscle group. I am already teaching so it’s super important for me to pass this!
    Good luck everyone,

  12. I took the Group Instructor test Sept 10th and agree with most of what has already been said – it was a very long and to me nerve racking day. I sort of had a plan for my cardio warm up, work out and cool down but changed it all when the presenter demostrated what she had in mind. I’m not an aerobics instructor so it was very awkward for me. As far as the strength movements and stretches go as has been said already you’ll need two exercises and a stretch – To me, the written exam wasn’t too bad. Study now don’t count on much spoon feeding on workshop day. Our presenter told us at the very beginning “if you haven’t studied the material there is absolutely nothing you can do now to help yourself on the written exam”. If you do well on the practice test you’ll do fine on the written exam. I read the material – filled out the study guide and took the practice test several times making sure that if I missed any I understood why and when I took the written I really didn’t run across anything that I had not seen before. I feel fairly confident about the whole thing ( except the cardio warm up) but when I left that day I honestly had no feeling whatsoever as to whether I passed or not. I’m sure they could fail pretty much every one if they wanted to considering all the things that are involved – form, alignment, content, intensity etc etc etc aall on top of nerves but I have to believe they are reasonable and if you demonstrate a good knowledge of the material and techniques that’s a pass- Now I wait.

  13. I took the primary group cert in December 2011 in Wisconsin. It was VERY nerve racking, and a long day. I got my results back about a week into Jan 2012- I passed the physical part, but got a 76% on the written part and now need to retake that for a fee if I want to. I have never been good at studying in HS- what are some tips for studying again to pass it? I’d love some more advice:)

    • I think reading the book really helps. I felt like the questions on the study guide and the questions on the test didn’t align well. If you just work straight from the study guide, I think you’ll miss a lot of topics they cover in the real exam. Other than that, maybe flash cards? I’d love to hear some readers chime in, too, with tips. πŸ™‚

  14. Thanks for writing this blog! It is VERY helpful! I’m going to Dallas for the APEX next weekend. I’m excited and nervous at the same time! I’m already instructing a few classes as a volunteer, so I feel fairly confident, but there is SO MUCH that goes into the test. You’re right, it’s no joke. Thanks for this info!

  15. I’m taking the AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification workshop and exam this Sunday. I’ve been wondering if I should have things prepared for the practical portion and this helped. You also helped me know what to expect for my Zumba license day. I’m grateful for your open sharing on your blog!

  16. Can you tell me which book they used?? There are different Fitness Theory and Practice books. I have one that is white with a red circle thing on the front that i used when getting certified to be a Jazzercise Instructor….wondering if there is a newer one??
    I have seen another white book online with alot of different people doing different exercises on front, and then a red book as well.
    Any help would be great!!

    • I’m not sure which book they’re using currently. Maybe it’s on the AFAA web site? It’s been a couple years since I took the exam, so it may have changed since I did it.

  17. Question….on the Group Cardio part….do we just pick 3 moves and repeat them thru the 3 min warm up??
    Then…..are we suppose to have it timed to 3 mins to go right into the Cardio segment, or do they tell us when?
    And then in that 5 min of Cardio are we suppose to start out low intensity and work up to high quickly and then come back down within that 5 min (again, timing it to make it correct??) and then go right into Cool down??
    It’s hard using just 3 moves to know how long to do each one and where to start bringing the heart rate down to go into the Cool Down.
    Any suggestions on WHAT moves you did, or how you counted them out ??
    I test on Saturday, and trying to eliminate these questions that I have to be better prepared.

    • Before the exam, they go over everything you need to know for all portions of the exam, including the group portion. They don’t tell you when you move from warm up to cardio to cool down, but I think there was a clock in the room where I did mine, so I tried to watch it. I just estimated. When they do the review prior to the exam, they allow you to ask questions, so if they don’t go over anything you’re wondering about, I’d ask then.

      For moves, I looked up general dance fitness videos on youtube, but they will give you ideas in the pre-exam review. They did a lot of step-touch, box-steps, and other basic cardio moves.

      Hope that helps! Good luck!

      Readers, feel free to chime in if you have any tips for Jacque!

  18. I took it Feb. 10 and just learned that I passed about two weeks ago. They will really go over everything with you– the main thing to do ahead of time is study the study guide well. I had the latest edition of Fitness: Theory and Practice (2010) and used it to fill out the study guide. You spend the whole morning reviewing.

