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Certification – Frequently Asked Questions – National Physical Activity Society missionNational Physical Activity Society

Certification – Frequently Asked Questions

Certification FAQs: Exam Details and Registration

PAPHS Specialty Certification Exam

NPAS/ACSM certification as a Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS) means you’re uniquely qualified to work with a variety of people in a public health setting.  Certified professionals can effectively plan, implement, and evaluate population based physical activity.

Why should I take the exam?

You’ll be certified by the organizations that are leading the way in making physical activity good medicine! There are a number of benefits to being certified. NPAS’s voluntary professional certification program establishes a national standard for individual physical activity practitioners who are focusing their efforts in public health. It differs from state and local certifications and registries in that the requirements do not vary from one locale to another. National certification benefits practitioners and the public in that it:

  • Attests to the individual’s knowledge and skills
  • Establishes a national standard
  • Promotes continued professional development
  • Assists employers in identifying qualified physical activity practitioners in the public health arena
  • Gives a sense of pride and accomplishment

What are the minimum requirements to take the exam?

  • A Bachelor’s Degree in a health related field* from a regionally accredited college or university


  • A Bachelor’s degree in any subject and 1,200 hours of experience in settings** working with individuals, groups, or populations promoting physical activity, healthy lifestyle management, or other health promotion.

*Examples: Exercise science; Exercise Physiology; Kinesiology; Physical Education; Sports Management; Athletic Training; Recreation; Nutrition; Health Education; Health Promotion; Public Health; Community Health; and Health Care Administration.

**Examples: Education; Community Center; Worksite Health Promotion; Community Health, Health Education, or Health Promotion; Federal, State, or Local Government, Health Care or Health Plan; Academia or University; Non-profit Organization; Parks and Recreation; and Fitness Center.

When and Where is the exam available?

The exam is currently available on-demand, with immediate results at over 4,300 locations through PearsonVUE authorized testing centers. Candidates may pick the date, time, and location of their exam.

How can I register for the exam?

What should I expect when taking the ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist examination?

A body of knowledge delineated into Job Tasks and Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) has been developed specifically for the ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist by subject matter experts (SMEs). The SMEs developed the Job Tasks and KSAs specifically for professionals working in public health at the national, state, and/or local level.

The examination has approximately 100-125 multiple choice questions drawn from the KSAs for the ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist. It includes “trial” questions that are being tested for use in future examinations. These trial questions are randomly distributed throughout the exam and will not be counted in the final results.

You will not be allowed to bring any materials or equipment into the examination area. There are no calculations on the exam.

How long is the exam?

Exam Time: 150 minutes (2.5 hours)

Total Exam Seat Time: 170 minutes (2 hours, 50 minutes); includes eligibility verification, a tutorial and a non-disclosure agreement prior to exam, then a 10-minute comment period following the exam (not required).

What are the recommended study materials? How can I find them?

A list of recommended materials can be found at the PAPHS site.

How is the PAPHS certification different from the other ACSM certifications?

Current ACSM certifications primarily address working with individuals or small groups.

The PAPHS certification is for professionals desiring to work in a public health setting at the national, state and/or local level.

Does the PAPHS certification qualify me to practice in the capacity of other ACSM certifications?

The PAPHS certification is intended for professionals to support programs in a public health setting. To practice in the capacity of other ACSM certifications, that specific certification is required.

What will the exam cost?

$195 for eligible candidates and $150 for ACSM Certified Professionals or NPAS Members. The cost of the re-test is $125. To receive the ACSM Certified Professional or NPAS Membership discount, e-mail

After completing the exam, when will I receive my results?

You will receive your results immediately upon completion of the exam in a printed score report. The score report will include your scaled score out of 800 and the percent that you answered correctly in each competency. If you pass, a certificate will be sent to you in 6-8 weeks.

If I do not pass the exam, how quickly can I take a re-test?

Re-test candidates will receive a re-test promotional code (promocode) on the results printout. You may retake the exam 15 days following your initial exam and every 15 days following until a passing score is achieved.

Is the ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist examination available internationally?

Yes, the ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist exam will be available in English at any Pearson VUE authorized testing center worldwide. Please visit for international testing centers.

What is the passing score for the ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist exam?

The passing score for all ACSM certification exams is set in advance and applied to all candidates’ exam results. Similar to exam scoring for a wide variety of other high stakes, national standardized exams (e.g., GRE, SAT, GMAT, etc.), ACSM certification exams are reported on a 200-800 score scale.

Specifically, all candidates are expected to meet the passing standard of a scaled score of 550 in order to receive a “Pass” on any respective ACSM certification exam. This passing standard is based upon the expectations of the subject matter experts/test developers across all topics of the competency areas, as related to each respective credential’s examination blueprint. Passing candidates are expected to answer a sufficient number of test questions correctly that demonstrates a summative amount of knowledge at a level of at least minimal competency or the lowest acceptable score to pass the exam.

Finally, each content area is weighted proportionally, based on the results of a periodic comprehensive job task analysis/role delineation study. In other words, some content areas are more important (thus, have more questions) and count more with respect to the overall score than other content areas. On the score report, candidates receive their overall score, their pass/fail status, as well as a breakdown by each specific content area (either by a percentage or a sub-section scale score, respectively).