ACE Health Coach Certification Review

ACE Health Coach Certification Review

Are you interested in becoming a health coach? The ACE Health Coach Certification program offers cutting-edge training to prepare you for a successful career doing what you love… motivating people to make positive health and lifestyle choices! In the following ACE Health Coach Certification review, you’ll discover just how well they’ve stacked the deck.

What Is the ACE Health Coach Certification Program?

ACE Health Coach (American Council on Exercise) is a certification program that approaches health and wellbeing holistically, rather than through conventional diet and exercise. It’s designed to create true, lasting transformation for your clients through habit change.

The courses delve into several subjects, such as:

  • Motivational interviewing
  • Understanding change
  • Exploring values
  • Setting goals
  • Active listening

ACE’s program is based on what they call Awareness-Choice-Execution (ACE), a model that represents the cycles of behavioral change. It acts as a framework for candidates to recognize how behavior change occurs in phases. In this way, candidates learn to assess a client’s readiness to take on a new behavior. They can then offer strategies to align the approach with the client’s readiness for change.

ACE’s NCCA accreditation is recognized worldwide, which certifies individuals in a wide range of professions. To date, the NCCA has accredited approximately 330 programs in more than 130 organizations.

Credentialed ACE graduates are deemed well-educated, competent professionals. Having ACE certification gives you a competitive edge, as well as helping to increase your earning potential. At the latest count, eighty-five thousand certified professionals hold more than 90,000 ACE certifications.

ACE is currently offering $100 Off their health coach study programs with the code: GOACEHC . For more information, visit ACE Health Coach HERE.

Who Is the ACE Health Coach Certification Program For?

This program is for anyone passionate about helping people thrive, through holistic wellness and lasting habit change. Your central goal is to get to the root of problems and encourage lifestyle changes, rather than merely tackling symptoms.

The ACE Health Coach program suits someone who wants to help clients self-motivate, so they can eventually pursue a healthy lifestyle on their own, without the coach’s assistance.

What Does the ACE Health Coach Program Offer?

Considered among the best and most comprehensive health coaching programs available, ACE’s training is exceptionally thorough and quite prestigious.

Three Types of Programs

You can buy the exam as part of one of three self-paced, self-study programs. First is the Basic Program, which is designed for candidates who have extensive knowledge about health coaching principles or in-depth experience in healthcare. This program includes two ebooks and access to ACE Answers, their self-service resource center.

Next, is the Plus Program, which is geared toward candidates who have little to no knowledge of health coaching principles or experience in healthcare. It contains everything from the Basic Program, along with hard copy and audiobook versions of the textbook.

The newest course, Advantage Program, provides you with everything from the Plus Program, with the addition of Health Coach Live Classes and individualized support.

Comprehensive Textbook

The centerpiece of the ACE Fitness Health Coach program is the massive 800+-page textbook and accompanying workbook. Its contributors include fitness and industry experts such as behavioral psychologist Dr. Michael Mantell, award-winning personal trainer, Jonathan Ross, registered dietitian, Natalie Digate Muth, MD, and Dr. Jessica A. Matthews.

The textbook has 20 extremely detailed chapters dedicated to coach and client relationships, motivation, behavior change, nutrition, legalities, and more. It’s also packed with information about how to use behavioral psychology to help clients build new habits and hit their goals. The ACE textbook also contains an exam content outline.

ACE wants you to succeed. To this end, you’ll also have access to abundant educational resources, including worksheets, behavior contracts, articles, health forms, exam prep pointers, and even career information.

Guided Schedule

ACE will send you an in-depth email about which chapters you should read, in which order, although you’re free to study the materials in any way you’d like. You’re advised to read a chapter a week and then study it. Note, however, that you can’t simply count on rote memorization to pass the test. You need to apply your knowledge to real-life scenarios.

While reading the textbook, ACE recommends you follow along with the workbook they provide. If it’s more convenient, you can opt for the workbook’s e-version to access via iPad or e-reader.

One-On-One Support

One of ACE’s most helpful resources is its ACE Academy, which gives you one-on-one access, via phone or email, to an ACE Health Coach expert. They can guide you through the manual and answer any questions you have.

