Passing The Gym Instructor Assessment: 15 Super Actionable Tips

Passing your level 2 fitness instructor practical assessment is not too difficult and fortunately for you, I can make it even easier by giving you a ton of tips that’ll help you pass.

In today’s article, I will be listing out all of my top tips and techniques to making passing your level 2 gym instruction practical exam so easy you’ll barely even realise you are doing it.

Sound good?

Let’s go…

tips to pass your gym instructor practical assessment

So before we even start this article, if you are looking for tips on how to pass the level 2 gym instructor assessment, you may be wondering if it is difficult to pass in the first place.

Great news!

Now let’s get into the meat of the article and start giving you those gym instructor practical assessment tips you’re after. They are listed in no particular order, they are all pretty important and super useful to know.

1. Practise beforehand

Ok, so you may have walked into a few exams in your past without doing the revision you promised your teacher you would do, and you probably found out that you didn’t quite get the grade you wanted, right?

Now is not the time to be walking into exams without practicing, and just because no one in your level 2 training course has advised you to practice with your friends and family, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

You’ve gone through all your training, you have written up the program card for the session and you have picked your partner for the session. So why not grab them (or ask them nicely), and take them to a local gym with you, pay for a guest pass, and run through the program a few times?

I guarantee that you will still feel a little nervous on the actual day of your exam, but if you have already gone through the whole thing several times before, you will be in a much stronger position to pass than a lot of the people on your course that didn’t bother or didn’t have the opportunity to practice with someone.

2. Keep your exercises simple

Women performing lat pulldown in a gym

Your examiner will not be looking for you to be instructing your clients on the perfect Turkish getup (complicated kettlebell exercise), so why make things difficult for yourself?

Keep your exercises nice and simple so that you can feel confident that you are instructing them correctly.

All they really care about is whether or not your trainee is performing the exercise safely and effectively, not how complicated the movement is.

As a side note, the programs you are designing are supposed to be for the gym members to use themselves without further instruction, so you may in fact be shooting yourself in the foot by trying to instruct complicated movements.

Examples of simple exercises would be:

  • Machine chest press
  • Leg press machine
  • Shoulder press machine
  • Lat pulldowns
  • Db biceps curls
  • Rope triceps extensions

That’s a nice example of a pretty simple workout that’s easy to instruct and you can’t really go too far wrong with.

Some examiners will request that you teach at least one complicated movement such as a deadlift, but we will tackle that in the next tip.

3. Practise your weaker points

There may be some movements in your practical exam that you could struggle with (complicated movements like deadlifts for example). You will know the date of your practical exam, so after running through the exam either on your own or whilst practicing with a family member, write down your weaker points.

Note down any times that you forgot what you needed to say or you couldn’t find an adjustable point in the machine you were using.

Keep practicing the teaching points of the exercises you are struggling with and make sure you are comfortable with all the adjustment points of each machine so you don’t need to worry about forgetting where it is on the day of your practical exam.

4. Don’t “overteach”

two men solving a complicated equation

You’re trying to impress the examiner because you really want to pass your practical exam.

I totally get that, but the thing is, it won’t help if you are going way over the top when explaining exercises to your trainee.

Keep things as simple as you possibly can whilst not missing out on important details.

All the examiner is looking for is that you can teach the exercise in a way that the trainee understands so they can perform the exercise safely and they will be able to complete the movement on their own.

It may be tempting to start explaining in intricate detail how the exercise you have prescribed works. Every stabilizing muscle, the Latin names of the muscles being used, etc. You don’t need to do this at all.

It won’t help you in the exam, and it will make you far more likely to get flustered and forget to explain the important factors the examiner actually does want to hear.

5. Watch your timings!

person looking at their watch

You’re going to have a stopwatch with you, or at least be using your stopwatch on your phone to time the rest periods between your trainees’ sets.

Don’t forget to use it regularly to check your timings.

You will be amazed at how quickly time flies during a session. It’s very easy to find yourself deep into a conversation between sets with your trainee only to find out that five minutes have passed and your examiner has been watching you chat the whole time.

You usually have around 45 minutes for the actual practical portion of your exam, so do not waste too much time by forgetting to look at your watch every now and then. It’s a really useful skill to pick up because you will definitely need to do this when you are a qualified instructor.

You really don’t want to be in the position where you have another two sets to go on your deadlifts and you see the gym floor emptying out with all the other trainers stretching their trainees and realizing you should be also.

6. Ask questions if you need to

I get kind of shy sometimes, so I understand the feeling that comes over some people when they hear the examiner ask if anyone has any questions at the end of the briefing.

The tendency is for the whole class to remain completely silent. However, if you have a question.

Ask it!

Forget everyone else in the room, this is your exam and if there is something that you are unclear about that may help you to pass the exam if you have more clarity on it, ask!

How silly are you going to feel if you have a question, but don’t ask it because you are too embarrassed, but then fail as a result of not understanding something you had the opportunity to clarify before the exam even started?

7. Forget that you know the person you are training

So that you have someone to train on exam day, your training provider will have asked you to find a person that you know to take to the gym with you to act as your training partner.

The person you choose will almost certainly be one of your friends or family.

This can be a blessing and a curse sometimes.

When you are training someone you know, there is the chance that you might feel a little silly talking to them in a professional way and acting as if you have only just met them that day.

I trained my brother for my exam, so I know that when you are training a family member as if they are a complete stranger, it feels really strange and this can sometimes throw you off your game a little.

The tip here is to treat this person as they are a complete and utter stranger!

Your passing the exam actually may rest on you being able to do this.

8. Do some deep breathing before the exam

man taking deep breaths

Unless you are one of those naturally super confident people (man I’m jealous of you guys), then you will probably feel pretty nervous going into your exam.

