Exam Creation and Statistics

The current AAPTE CPT-EFS examination and item construction and validation are charged to the exam committee made up of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) voted on and approved by the AAPTE CAB for these tasks. The purpose of the committee is to modify the exam content to keep up with trends as identified in the job analysis, industry best practices and to continue to protect the integrity of the exam over time.

From time to time, it will be necessary to modify item based upon recommendations by the CAB, SME, changes in industry recommendations and best practices. The SMEs will be responsible for reviewing these items to confirm their validity. 

The SME Committee for task item creation and revision is charged with meeting at least once each year in person, or more frequently, as necessary and shall communicate via email or other means to discuss tasks related to item review and creation.

Item Bank and Practice Items
In order to be able to continue to update the certification exam and protect its integrity and keep the content current, it maintains an item bank of calibrated items that may be added to future examinations. These items have been submitted via processes described in this document and are eligible to be included on future exams. Items may also become practice items for use in assisting candidates to better understand the types of exam items and content that are being tested. These items that are designated as practice items will not be used in the certification exam.

Items are being created for the inclusion of an item bank, or additional items that have been tested and reviewed in a standard-setting, as well as practice items (ex: study guide) for candidates, to practice and better understand the types of items that may be presented on a certification examination. Practice items will not be included in the item bank or certification examination.

Exam Development and Specifications
The content for the AAPTE CPT EFS exam will be determined based on the results of a content outline developed from the job analysis study. All AAPTE examinations are developed using the following method guided by NCCA standards and facilitated by the psychometrician, AAPTE SME committee, and CAB.

Certification Exam Job Task Analysis
A job task analysis study is facilitated and guided by a psychometrician leading the SMEs in a discussion to understand specific job tasks and responsibilities, the scope of performance, knowledge, and skill required of the entry-level personal trainer to perform their job effectively. These studies serve as a reference point in determining subject matter domains and performance tasks for the certification exam.

1.  Validation Study: A survey is conducted to determine the validity of the job analysis.  The survey is emailed to personal trainer professionals who currently hold or have held the certification.

2.  Item Writing and Review: The same committee of SMEs writes new and reviews existing items for the exam that are derived from referenced texts and documents. Once complete, the item enters a field testing process for psychometric analysis. 

3.  Field Testing New Items: See Introducing Items into the Certification Exam for further information on field testing each item that must be validated by a three-step process.

a.  Initial item reviewed by SMEs.

b.  It is then added to the item bank as a new item and then field-tested and analyzed.

c.  After psychometric analysis, the SMEs meet to review all of the field-tested items which the psychometrician has reviewed, flagged and noted those that need attention.

4.  Exam Assembly: The items are reviewed, selected and approved by the SME committee.

5.  Standard Setting: The standard for passing the examination is determined through the Objective Standard Setting process. All items from the current form of the examination will be reviewed by each member of the exam committee and an individual exercise will determine if the subject matter covered by each item is essential as a core piece of knowledge required to perform the duties of a personal trainer. Once that exercise is complete, the psychometrician will complete the analysis and present the SMEs with some pass point options to consider. The SMEs will choose the passing standard which best suits the needs of the examination.

6. Exam evaluation: The examination is evaluated and analyzed annually to help maintain examination integrity and is discussed at the annual SME meeting in great detail. The psychometrician will give a detailed presentation of the examination’s performance. If item analysis by the psychometrician shows unusual performance in any item, they are flagged and will be reviewed by the SMEs and they will either edit, keep or remove the item.

Introducing Items into the Certification Exam
The AAPTE CAB has set a goal of modifying 20% of the exam items for every 1000 examinees but reserves the right to change items more or less frequently, depending upon the needs of the exam.

Items will be drawn from an item bank and provided as additional or substitute items for future certification exams. Only appropriate numbers of additional items will be tested on any given exam in order to not interfere with time for examinees to complete the examination currently in use.

Each item that is to become part of the actual exam must be field-tested. Field testing takes newly written and untested items and adds them to the exam and they are presented to examinees without their knowing which items are scored or unscored. Field-tested items are unscored and not counted towards the candidate’s score. Live field testing of new items is the best way to test the validity of new items.

Once a year, all field-tested items are psychometrically analyzed and poorly performing items are flagged for review by the SMEs. Items performing acceptably are then added to the item bank as being available for being used on the certification examination as scored items.


Form Name Total # of candidates
tested on this exam form
% of
Candidates Passing
Raw Score
Passing Point
Raw Score
Raw Score
Standard Deviation
Raw Score
Standard Error
Separation Reliability
Separation Reliability
# of Scored Items
2018 178 62.9% 80 83.09 14.0 1.05 .90 .97 115
2017 163 57.7% 80 80.7 12.9 4.30 .86 (.71) .89 115 scored

Pass rates for AAPTE exams

The Chart below represents the year, total number of exams given for that year, number of newly certified, number of AAPTE currently certified, yearly pass percentage per exam form for that year and recently added in 2017 is the total percentage of candidates that took and passed the certification examination. The difference between pass percent per exam form and pass percent total candidate is, the exam form percent includes all exam attempts which will include candidates that took several attempts to pass the examination. The total candidate pass percentage is the percentage of candidates that passed exclusively of their number of attempts.


Total Exams Given


Total Number of Certified

Pass percent per exam form

Pass percentage from total number of candidates