    For the practical part of the exam, we did a group cardio first that was somewhere between 3-5 minutes but they told us when to take up the intensity – and they went over that with us in the morning as well, too. We didn’t actually do stretches to cool down, they just wanted you to bring the intensity back down again. That part wasn’t too tough.

    We had a 30 second solo demonstration, too, but you could lead people in a cardio move OR a strength move. Many of us went with easy things like push-ups – you had to introduce yourself, name the move, show a lower and higher intensity version (i.e. pushups on your knees), etc. Some did things like crunches, a salsa step or an aerobics move.

    The harder part for me was trying to remember a strength move for each muscle group – we went over those in the morning too, and then they told us what would be considered “unsafe” moves – but then in the afternoon test, they would shout out “Deltoids!” and we’d have to demonstrate 2 strength moves for the deltoids, plus a stretch. (We were doing those as a group too, and they were walking around looking at us). I think with this one it’s okay to look at what your neighbor is doing if your mind draws a blank.

  19. Hi Diane,

    Just want to say love your blog and all the info! Its so chic!! ;>

    3 questions for you or anyone that can help — thinking of taking test next month

    1. i believe you stretch for 1 min and warm up for 2 — is that correct or do you recall it just be all a warmup?
    2. once they ask you do increase intensity do you do it gradually or right away
    3. in the video it shows a woman increasing intensity with with jumping jacks..Just wondering low long is the high intensity — would you be doing jumping jacks (or moves like that) for 4 minutes … im a novice could i use higher intensity grapvines, V, leg lifts?

    Any commits from you guys would be appreciated!

    Thanks so much!!!

  20. I am looking into getting my primary group cert and after reading all these posts I gotta say Im a bit scared. I never taught group classes but would love to! I’m gonna go for it anyways, I wont know unless I try right? Love your site!!

  21. Hi Diana,

    I’m taking the group certification on Sept 14 in San diego. I’m really nervous about doing so. I have a question about the strength moves. Some moves are considered a multiple group strengh move…should I practice a move that is only specific to the muscle for example instead of doing a lunge should I do something specifically for the quad muscle group only. Also one of the group instructiors advised not to have practiced choreographed moved before the workshop. Do you think that is wise? I

    • Hi Michelle, I had the same question about the strength moves. I practiced all the ones I could find prior to the exam. At the exam, they’ll review each section before you actually do it, and they let you ask questions. I asked questions about all the moves I was unsure about – whether a multi-muscle move could count towards quads, etc. I found it best to find exercises and stretches that were specific to an individual muscle. Try to focus on those. Some are more difficult than others, but focus on the specific ones.

      As for the choreography. I think it’s smart to have your individual presentation practiced and choreographed. For the cardio/group fitness part, I had general moves in mind that I wanted to be able to pull from. I didn’t choreograph an entire “routine”, and I agree, that’s probably not a good idea. But, I did know what types of moves I wanted to do, and I switched them in and out as needed during that portion of the exam. So, I didn’t say, I’m going to do a grapevine into a box step, but I knew grapevines and box steps were a good general cardio moves. You will have to incorporate the moves at the appropriate times – no high impact during first portion (the AFAA presenters have a specific time for this), stretches near beginning, easier intensity up front working to higher intensity and back down as you cool down, etc. They’ll go over what they expect prior to the actual exam. Just have general moves in mind and know where they’d fit best (as far as intensity, impact, etc.).

      HTH πŸ™‚ Good luck!

      • Thanks, Diana,

        I have been studying for almost two months and now I’m really nervous because it’s getting closer. One more question when I get the results within 4-6 weeks…if I get a small envolope is it safe to say i filled vs getting a larger envelope?

        • Hi Michele! It sounds like you’ve done a great job preparing! As for the envelopes, unfortunately, I don’t remember what they looked like. Sorry! πŸ™ Good luck with the exam, though!

  22. Hi Diana!

    Loving your post on the APEX Group Fitness Workshop/testing! I’m taking the course this Sunday September 16th in Sacramento, CA and I;m super nervous! I have never done any type of instructing before but have taken tons of classes. I had a question about the strength moves. Did they provide you with a step or weights to use for the strength exercise portion of the group demonstrations? I am having a hard time coming up with 2 moves for each muscle without using weights!

    Thanks so much in advance! Your blog is super cute!!