This is totally normal and doesn’t mean you aren’t ready by any means at all, it’s just because you are excited about it finally taking place.

A really effective way of calming yourself down is to take a seat and spend just five minutes before your exam practicing some deep breathing techniques.

They will very quickly take you out of your fight or flight response and move into the rest and digest system which is much easier to work within an exam situation.

I won’t go through the ins and outs of deep breathing (pardon the pun) so I’ll put a link to a great video explaining exactly how to do it below.

9. Make your programme card a “cheat sheet”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with adding teaching points to the program card you will be using that day to help you remember important points.

You can add notes about what you should be asking your client upon meeting them:

  • How are you feeling today?
  • Are you fully hydrated?
  • Have there been any injuries since we last spoke?
  • Do you have any questions for me before we begin?

There are also certain exercises where you need to make sure that you give the correct instruction or an injury could occur, so why not write up a few little teaching points next to these exercises so that you don’t have to rely on your memory during a time you’re stressed out and nervous.

Don’t worry about writing on your program card, I am very confident that it isn’t considered cheating in any way, but if you are still uncertain about this, there is no harm in asking your training provider if this is ok.

I would be seriously surprised if there is because I actually think it’s an excellent thing to do.

10. Don’t try to push your trainee too hard

Even if you are super excited about actually being able to get someone in the gym and start training them, please remember that this is just an exam to make sure you know what you are doing and that you are safe.

Your buddy that you took to the gym probably didn’t sign up for getting completely destroyed in the gym on a Saturday morning, so don’t feel like they are on an episode of the biggest loser and you need to be screaming at them to get them PB’s on every exercise.

That’s really more of a personal training thing too, so remember that this exam is to see how well you conduct yourself as a gym instructor, which is a very different role.

Keep calm, make sure that your trainee is exercising safely and try to keep the screaming to a minimum.

11. Make sure your trainee understands what they are doing

A big factor that your examiner will be looking for is that your trainee understands what they are doing and why they are doing it.

After each time you demonstrate an exercise, ask them if they are ok with the movement and if they understand why they are doing it.

It may get a little frustrating asking your trainee questions constantly through your session, but remember that you are teaching a person a new skill.

Teachers in school would always ask the class if they understood what has been taught and if anyone has any questions, you are now in a teaching position, so you should be no different.

12. Don’t overdo the warmup

Gym instructor level 2 practical exam, dont push your trainee too hard

Much as you don’t want to be destroying your trainee on each exercise they perform, you really don’t want to exhaust them during the warmup section of the program.

If they are gasping for breath whilst you are trying to explain the first exercise to them, they won’t be paying full attention, so may misunderstand your teaching points and get the movement wrong.

Even worse, if they misunderstand something you have said, they could possibly injure themselves, and this would certainly not help your chances of passing the exam.

Make sure you talk to your trainee during the warmup so that you can ensure they are warmed to the point of being ready to start the session, but you are not pushing them too hard.

Ask them to rate their level of exertion between 1-10, they should be at around 7-8, maximum! Any more than that and you are getting into a proper cardio session, which is not your intention.

If this happens, just slow things down a bit and let them catch their breath before you start instructing the first exercise.

13. You are allowed to relax

Much as I have said you need to pretend that your trainee is someone you have never met before and you need to act professionally around them, doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun at the same time.

Casually chatting to your trainee during their rest periods and making a few jokes here and there will really help to relax the two of you during your training.

It’s actually really good practice for you too, because when working as a full-time gym instructor or personal trainer, this is something that you will be doing day in day out, so you might as well start getting used to it.

The key is to not overdo it, keep it fun but not overly casual. Treat them as a member of the gym that you are training, but you don’t need to be boring and rigid to do this.

Have a little fun with it, and try to enjoy your session.

14. Don’t rush!

I know that I said that you need to check your timings during your session, and you really do. However, please don’t mistake this for thinking I am saying you need to rush things.

Keep an eye on your timings, but don’t start to panic if it looks like you are running over a little.

Maybe just cut the next set a few reps short or move on to the next exercise. If you start to rush your explanations and teaching, you may miss important points that your examiner is looking for and you risk losing out on marks that you otherwise would have achieved if you have taken your time and explained things in a calm and collected manner.

If you have never taken a full session before, I really cannot emphasize enough just how quickly time will pass, this is why I seriously suggest you get some practice in before your actual exam.

This will hopefully minimize the panic you will feel during the exam and stop you from rushing around nervously.

15. Move around!

This is a big one!

Please, don’t just stand in one spot the whole time you are instructing your trainee, that is certainly not what your examiner is looking for.

There is no way that you can properly assess whether or not your trainee is performing the movements correctly if you are standing and looking at them from one point of view the whole time.

Make sure the examiner can clearly see that during your trainees’ sets, you are moving around and fully assessing how they are performing the movements in 365 degrees. You don’t have to overdo it of course, but just make it clear that you can see what’s going on.


So there you have it, 15 actionable tips that will genuinely help you pass your gym instructor practical exam and become a super successful gym instructor.

I know these will work for you because remember, I have actually done this. I’ve taken and passed both my gym instructor and personal training exams, so I am well aware of what the examiners are looking for, and this is it.

It’s not crazily hard to pass the exam, but if you are feeling nervous, these tips should help you calm down a little and make it much easier for you to pass so you can get out on that gym floor and start helping people.

I am completely confident that you will be able to pass your exam, and I wish you all the best with it and a fantastic career in fitness after.

Go get ’em!

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Chris Walker

Chris Walker worked in the City of London as a fully qualified REP's level three personal trainer for just under ten years. He built and maintained a client base of 40 individuals and worked with several high profile clients, including actors, actresses, comedians and politicians.

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