amga spi

AMGA SPI Exam: How to Ace It

Do you want to learn how to pass the AMGA SPI Exam on your first try? We took the course and passed the exam – this guide is created just for you!

Reference the technical skill checklist below to gauge your skills. We also included other information, like the exam criteria and soft skills, that you need to know for the exam. This guide will prepare you to pass the SPI Exam on your first try.

Click here for every piece of gear you’ll need during the exam. In addition, the AMGA Single Pitch Manual is a must-have.

What’s involved in the SPI Exam?

During the exam there will be nine different criteria fields that you will be evaluated on:

Risk Management: Minimize risk for all participants (instructor and clients). Recognize and deal with potential hazards.

Client Care: Create a memorable, rewarding, and comfortable experience for the client.

Technical Systems: Understand and correctly use: protection, anchors, belaying, rappelling/lowering, rope management, and assistance skills.

Application: Apply the right technique at the right time. Understand what tools (anchors, knots, belays, etc.) you have in your toolbox and use them appropriately.

Terrain Assessment: Select and find appropriate routes for clients. Don’t take a new climber to the hardest climb at the crag!

Movement: Be in shape for a day of climbing and demonstrate the ability to trad lead 5.6 and top rope 5.8

Mountain Sense: Correct errors in due time, manage stress and make the right decisions.

Professionalism: Plan and prepare the activities for the day, present yourself in a professional manner, leave no trace.

Instructional Technique: Lesson planning, coaching ability, and teaching ability.

What are the AMGA SPI Course Pre Requisites?

Before you take the exam, you will need to have taken the three-day AMGA SPI Course. Take the course 6-12 months before you plan on taking the exam. That gives you ample time to practice and refine your skills. The course will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. You will also receive written feedback on what you will need to improve for the exam.

You will also need to have completed a certain number of outdoor traditional rock climbs. Start working on the resume by ticking some classics near you!

Let’s first go over the technical skill checklist on skills to practice for the exam. Find an experienced mentor to practice these skills with before your exam. They will verify that you are doing these skills correctly and give you tips to improve efficiency. These skills can also be practiced on the ground using closet space, shelves, or a Skillzboard.

What technical skills do I need to pass the exam?


Build an equalized top rope anchor, with a lifeline tether, placed appropriately for the selected climb.

Tie a bowline on a natural tree anchor.

Build an anchor with the instructor tether secured to both anchor components. (three-in-one (Fox system) or backside BHK).

Rappel over the edge with an instructor tether. Attach the climbing rope to the master point. Then transition from the tether to rappeling on the climbing rope. All while wearing your backpack.

Top rope anchors using bolts and traditional gear (quad anchor, equalized multi-piece trad anchors)


Belay take-over and pick off. Manage the spacing of you and the client while performing the counterbalance rappel. Make sure you can position yourself below, above, or at the same height as the climber.

Coach clients how to back up belay. When having students back up belaying they should be positioned so that the strand they hold is fed through the braking plane of the device

Lead, top-rope, and belaying from above.

Go hands-free with a belay device

Climbing Skills

Trad lead 5.6 and top rope 5.8. These climbs will depend on the area you’re climbing in. You could potentially be climbing some sand bagged climbs!

Lead Climbing – competent in placing good trad protection.

Top Managed Sites

Top Managed Sites. Elevate the master point (If there are no natural elevators, you can stack the climbing rope or use backpacks to put under the master point). Lower climber on grigri and belay them back up.

Rescue Skills

Belayed Rappel

The belayed rappel is one of the trickiest parts of the exam. There is a specific order of operations that needs to be followed and organization is crucial to your success.

The climber is rappeling while belayed on backup. Use a munter mule overhand (MMO) to create the rappel line and belay the student on a munter hitch as well. Keep this system well organized. There is a lot of room for confusion between your instructor tether, rappel line, and belay line. The rappel line and belay line need to be offset vertically. The vertical offset (rappel line is higher than the belay line) can be accomplished by lowering the belay point with daisy-chaining multiple carabiners. The belay line should be on top of the rappel line. If the rappel line is on top of the belay line than the weighted rappel line pinches down on the belay line and we are unable to feed slack.

What Sof


Teaching and guiding go hand in hand. You’ll be teaching clients to lead belay, how to have precise footwork, how to set up a top-rope anchor etc. The AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Manual has an in-depth guide for teaching on pages 17-27 (along with a cheat sheet on page 21). But the gist of it is

  • Tell the students what they are going to learn
  • Convey the information so that it will apply to all learners (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic – learn by doing).
  • Ask the students to demonstrate what they’ve learned
  • Tell the students what they just learned

Risk Management

Keeping the guide safe (instructor tethers, place plenty lots of good gear while leading, position yourself so you can see climbers while they climb) Also plays into terrain assessment, get to know the clients you are guiding and put them on appropriate climbs. If they are scared of heights, look for shorter climbs, sometimes climbing up to the guide (top managed site) feels better than climbing away from the guide (base managed site)


When you’re guiding, you’re going to have a huge impression on the clients. They will remember how you do things, so make sure you do it right.

Client Care

Make sure they have what they need for a day of climbing.

Now you Know How to Pass the AMGA SPI Exam!

You now know how to pass the AMGA SPI Exam! Find an experienced mentor to help you practice these skills. And utilize your bedroom closet! The closet is a fantastic place to practice tying knots and anchors.

Have you passed the AMGA SPI Exam? Are you about to take the exam? Leave a comment below with how you prepared or how you are preparing!

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