    • Hi Stephanie! Unless they’ve changed it recently, we were told to *pretend* that we had weights. So, I did do some muscle moves (think bicep curl, french press, etc.) pretending I was holding weights. At the bigger certifications they can have hundreds of people, so I think it’s difficult for them to coordinate real weights, etc. lol πŸ˜› They do tell you to really pretend if you’re going to use “weights” – move your arm slowly, engage your muscle, etc. At least, that’s what I did. Good luck! πŸ™‚

  23. Hi Diana,

    I just finished the workshop Sept 14, 2012 it was not as bad as I thought. AFAA now has an online study group in which you can register and ask any questions regarding the study guide. You may take the online study groups as many times as you need prior to the day of the workshop. Although I’m extremely nervous about the results and will live in agony 4-6 weeks waiting for the results….I have to remember I did my best and would have no problem with restesting.

    I thought the practical was a little tough because I spent more time on the study guide. I also thought the written test was really easy because the examiner went over everthing we needed to know.

    How did you deal with waiting 4-6 weeeks? When AFAA sends the tests results are the areas broken down as for as the scoring?

    • Hey Michele! Thanks for the tips on the certification. Is the online study group somewhere where you can ask any question and a representative from AFAA will answer your question? Is there info about this on the AFAA web site somewhere? I’d love to have the link in a comment in case someone else uses this post. Or, I could possibly add it to an update to the post. πŸ™‚

      My results came faster than the estimate, I believe, but it may have been a fluke. lol. I was pretty nervous waiting for the results, but I think as you get busy with life you kind of get distracted. As for results, I don’t think it tells you any break down info on the practical, but I believe it tells you how many questions you missed on the written. I think they just say pass or fail for the practicals. Do any other readers remember? Of course, it’s been 3 years since I did my AFAA, so things may have changed! πŸ˜‰

      Good luck! *fingers crossed for you*

  24. Hi Diana,
    AFAA sends you an email inviting you to register for the study group two weeks prior to the workshop. The online study groups are given by an AFAA presenter. The website address is The online study group is something new AFAA is trying out do to the high anxiety/ stress levels of taking the test.

    If you get a really good study group presenter he/ she wll cover everything that the practical does not for example carbs gives the body the most energy etc. If you get a really good workshop presenter he/ she will cover everything you need to pass the written part as well.

    We used Primary Group Exercise Cert V4 and it tells you… you must receive a pass score in 9 out the 10 categories. Ok if you mess up on one of the areas you maybe given a non passing score in which they will send you a notice telling you the area in which you messed up according to the study guide. I’m tryiing to stay positive but it’s really hard.

  25. Thanks for sharing….I’ve got two instructors that need to get certified, and it will be nice for them to read on your experience. I’ve been an AFAA Group Fitness instructor for quite some time, and vaguely remember what it was like. I’m sure that they will appreciate all that you’ve done. Thanks

    • Excellent! I hope they find it helpful! The comments have some great info, too, especially about some recent changes around the online assistance. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

  26. I am studying for the Group X leader apex in Feb in Rancho Cordova, CA, and love the information you have laid out here. It helps me to visualize what the day will entail for me.
    Thank you so much, totally nervous.

  27. Hi, everything is going fine here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts, that’s really fine, keep up writing.

  28. Hi there, thank you for all the info thus far! I’m just getting started with the AFAA process of getting certified to teach Group classes and have a few questions. About how long did you study before you took the class/test? Im thinking a few months? Also, I just noticed there is a 5th Edition of the book Fitness Theory and Practice. I ordered the 4th Edition. Does anyone know the differences between the 2? Any help is much appreciated! Thanks!

    • I think I just studied a couple months. You could probably do it in 1 solid month if you had a lot of free time and could focus well. There’s just a lot of material in the book, plus you have to prepare for the practicals.

      Not sure about the difference in the book versions, but maybe someone else will chime in?

      Good luck! πŸ™‚

  29. hi thanks for sharing! I will be taking my exam in august, was wondering if anyone has the 5th edition book they would like to sell, lend, rent lol! thx!

  30. Thank you SO much for sharing all of this! I just got my books over the weekend and want to throw up. I’m SO nervous!! Random question…was there any newbies there? It sounds like most people had some sort of experience
    I am completely new. I have been working out for years and taking classes and such. I’m a SAHM just trying to do something I love and working out it is! I already feel itimidated!