ACE Academy also provides practice exams, which help you become better prepared for the certification test, as well as weekly email courses. The Academy also includes:

  • Video lectures
  • ACE in Action: video coaching sessions
  • ACE in Action: audio coaching sessions
  • Knowledge checks
  • Quizzes
  • Practice tests
  • The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching audiobook

How Long Does It Take to Complete the Program?

ACE’s program is self-paced, and you’re allotted six months to prepare for the exam. However, it typically takes about 80 to 100 hours of study over a three to four-month period.

What Are the Requirements to Enroll?

ACE holds applicants to high standards for enrollment:

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must hold an up-to-date CPR/AED certificate. This includes a live skills assessment.
  • You must provide proof you have at least one of the following:

    • NCCA-accredited certification in nutrition, fitness, healthcare, wellness, human resources or a similar field.

    • An associate’s degree from an accredited university, in a wellness-related field, including nutrition, fitness or healthcare.

    • Completion of a health coach training and education program approved by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC).

    • No less than two years of documented work experience in coaching, leadership, designing, implementing or facilitating one or more of the following for clients: behavior or lifestyle change, exercise, wellness, nutrition or physical activity.

After graduation, you must maintain your certification by attending classes or specialist programs. This is mandatory for progressing in your field and staying abreast of new advancements.

ACE is currently offering $100 Off their health coach study programs with the code: GOACEHC

What Is the ACE Health Coach Exam Like?

Certification exams are comprised of 150 multiple-choice questions. One-hundred twenty-five are scored and 25 are experimental questions. The 25 experimental questions aren’t included in the candidate’s score. Instead, they’re evaluated to determine if they perform well enough statistically to be included on a future exam. This process of elimination ensures ACE’s exams stay up-to-date and relevant.

You can find a testing site near you by simply entering your zip code on ACE’s online registration form. [source] When your location is found, you’ll be shown a selection of possible dates and places where you can take the exam.

Once you register for the exam, the requested time and location need to be approved by the third-party testing center.

The test is computerized and can be taken at one of more than 500 exam locations. You must register 10 days before your scheduled exam. If you require special accommodations, you’ll need to register at least 15 to 30 days before the test.

You should arrive 10 to 15 minutes before testing begins. If you arrive after, you may be turned away. Be ready to present a government-issued photo ID with signature (driver’s license, passport, military ID). The first and last name on your ID must exactly match the name on the admission ticket sent to you with your study materials.

An effort is made to make the examination room as quiet as possible. But you’re permitted to wear earplugs if you tend to get distracted by small noises.

You’ll have three hours to complete the exam. Candidates must attain a grade of at least 500 (on a scale of 200 to 800) or more for certification, which means correctly answering about 90 questions.

You’ll receive your grade and pass/fail status immediately after submitting the test. Candidates who pass the ACE Certification Exam will receive their certification within four to six weeks after the scores are released.

Four areas are covered in the test:

Coaching Behavior Change (33% of the Test)

This part covers:

  • Establishing rapport with clients
  • Helping clients take responsibility for personal health
  • Facilitating behavior change

Conducting Assessments and Developing Plans (26% of the Test)

This part covers:

  • Establishing health baselines and facilitating plan development
  • Designing individualized plans

Implementing and Adjusting Individualized Plans (25% of the Test)

This part covers:

  • Implementing specific plans for individual clients
  • Evaluating plan effectiveness
  • Collaboration with clients to adjust plans

Professional Conduct and Legal Responsibility (16% of the Test)

This part covers:

  • Adherence to legal requirements, maintenance of professional standards and management of risk
  • Maintenance of accurate and confidential records
  • Knowledge of how to respond in emergencies and high-risk situations
  • Maintenance of professional competence by staying current on research, technology, and industry standards
  • Creating an inclusive environment
ACE Health Coach Certification Review

What Are Some Strategies for Taking the Exam?

