USPTA Professional Exam - Tips and Course Review

USPTA and Tennis Coaching

Prior to getting my USPTA certificate, I had coached tennis for over 10 years. I have taught for various tennis programs, at local county and club levels. Through the years, I've also dabbled in some freelance tennis coaching on the side - mainly for Juniors and Beginners students.

I have not been paid to do this review but simply want to share my experience with prospective exam takers. Also, I hope this blog post can help encourage other candidate tennis teachers. I too was a bit hesitant to spend the $350 at first and unsure if I could pass it because I am not teaching professionally full-time. But if I can do it, so can you and anyone who studies for it*

For more info, please sign up for my free Tennis Coaches Overview Email

I will send email updates about USPTA and other coaching certification options for part-time and full-time coaches and tips for how to become a professional (both on-court and personal skill that help earn you a better living).

TopCourt - MasterClass/Netflix of Tennis

Since Summer 2020, I have been promoting tennis e-learning with online coaching pros such as Paul Annacone and Brad Gilbert on TopCourt - a new "MasterClass for Tennis".

It's a new "education plus entertainment" platform launched here in the USA by former pros and college athletes. We help rising stars get more press and promote how the tour level technique and mindset can help the club and amateur players improve. From interviews with legends included Nick Bolleterri, videos cover some of the subtle non-technical and EQ parts of working with different tennis player personalities and styles.

2021 Update: New Pathway to USPTA Certification

For 2021, the new teaching certification pathway now involves 3 parts:
  1. Online Ed (Remote learning)
  2. Workshops (In-person)
  3. Experience (On the job training)
"No longer will we be having the one or two-day exams with the PTCA1 course. This is being replaced by the new structure which will take approximately 9 months for a pro to complete. It is equated to a year in a tennis college, coursework, online study, internship and more. More information will be forthcoming from the USPTA World Headquarters" 
USPTA - 2/12/21
The Online Ed will substitute some of the videos and youth tennis training. More electives will be added to add more specialty areas to the core curriculum.

The Workshops will still incorporate much if not all of the fundamentals that USPTA Pros have studied for decades. Therefore all the information below will still be very helpful for being successful.

The Experience aspect will involve working with more senior pros or at a club. It will also involve some sort of "Continuing Education" such as conferences and online seminars for annual credit requirements.

It's helpful to start with some summer camp classes, volunteer at USTA or High Schools in order to learn the basics about interacting with larger groups for both kids and adult students of different skills.

USPTA Accreditation
As of 2018, USPTA is now officially "accredited by USTA". There will reportedly be new requirements to have 1500 training hours by 2021 for new applicants. So far no major changes to the program requirements for existing members.

Successful Exams during covid-19
Happy to report in Nov-Dec 2020, I personally helped at least 3 new USPTA pros (Dan, Ron, Sab) locally who got certified. This was with the special covid-safety masked testing procedures. Glad my guide was helpful to those who followed my tips. Welcome to USPTA!

Choosing the 2-day course vs 1-day workshop options

When you sign up for your on-court exam, you can choose between the 1-day or 2-day courses held across the US during different times in the year.

I signed up for the 2-day course and here's why...

The first day was basically what I would call "rehearsal" and Q&A about any questions on the test. We had the test in a bubble, at a local country club. The instructor covers everything you need to know the first day. If you listen and follow their advice, you should do fine.

On the flip side, I noticed that there were a few "1-day" students who ended up having to repeat (and redo) portions of the group lesson that they failed during our 2nd day.

USPTA Certification Paths: One-day vs Two-day Options

Day One: Q&A
All the fellow students (5 total) in my class had some former teaching experience. Their levels ranged from a high school teenager, former ATP Top 300 player to a teaching pro with over 30 years of experience.

I was very fortunate to have a good instructor (Ted) that explained everything and set expectations clearly from day 1. It was great chatting and networking with the other tennis instructors too. We went out for lunch together and helped each other with studying for the test. Your fellow students will also be used for various portions of the test.

As a USPTA Recreational Coach certification back in 2006, I had Feisal who was also excellent in demonstrating progression lessons to help kids and juniors learn the game. Lots of hands-on drills helped encourage the use of foam balls and (clever) effective use of limited court space. I still remember he urged coaches to try practicing left-handed (non-dominant hand) to become more emphatic to the difficulty in learning tennis as a new sport.

Day Two: Lesson Plan Testing
The bulk of the on-court tests happened on the 2nd day. Sometimes they compress some into the end of the first day to save time (which I liked). The group lessons are comprised of 3-4 random students they pick from the club. Most are between NTRP 3.0-3.5 in my opinion.

The schedule was 8am-3pm both days, but the second day was spent completely on taking turns to do the private and group lessons (~25 mins per person). You get about 90 mins for lunch, plenty of breaks, and time to ask additional questions.

Selecting an Exam Date - USPTA Exam Calendar

Benefits for USPTA Membership

The great thing about any USPTA certification is that it offers Nike wholesale discounts on personal tennis gear. Plus, the members' site offers excellent online resources (movies and diagrams) for tennis drills. You also receive a subscription to their "Tennis Industry" magazine that is also a top-notch publication and even better than Tennis Magazine. You can also buy on-court liability insurance for an added fee.

The USPTA and USPTR certs are the most widely recognized tennis credentials in the USA - Basically, it helps you land a job in the tennis industry. Any full-time professional you consider hiring for tennis lessons should be able to produce this. For test-takers, if you can get the test fees and dues paid for by your club, that's even better! They offer an ADD discount program for "economically challenged" pros starting out as well.

Receiving your Test Preparation and Online Study Material

Recommend you spend some time reading through the USPTA PTCA1 pdf prior to coming to class. They will send you this pdf when you register for the USPTA Professional test. I found it helpful to print it out and put it in a binder to take notes and review.