    • Hi Stephanie, I think AFAA says somewhere in the materials that you’re supposed to have experience teaching group fitness prior to taking the exam. I only remember because I didn’t have any, myself! So, the majority will have experience, but there are others like us there, too. I think my lack of experience is part of the reason I felt so nervous, and I was also intimidated. But, I think as long as you prepare well, you’ll be okay sans experience. Just be sure to read through the materials and try to prepare for the practical portions of the exam, and you should be okay. Good luck! πŸ™‚

  31. Thanks for all the information about the Group Certification day. It was very helpful. I went this past weekend and was a little less nervous since I knew what to expect. We only had 6 people in the class so it was a different experience than I was expecting from that point of view. My tips are very similiar to yours: Fill out the study guide and read the chapters. A LOT is not on there but there are a few things not in the study guide that are. Definitely know all the muscles and what they do. This is not only good for the written but definitely for the practical. If you have a good instructor they really do walk you through almost everything you need to know so pay attention! Thanks again!

    • Hi Erika, Glad you found the post helpful! Thanks for sharing your tips, too. Good luck! Hope you get some good news on your exam soon! πŸ™‚

  32. I’m preparing for the certification test in July and have a question about the individual portion of the practical test. I want to demonstrate resistance training. Are you allowed to pretend that you are using equipment, such as bench, weights or ball? Or can you bring your own equipment to demonstrate proper use and have the others pretend that they are using the same?

    Great posts, thanks for sharing.

    • Actually, the same question applies to the group demonstrations. I’m finding that many of the exercises I’m familiar with (and ones I’m finding on the web) for strength training are best done using resistance equipment. Do I need to limit the demonstrations to using the body or floor only for resistance?

      • For the group demonstrations for strength training, (unless they’ve changed things) you were allowed to pretend you were lifting weights or using bands. I mostly remember using “weights” on biceps, triceps, and French curls. I think I used “resistance bands” on adductor and abductor exercises. But, I’m sure there are many more you could use “equipment” on. πŸ™‚ Hope this helps!

    • For the individual, I don’t remember anyone pretending to use equipment. Most people did push-ups and other basic exercises. Hopefully someone else will weigh in, but if not, I’d prepare 2 individuals – 1 with the “equipment” and 1 without. There’s a portion near the beginning where you can ask questions like if you can use pretend equipment. If you do the smaller group, it will be even easier to get this answered.

  33. Hi!
    Thanks so much for the write-up! So helpful. How much time do you think a person should take to practice and study for the workshop? Is this a 1-month, 2-month, 3-month, etc type of training regimen?


    • Hi Martina! It depends on your study personality. I know some people who only studied the couple weeks before (not recommended!) and some who spent more like 3-4. Personally, I’d start as early as possible. It would always be better to be in the position of just reviewing stuff closer to the exam date than trying to cram things in last minute. πŸ˜‰

  34. Is there an app or audible version of the fitness theory & practice book(5th edition)? I was hoping to find one so it would be easier to listen to in the car.

  35. Thank you SO much for taking the time to post this. It was very helpful. I am taking mine in May 2014 and like you, I teach Zumba. I also eat clean! I plan to (after PGE is over) to work on getting my personal trainer certification. I’ve been wanting to do the Group X for a while now but lacked the time and personally, was a little scared of it. This calmed those fears down!

  36. Awesome write up as well. The write up puts me at ease a little knowing more about the class. I plan on taking my cert this April and kinda nervouse. See 3 years ago I left a stressfull job as well as a 6 figure salary and started hitting the gym with a personal trainer and getting back on track. I never imagined the results ,not only physicaly but mentally. I no longer make the money I once did but the WEALTH I gained in HEALTH out weighs everything I earned in the past. With that said my goal is to make a difference in others life and thats led me to AFFA. Also if there is anyone in my area(Ocala Fl) having a study group for the upcoming test in Tampa Fl (USF) location let me know. Thanks again for the write up

  37. Hi,
    I took the group fitness workshop in Sept 2014. I followed your tips and it really help. Unfortunately I did not pass the Verbal Instruction portion(counting too much) /Modification (no less intense modification) piece received 2 in both sections. So disappointing as I discussed and demonstrated what I would be doing for that portion with the site instruction……..My suggestion for the practical portion is to make sure when you demonstrate what you are doing with the Instructor and remind them at the close they approved what you did.
    Thank You!

    • Hi Renee, Was this for the individual presentation or the group practical? The individual one made me the most nervous. I actually meant to do a separate post on individual presentation tips with more info there.

  38. Great post! I’ve been waiting over 6 weeks for my primary group fitness exam results and still haven’t heard anything. I’m getting antsy because they said 4-6 weeks, and we’ve gone well past that now- this is a long waiting period, especially if I have to retake any part of it. Next time I think I will do online!


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