In 2020 I became a yoga teacher. I did a ton of yoga during the early parts of the pandemic and after a (lack of) promotion situation at my day job I wanted to focus my time and attention on a project that was strictly fun. I did my research, and while many Yoga Teacher Trainings are $3000+ in normal in-person times, the transition to online training and certification resulted in a more affordable training opportunity. Fast forward to 2021 and 2022, my love of group fitness has only grown as I observed my peers at the local YMCA teach a ton of different group fitness formats from HIIT to spin, kickboxing, strength training, barre and more. Yoga teachers are typically pure play given their training is done under the Yoga Alliance standards for 200Hr trainings, and group exercise is a completely different governing body with a wider range of options.

Why get a formal Group Fitness Instructor Certification (GFI) if you’re already a yoga teacher and have a Cycling Certification?

Flexibility. While the YMCA hired me as just a yoga teacher via Yoga Alliance, a lot of gyms or boutique fitness studios require you to have a GFI in addition to specializations. It also gives me the opportunity to teach more formats. GFI serves as the entry point for many format specializations, providing a baseline knowledge of the body, safe movement, and kinesiology 101. If I want to teach formats in other locations in the future, a GFI is likely required.

Why AFAA compared to ACE or other governing bodies?

Price, and not just the short-term cost of getting certified, but the ongoing recertification process. I had to weigh my desire to retain certification for at least 6 years (the cost of a Recertify for Life at $299) versus doing the normal recertification process every 2 years ($99 each time). AFAA/NASM offer a recertify for life option, however ACE does not. With the merge of NASM / AFAA I can use the recertify for life for a future Personal Trainer certification if I so choose as well. Financially, if I want to stick with it long term, AFAA is better financial move.

When reflecting on what I want to be when I grow up (does anyone know?) being a group fitness instructor of some sort will likely still sound fun and engaging years down the road. I also have a natural interest in fitness, health and how the body works. Even if not actively serving as a group exercise instructor, the process of learning and keeping up with continuing education credits is enough of a value proposition for me to pursue it.

How did you study for the AFAA GFI Exam?

The exam blueprint lays out the different topics covered in the exam, but from what I have uncovered on Facebook study groups and perusing the internet like you might be doing yourself, they focus a lot on the human movement system (chapter 3) and teaching multi-training and exercise technique (chapter 6). I have a genuine interest in the content, so I also wanted to get my money’s worth on the course by going through it.

My approach as follows:

  • Complete the course and chapter quizzes
  • Read the textbook and appendices
  • Read the study guide
  • Practice the domain quizzes
  • Take the practice exams
  • Make my own cheat sheet of topics I was unfamiliar with and re-read each night leading up to the exam

That sounds like a ridiculous amount, I understand. The course you can knockout in 2-3 days since it is a bunch of videos to get you introduced to the material. I took 1-2 weeks reading the textbook and appendices a little bit each evening on my iPad. I spent another week taking quizzes, practice tests and familiarizing myself with the study guide. Once I had the information logged in my brain, I created my own version of a study guide just for concepts that were more challenging and reviewed that document leading up to the test. I took time to memorize the progressions and regressions for exercise movements and that was the majority of my personal cheat sheet / study guide.

I purchased the course on 12/27/21 and took my test (after 3 delays due to tech issues) on 2/8/22. That is 6 weeks of preparation and I could have likely been fine taking it in 4 weeks. I hate to say it, but reading the textbook was likely the most impactful and helpful study tool. Take 20 minutes to read it before bed each night and you can knock it out quickly.

If only it qualified me to be a surf instructor!

How hard is it to pass AFAA’s GFI Exam?

According to AFAA’s website, there is a 61% pass rate. When I came across this statistic, I was taken aback. In my mind this shouldn’t be that hard of an exam… I’ve taken the SAT, ACT, and plenty of exams throughout college and I thought that had better overall success rates. Technically ACE has a higher pass rate, but again thinking long term, AFAA made the most sense.

AFAA states that the questions are largely objective not subjective, and usually have 1 outlier and 3 potential answers. Although you have 2 hours to complete 120 questions, I was able to finish in 35 minutes and pass on the first time. I’d agree largely that they are objective questions with the qualifier that there are inconsistencies between the test, textbook, online course and study guide. This is likely due to the textbook getting updated every year or two and the test and study guide lagging. There were instances where a test question was not covered in the textbook at all. If the textbook serves as the ultimate source of truth, that can be problematic.

The test is challenging for anyone who went in blind, but if you read the book, practice all the quizzes and tests, you will likely pass. There isn’t a shortcut to learning and applying the information in the course. At least not one that I have found!

Parting Thoughts

The content is interesting to me, so I went deeper into studying than likely many other people. A bit of feedback for AFAA – scheduling the online exam should be so much easier than it is. The vendor they use ProctorU is pretty bad, so hopefully in the coming years they will work through the virtual proctoring kinks and create a better experience for the test taker. I tried three times to take my test through them and then eventually gave up and opted for the in-person exam. That is how bad it was.

An interesting strategy I heard some folks talking about on Facebook or Reddit, was to buy the two-test package, take the test immediately, then go through the course/textbook and study parts you were tested on before re-taking it. For me, I wanted to pass it on the first time and not pay the premium for two tests. If you are willing to spend a little more, it would be a very advantageous route to go.

I’ve heard that becoming a Certified Personal Trainer is a lot more challenging, so if you are coming from a CPT to GFI, you will likely have no problem passing the exam.

Have you done your group fitness instructor certification? Was your experience similar?

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Posted by:Allie

2 replies on “How Hard is AFAA’s Group Fitness Instructor (GFI) Certification? Tips to Pass the First Time

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