Again, the 2-day session is highly recommended - the 1-day course seemed to be designed mainly for those who are just doing a retake or have no time but are very experienced pros.

My pre-test strategy included watching a few Youtube videos of the USPTA exam, read some forum posts on tennis-warehouse, and a blog on USPTA testing.

I spent about 2-3 weeks reviewing and prep for the exam – they want everything taught in a very specific way. I even worked with a few friends that are also USPTA certified to go over some of the drills and shot I know I might have problems on the stroke production portion. If you have played tennis at the NTRP 4.0+ level then most of the strokes test should be passable.

Tips for taking the USPTA 2019 updated exam

Feeding, Stroke Production, Private Lesson, Group Lesson, Written Test, Grips & Youth Tennis Course (online).

Youth Tennis Online Courses (7 modules)

As far as computer-based training goes, it is very well designed. Just watch the videos and answer the little Jeopardy-style questions. I'll even admit some are fun to play and test your knowledge. I recommend going through at a pace of about 1-2 per day.

The final youth tennis training course ($15?) is mostly a summary review of the other 6 courses. The USPTA should send you the link to this online course when you register. All your progress will be saved, but be sure to save your certificate at the very end as they will ask you to email them a copy when you are done.


Know the finger and correct bevel positions for the forehand knuckle and palm! Do NOT use the "V" method.

Be sure you are able to rattle off at least 3-4 Advantage and Disadvantages with each grip (Continental - good for lower balls and hitting a slice; Eastern - easiest for starting players to use; Semi-Western - good for topspin and passing shots, etc).


Make sure you lead the "player" into the court and across. Practice this at home if necessary. The 2-day course goes over this in the rehearsal.

Stroke Production

The drop shots (3 bounces before crossing the service line) is nearly impossible. I watched a former Top 300 player barely get 50% on this. It helps to put a little sidespin (and underspin) on the ball and aim toward the diagonal service line corners. Do not get flustered if you bomb this one...the lobs and overheads count toward the final score.

They do not give you style points. Whether you hit a 135 mph serve or a 65 mph serve in, it counts as one shot. You should definitely strive for accuracy, not power.

You do need to put the proper spins on the ball (when the ask for a forehand slice or topspin serve, for example).

My Tips for a high score on the Private and Group Lessons:

  • Give an intro with 3 things about yourself.
  • Always try to memorize and repeat your student’s first name for specific encouragement (they count each time you repeat it)
  • Adjust the practice feed Depth & Frequency to suit the skill level of the student - keep the drill moving but also do not have a lot of idle time in the back waiting.
  • Provide different "stations" and rotate players, if possible
  • Use Progressions - step by step drills; always have multiple training drills that range in difficulty from super easy to more advanced
  • Keep the lesson plan very simple and focused ~20 mins
  • Spend less than 3 mins with intro and less than 5 for wrap up and homework - I had trouble with this. Use the clock on the wall or one pro tip is to wear a watch facing in so you can glance at it during a feed.
  • Safety First (clear all balls on their side of the net)

Written Exam

This is a 2-hour test taken online - but should take about 30-45 mins for most people. It covers most of the material in the PTCA1 .pdf file. There are portions where it helps to reference some notes and to know where various chapters are located. The passing grade was 70% and I feel like most people should be able to pass this with no major issues (as all the answers are essentially on the provided booklet*).

It is all multiple choice and if you do not think too hard about the questions, you will usually pick the right answer. I would review some of the youth tennis dimensions and knowledge about the effect of using different tennis strings and racquet specs.

After you pass the test and send in your youth tennis certificates to USPTA, they will review your scores and send you in the mail your results. I found that my USPTA tester gives me very good feedback on your performance during the lessons. Also, your diploma will be in the mail too!

Congrats and good luck! If you have any other questions, please leave a comment at the bottom and I'll try to answer it.

USPTA Levels

Level 1: Recreational Coach (Part-Time Coaches)
The Recreational Coach is the most basic level designed for part-time coaches and assistants. It can be obtained by going to a coaches workshop for a day and reviewing the online training instruction. Also, if you happen to "fail" any part of the USPTA Professional test, you will also be put into this category. The fees are about $250/year to keep this membership.

Level 2: Professional Coach (Standard Certification)

Level 3: Elite Coach ("Perfect" scores and complete elective exams)

Level 4: Master Professional (Elite for 10+ years)

USPTA References

If you decide to apply for a USPTA membership - please consider putting me "Jacky Cheong" as your referral. It is found in the "References" section of the USPTA Online Application Form when you sign up.

Hopefully, you find my tips and helpful below in this article. If you do mention my name, I will be very grateful as it will save me $50 on next year's dues!

I will be happy to answer of your questions from my own experience and interactions. The goal is to get more Tennis Education out there in the USA for aspiring coaches of tomorrow*

For European and International Coaches, I would highly suggest looking at the ICI certification program below. I have many coaching friends in the UK and Spain who have said this certification is even more helpful for finding a job overseas but more intensive and hands-on to pass. 

Dues and Fees

Just a note, if you miss even one year's worth of payments, you will have to pay an additional $100 reactivation fee plus your annual dues will be about $45 more each year than a Recreational Coach (but that includes insurance). It gives you access to some teachers' conferences and a coaches' tournament plus supposedly a free day grounds pass to some US-based tournaments (I have never received a free pass so your miles may vary).

In my opinion, USTA annual membership dues should be granted to USPTA teaching professionals who grow the game more than any $44/year regular members. On top of Organizational Memberships, Personal Memberships, Insurance Costs and Annual Dues - teaching tennis these days has many stacked expenses!