How to Pass the RD Exam
Updated: Jul 27, 2020
How I studied for the RD exam. Tips, tricks, and insight on the exam.
Dietetic students spend at least 4 years preparing for this exam. Not to mention the 1,200 hours of supervised practice during an unpaid internship, and for some, another 2 years for a Masters Degree. If they are at the point where they are ready to sit for the RD exam, they’ve dedicated years of their lives to studying the science of food and nutrition and how it affects human health.
This exam is almost like a “final board exam” that medical professions have to take. You have to pass the RD exam to become a credentialed dietitian, and then you’ll be eligible to get licensure in your respective state to practice.
To prepare, my professors recommended that we study for 8 hours a day, like you would working a normal job. Personally, I learn better when I break it up into sections — I would study for an hour or two, take a break, and then come back after 30 minutes or so. Find what works best for you and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get everything done in one day. The most important part is that you soak up the information you’re reviewing, not how quickly you can get through it all.
What does the RD Exam Consist Of?
The RD exam is a two hour exam that consists of a minimum of 125 and maximum of 145 multiple-choice questions. If you reach question 125 and the exam ends, that means you have answered enough questions to either pass or fail the exam. If your score is on the border, the exam will give you an additional 20 questions to answer to try and earn a passing score. If you get to this point, take a deep breath, relax, and read each question closely.
25 of the 125 questions are randomly placed throughout the exam as ‘tester’ questions by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) and won’t apply to your final score. You won’t know which questions these are though so answer each question to the best of your ability.
The RD exam consists of four domains, each making up a different percentage of the exam. The algorithm is a mix of:
25% Principles of Dietetics
40% Nutrition Care of Individuals and Groups
21% Management of Food and Nutrition Programs and Services
14% Foodservice Systems
These percentages change every few years so make sure you check with the CDR before you begin studying. You will need to study everything from what chemicals make our broccoli green, what nutrients are most used by our kidneys, to how a bill becomes a law, and what type of tile to use on a kitchen floor.
What To Study For The RD Exam
There are about a million different resources out there that you can use to help prepare for your exam. Some people choose multiple study resources and others stick with just one. Personally, I used a few different methods to study for my exam.
What I used:
Because I was in the CP at UC, we were required to take the in person Breeding & Associates Review Course. Taking an in person review course is extremely helpful because you can ask questions, study with your colleagues, and complete in person case studies.
Jean Inman is like the Gold Standard for RD Exam study material. Their reviews are great and thousands of dietitians have had success using her study guides. They are on the pricier side but you are going to find something this elaborate at a cheap rate. 10/10 recommend getting this, it would be my first choice for RD study guides. She also offers in person review courses like Breeding does.
Lastly, I downloaded the Medical Pocket Prep app and used the Dietitian Exam section for practice questions! I found this to be really beneficial because the questions were all up to date and very similar to the questions on my exam.
Other resources that friends of mine used and said were helpful were 1) Visual Veggies and 2) Making your own flashcards and practice exams
Don’t rush to schedule your exam. There are exams almost every day, you won’t have an issue scheduling it. The important thing is that you thoroughly review all your study materials and feel confident going into your exam.
Make a study schedule. This helped me stay on track with what I’ve studied, where it will fit into my week, and when I have free time
Understand the why behind the facts. The key to passing the RD exam is understanding the reason why the answer is what it is. The test wants to see that you understand the topic and didn’t just memorize facts.
Don’t let it consume you. Overly obsessing about the exam is not going to guarantee you pass. You’ll have more luck if you find a good balance behind quality study time and time to unwind.
Don’t second guess yourself. Confidence is key. Normally your gut feeling is the right answer, go with it!
You got this!
About the Author
Ashley Mulkern, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Masters of Science in Nutritional Sciences and Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from the University of Cincinnati. She loves anything covered in chocolate, sprinkles, or butter. Her favorite things to do are exercising, baking, and reading.