These tactics may be helpful when taking the exam:

  • You should be halfway through the exam (or slightly more) when half of the time is up.
  • Pay special attention to phrases such as “best” and “most.”
  • Eliminate the least plausible response choices. When you eliminate one or two choices, you have a better chance of choosing the right answer.
  • If you know nothing about a question, it’s best to guess and keep going. It’s important to answer every question, whether you’re guessing or not. There’s no penalty for guessing.
  • Don’t overanalyze the questions, just interpret them as they appear. There are no trick questions or ones with hidden meanings.

ACE’s multiple-choice questions are centered around a keyword or keyword phrase. The stem can be shown as a direct question, an incomplete statement, a best-answer, recall questions, distractors, application questions, and analysis questions.

For example:

  • Direct question: What muscle flexes the elbow joint?
  • Incomplete statement: The muscle that flexes the elbow joint is: _____.
  • Best-answer: Which exercise MOST effectively strengthens the flexors of the elbow joint?
  • Recall questions: Questions that depend upon memorization.
  • Distractors: Questions that have similar answers to the correct one.
  • Application questions: Questions that apply to real-life situations.
  • Analysis questions: These test the applicant’s ability to analyze facts and identify the correct solution. For example, analyzing a food label to determine the total amount of kilocalories and the percentage of calories that come from fat.

Is the ACE Health Coach Certification Test Hard?

In a word, yes. The test is one of the most difficult ones in the industry. On average, 65 percent of candidates pass, which means one out of three people will fail.

It’s important to use all the study materials to prepare yourself as much as possible. The practice tests give you an idea of what the actual test is like. [source]

The test will make you think. Hard. Instead of parroting information from the textbook, you’ll need to analytically apply your knowledge to real-world scenarios. Answers can have subtle differences, too. You may find yourself whittling your answer down to two choices and then getting stumped because each seems correct.

Be prepared to do a lot of math equations. You’ll be asked to calculate caloric needs, BMI’s, body fat, circumference, resting metabolic rates, and body leanness.

In short, you can’t be too prepared for the ACE Health Coach Certification test.

What Do Graduates of the Program Have to Say?

Graduates agree that the exam is very challenging. But they believe the program gave them a depth and breadth of knowledge they wouldn’t have received in other programs. The training combined with ACE’s stellar reputation makes graduates confident doors will open up for them.

ACE’s graduates also feel that the ACE Academy is a goldmine of educational materials. The practice tests are particularly helpful in getting a realistic idea of what the actual test would be like. Considering the volume of materials you need to digest, graduates agree that six months is a reasonable amount of time to do so.

That said, most feel the calculations and formulas are the hardest part of the exam and that far too many are included. They doubt they’d need to memorize all these equations for actual coaching sessions.

How Much Does the ACE Health Coach Certification Cost?

As mentioned, ACE has three study programs for people with differing levels of experience:

Plus Program (Most Popular Option)

This program is for someone who has little to no knowledge of health coaching principles or little to no experience in healthcare. It costs $649, with the option of paying in monthly installments of $37/month. The Plus Program comes with:

  • ACE Certification Exam
  • ACE Answers
  • ACE University Learning Center
  • The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching
  • The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching ebook
  • The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching audiobook
  • The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching Study Companion
  • The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching Study Companion ebook

Basic Program

Costing $499 or monthly payments of $42/month , the Basic Program is designed for someone who is knowledgeable about health coaching principles or has extensive experience in healthcare. It contains all the materials from the Plus Program except:

  • The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching. (This can be purchased for an extra $119.95.)
  • The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching Study Companion. (This can be purchased for an extra $29.95.)

Additionally, the Plus Program includes eight audio coaching sessions, while the Basic Program includes three. The Plus includes two practice tests, and the Basic includes one.

Advantage Program

ACE’s newest program costs $899 or paid in monthly installments of $50/month. It offers everything from the Plus Program along with Health Coach Live Classes, one-on-one individualized support, and three practice tests.

If you fail the test, the retake fee is $199 and must be applied within a year of taking the first exam. If you need to cancel, it must be done outside of 30 days from your registration date in order to qualify for a 50 percent refund. Cancellations within 30 days won’t be refunded. Candidates may only reschedule their exam once.

