I did the self study package (the $699 one). The one with the book, flash cards, and online material. Basically, I just went through the book (read once, skimmed the next will writing notes), wrote notes, and did the practice test. Was able to pass on the first try. A lot of people said they didn’t. However, if you sit down and read for understanding and not memorization then you should be fine. They give you a lot of time to prepare for the test (I think 6 months). So, don’t feel like you have to rush to get it done. Use all the time you will need.
I decided to do ACSM’s self study because it was affordable and I liked the video lectures. The lectures are available to you for up to 6 months while you study and prepare for the exam. I found it helpful to listen to each lecture once then go back and listen to them again but taking notes the second time. I studied from the book and the lecture notes before taking the exam. I passed the first time with a very good grade. Everyone learns differently. But if pricing is an issue for you, check out other options. ACE, AFAA, ACSM are all good options and much more affordable.
I went with the whole APTE package. It’s crazy expensive but I definitely feel it was worth it. After I passed the exam, they placed me in a local gym for the Associate Personal Training Experience. I learned a lot and I’m glad I did it. The Personal Fitness workshop was helpful as well. You can always go with one of the less expensive packages and add stuff on later if you feel you need it. I would recommend doing the eTeach course, however. It keeps you accountable and you also get a guarantee for passing the exam and I think a job guarantee as well. They do have occasional sales so you might want to wait instead of paying full price. Just sign up for their email newsletter and they will send you their promotions. They also have payment plans to make it a little easier.
I guess it depends on how you learn the best. I bought the “whole nine yards” package for my ACE personal trainer exam, but as it turned out, I only used the book (read it cover to cover) and wrote in my answers to the study guide, then made my own flash cards. I didn’t need all the extra stuff I paid for.
The prices for NASM must have gone up. 3 years ago, I think I paid about $800 for my materials, but I didn’t get the biggest package this time. One of my friends got an option that included just the book and a couple of practice tests. Then she used an app for her phone. Whenever she had down time, she answered the questions on the app. She passed with flying colors.