Ace Certification Exam Young healthy woman training on treadmill with her instructor in the gym

Is the ACE Certified Health Coach exam hard?

Becoming an American Council of Exercise (ACE) certified health coach is a goal that many people hope to achieve. However, when they decide to take the test, they’re met with questions of how difficult the test is, how much time it will take them, and what they can do to improve their passing odds.

Each exam’s difficulty will vary slightly based on the assortment of questions, but you will always receive a three-hour allotment for the test. The test comprises 150 questions, of which you need to answer about 90 correct. You can expect to commit approximately 100 hours of study time.

Throughout this article, we will discuss what you can expect from the test and whether it’s difficult. Continue reading for the tips you need to make your experience with the ACE exam more successful.

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How Long Does It Take to Study for the ACE Personal Trainer Exam?

How long the test takes to study for, of course, depends on each individual. If you decided to get your health coach certification online or in an institution, you can expect to study for roughly 100 hours over four months as a baseline. Once you set your appointment to take your exam, you’ll have 3 hours of testing time allotted, which will cover 150 questions.

Once you pay for your exam, you’ll have to register to take the test within six months. You don’t have to take the exam within those six months, but you will need to be signed up.

The large window between when you pay and when you have to take the test provides you ample time to study and be as prepared as possible.

Study Materials

Ace provides several different study tools that students can take advantage of to assist them in their pursuits. These additional training tools add a significant amount of money to the already relatively high cost of the exam itself.

The study materials provided are comprehensive, and when you take full advantage of them, you will have a higher likelihood of passing your exam on the first attempt.


Ace Fitness provides three different programs to help you study, the basic, the plus, and the advantage. All three programs have the $399.00 ACE certification exam included in their prices, which can be taken from home if you choose.

Basic: $649.00

Plus: $749.00

Advantage: $1,149.00

How the Three ACE Training Programs Differ

All three programs share a lot of the same primary components. As stated earlier, all three include the exam fee, as well as ACE University, practice tests, personal trainer textbook and accompanying study companion, and answers.

Think of ACE University as an actual College course.

  • It will take you through everything you need to know step by step.
  • Here you can track your progress and stay on course throughout your studying time.
  • You will also be provided with quizzes and videos to supplement your learning experience.
  • The textbook and the trainer study companion provide you with cases and activities to further your learning.

You will receive advantages from the Plus and Advantage plans over the Basic. Not only will you receive more practice tests, 2 and 4 respectively (as opposed to just 1), but also a program called Exercise Science 101. This program is an additional guide to help you learn anatomy which is so important and physiology.

With the Advantage program, you will also receive a dedicated team. This team provides you with a personal tutor and study plans. You also receive retake vouchers if you do happen to fail your attempt.

None of these courses are required; they just provide you with the most comprehensive information to make your test-taking experience a success.

Trying to study without a plan, or just through a textbook can be done but can be challenging. The structure and information you’ll find in these courses tailor specifically to help you succeed and with the exam information in mind.

What is a Passing Score for the ACE Personal Trainer Exam?

Of course, if you’re planning on taking the ACE exam, you’ll want to know the minimum requirements for a passing score.

The ACE exam requires that you achieve a 500 score out of 800 total available points. To achieve this score, you’ll have to answer approximately 90 out of the total 150 questions correctly.

This test is not based on a traditional 100% scale. It is instead based on a scaled score because some tests will inherently be more difficult than others.

On every exam, there are an additional 25 questions that act as potential questions for future exams. These questions don’t count against the participants if they get them wrong. Instead, they are experimental to see if adjudicators should implement them in the coming exams.

So, while test-takers still need to get 90 questions correct to pass, only 125 questions total that count on the exam. Of course, you won’t know which questions count and which don’t, so all questions need to be treated as if they matter.

But what happens if you don’t pass the exam on your first attempt?

The initial fee for taking the exam is relatively substantial, as mentioned above, so taking your first attempt seriously is crucial. However, if you struggle to pass on your first attempt, you can retake the test at a lower fee, $199.