ACE certified professionals must renew their certifications every two years.





  • ACE, with accreditation from the NCCA, is an extremely trustworthy, high-quality program. Whether you have a lot of wellness-related experience and knowledge or a little, ACE has a program for you.

  • We’re impressed by the quantity and quality of the study materials, particularly the ACE Academy resources.

  • ACE’s emphasis on habit change, rather than superficial, temporary health fixes, is also a plus.

  • ACE offers many locations to take the exam so you probably won’t have to travel out of your way to take it.


  • At more than 800 pages, ACE’s textbook is a lot to digest, even with six months to do it. Although the textbook does contain excellent lessons about behavior theory and how to motivate clients, some exam questions are so specific that they seemed to be sourced from a single obscure sentence buried in the book.

  • The textbook is also overloaded with complex math formulas that probably won’t be necessary during real-life sessions.

Interested in checking out other health coaching certification programs? Read our dedicated guide here.


We’d like to end this ACE Health Coach Certification review by stating that ACE does, indeed, have a winning hand. Candidates are put through their paces, but this molds highly credentialed, knowledgeable, professional coaches.

You’ll also benefit from ACE’s distinction as the only health coach certification accredited by the acclaimed NCCA. “Ace” this test, and you’ll open the door to a thriving health coaching career!


Do you have any questions or concerns about the ACE Health Coach Certification program? Leave your comments below!




  1. This sounds very interesting! I know for myself that I have been in a cycle of diet, workout, lose weight, stop diet, gain weight back for pretty much my entire adult life. I would love to help others with positive lifestyle changes. I know it says the program allots for 6 months to study and get through the program before the test, but is it possible to postpone the test if you feel that you are not ready for it? I cannot wait to start, thank you for the help!

    • Hi Travis, as far as I know, the voucher you receive for the exam is only good for six months from the purchase date. Hope that helps!

  2. Hi Debbie,

    I really enjoyed reading your article on becoming a certified ACE health coach.

    I am currently working as a personal trainer for which I have a certified qualification. I have been doing this for 2 years and wonder if this will be sufficient for me to apply for the ACE course? it would give me an extra dimension to my business and I am very keen to try. Thanks in advance, Andrew

  3. Hi Debbie – Thanks for the post! 

    My daughter is considering becoming a health coach so this post came at an appropriate time, I will be sure to share the information with her. It seems most of the training is done online, do they offer any teleconference calls with instructors or is it for the most part online?

    They seem to give you a ton of information to digest such as the 800 page textbook, workbook, etc. and I’m sure students have many questions for clarification. I am wondering how good is the one-on-one support?

    I found the strategies for taking the exam very helpful, thanks for that. You mentioned you have to renew your certification every two years, does that require that you take an exam? Thanks!

    • Hi Jeff, ACE now offers a real-time, instructor-led Live Class, so it’s much more interactive. The one-on-one support is responsive and you’ll be able to get all your questions answered. And yes, you’re required to get re-certified every two years, which means 20 hours of continuing education (but no exam). This way, you’ll be complying with the standards established by NCCA. I hope that helps!

  4. Hello, I am currently studying for this ACE Health Coach certification and I was wondering when this article was written? They update the exam and materials every few years so I wanted to see if this was accurately describing what it’s like now. All in all though, this is SUCH a great article! Super in depth and really gives me a sense of ease and comfort as I prepare. Thanks!!

    • You’re most welcome Mary! I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂 This article was originally published in October, 2019, so I hope that helps. Wishing you good luck for the exam!

  5. Ellie Molinari

    Hi there!
    All of this information is super helpful, so thank you! I am very intrigued by the prospect of health coaching as a career change. I wonder (and hate to ask) what happens if you fail the test? How many attempts are allowed?
    Also, it seems the pricing info in this article is not consistent with their website pricing…

    • Hi Ellie, I updated the review to reflect the updated costs, thanks for pointing it out. As far as failing the test, there’s a $199 retake fee which must be applied within one year of taking your first exam. Hope that helps!

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