This fee isn’t insignificant, so ensuring adequate preparation before retaking the test is essential. You can imagine how the costs can rise if you continue to fail to pass the exam.

If You Need to Retake the Exam

Another interesting note is that there isn’t a required waiting period before you can make another attempt, unlike many tests for certifications. For those who feel that they had a firm grasp on the information, they have the option to retake the test at the next available testing period immediately.

Some people may find it useful to further review their study materials to ensure that they are ready before investing in another attempt. If there was a section of the test that you noticed, your knowledge was significantly weaker; this will be a smart place to restart your studying.

Just remember that the test will look different than it did the first time you took it. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you review all aspects of information that could be on the test.

Is the ACE Exam Multiple Choice?

Knowing the types of questions you’ll find on the exam is almost as important as knowing the general information. Once you know the format of the problems, you’ll be able to prepare more efficiently than if you’re simply studying information.

So, what is the format of the questions on the ACE exam? The short answer is multiple choice. The complete answer is that there are three different forms of multiple-choice questions on the ACE exam.

Why is this distinction so vital to your success when preparing for this exam?

When some people hear multiple-choice, they may be under the assumption that they will only be required to remember facts. While this is true, merely remembering facts is only a portion of what you need.

Remembering just facts can create two problems.

  • First, just studying facts can lead you to learn by association. So, you are just learning that you can connect it to a specific answer when you see a particular word or phrase. This type of learning can be a great way to remember if you are retaining this information, but remembering it becomes meaningless if you don’t understand it.
  • Second, when you are focused on just the facts, you may miss some of the nuances of what you’re learning. You may be overlooking some causal factors if the straightforward answer is all you’re seeking to learn.

ACE Fitness  explains how the ACE exam combats some of these common learning retention errors that can occur.

The three different types of multiple-choice questions that you’ll receive are recall, application, and analysis.

1. The recall questions are similar to the ones that are described above. You’ll be required to memorize information and respond accordingly.

These questions are essential to assess your ability to recall important facts. However, as we have discussed, they also have their downfalls.

2. Application questions will test your ability to understand information and how you would apply it in the field. Through these questions, you build off the foundation you created by memorizing information and using it in a practical application.

These questions may also ask that you choose the answer that best fits the problem. There may be multiple answers that can be considered correct, but one that is better than the rest.

3. Analysis questions will require that you perform calculations based on the information provided. Once you are provided with a situation or data, you must interpret the data and provide the solution.

Analysis questions, coupled with application questions, require that you use the information you have learned and memorized to prove that you fully understand. Only through practical applications can you develop a deep understanding of information, beyond merely remembering facts. 


After passing the ACE exam, you can start to make money as a health coach! But your job studying doesn’t stop there.

With the ever-changing and evolving world of fitness, there are bound to be advancements in which you will have to stay abreast. Though you can take it upon yourself to keep up with some of the changing trends, ACE wants to ensure that anyone who wants to maintain their certifications must take official credits.

Every two years, you will need to complete 20 hours of continuing education credits (CECs). Completing these CECs will keep your certificate current so that you can continue your work as a personal trainer or start a health coaching business. Officially, you are completing 2.0 credits, earning 0.1 credit for each hour of study.

Several factors can influence the exam’s difficulty, but anyone can find success with the proper preparation. As with anything, if you hope to see success, you’ll need to work at it.

ACE provides prospective health coaches with all the tools they could need to become successful through their online University and the accompanying features. If you invest in one of the three programs that ACE offers, you will have access to the tools to help you succeed.

You can use the textbook and the accompanying study companion in conjunction with the course materials found in the University.

When you know that the questions are multiple-choice, it gives you a leg up, but that is only one aspect. You’ll not only need to remember facts but also the reasoning and application behind them.

Knowing how to prepare and access the appropriate tools properly can make it less intimidating and immeasurably easier to pass.