The RD Exam: the culmination of 5+ years of college courses, work experience, and supervised practice. The last step to finally getting those two letters at the end of your name – RD. I’m here to tell you that with adequate studying and a solid strategy, you can easily pass the RD exam.
A little background on my experience – I had done zero studying until after my dietetic internship was finished, which was the end of April. From there I took 5 solid weeks to study my butt off and passed the exam easily with a 32 the first week of June!
I won’t pretend like I wasn’t scared of failing or didn’t read the first question of the exam ten times over because my heart was beating so loud I couldn’t hear myself think. I genuinely had no idea if I would pass until I reached question 125 and the test shut off (best feeling in the world).
But, I can say that I prepared to a point where I went into it confident that I knew the material, and that’s really all you can expect! I don’t think anything is in the exam thinking “I totally killed this, I’m passing no doubt”. All you can do is prepare as much as you can and try your best to relax while taking the exam.
But anyways, enough with my experience. Let’s get into how to pass the RD exam!
Study materials to pass the RD exam
The Jean Inman study guide is around $400, but it is absolutely worth it. If you can’t afford that, consider splitting the price with your other interns or buying an old version off Amazon or Ebay. It is super thorough and the practice questions were super helpful. I found them to be similar to the test questions (1-2 were almost exactly from the guide).
I also got the Virtual Veggies app, NOT the program. The app was only $80 (cheap comparatively to other options) and it was exclusively practice questions. Honestly, I don’t know if I needed this app to pass, but it was very helpful for the foodservice math questions, which ended up being my strongest section.
I can’t attest to these personally, but I have heard good things from other blog posts/word of mouth! I had the trial version of Pocket Prep and felt that the questions were helpful. I would consider Jean Inman a must, with these other materials being optional. They do help you get used to other questions that aren’t in a Jean Inman format!
Study schedule to pass the RD exam
I’m not going to pretend like my schedule is the absolute best, but when I was googling exam tips I wish someone wrote down their exact schedule to give me a general guideline of how much studying I should be doing. So that’s what I’ve done here!
I would also like to note that my study schedule changed a ton as I figured out what worked for me/what didn’t. I recommend adapting how you study based on what works for you, because we are all different!
For the first two weeks, I spent around 2-3 hours, 6 days a week studying. The next two weeks I spent around 3-4 hours, 6 days a week studying. The last week before my exam I spent about 5-6 hours studying and the three days before my exam I spent maybe 6-8 hours studying.
In total, this was about ~120-130 hours studying total.
At this point, I didn’t have the Jean Inman study guide yet and was just using the Virtual Veggies app. The app has around 1000 practice questions on it, so everyday I went through around 75-100 questions.
I also spend some time on YouTube looking at videos explaining more complex topics like glycolysis, fasted state, fed state, etc. I found this playlist to be super helpful!
I really just continued what I did the previous week! I find that taking practice exams really helped me retain the information. On average, I was getting in around 55-65% on all of the practice tests.
This is when Jean Inman came into the mix! I started by listening to the audio tapes and following along in the study guide. I completed about 30 pages per day, and then did about 100-125 Jean Inman practice questions and a 50 question practice test with Virtual Veggies.
At this point, I had already gone through all the Visual Veggies practice questions, but just wanted to review them to keep them fresh in my brain. I was getting around 85-95% on these practice tests, mostly because I had already completed all the questions!
I also continued watching the YouTube videos during this week.
I continued with the same routine as the previous week for the first few days. When I finished going through all of the study guide, I went back and started creating flashcards on the key topics. If there was a term that was on the study guide but hadn’t come up in any of the practice tests, I simply read over it a few times but didn’t make a flashcard on it.
I also continued to complete Jean Inman practice tests. I was averaging around a 65-75% on the tests.
Most of this week was filling out flashcards. This took almost the whole week to complete! The reason why I took the time to do them is because I learn best when I write things down and when I quiz myself. I knew that just the act of writing the flashcards would help me.
In total, I created around 600 flashcards. I know, kind of ridiculous, but this totally worked for me! It was a lot of work, but passing the exam made it worth it.
The last few days of the week I went over all the flashcards, and kept quizzing myself until I was able to remember each term at least once. I then divided the flashcards into about 5 sections, ranging from ones I had the hardest time remembering, to those that were super easy and didn’t need to review further.
Along with this, I made new practice tests out of all the Jean Inman practice questions I missed. I divided these into four mini tests that I completed the second half of the week. I was getting around 70-80% on these tests.
My exam was on a Wednesday, so I took Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to really crack down. I focused on going over the flashcards that I had trouble with. I kept going over them until I could easily remember almost every topic. Of course there were a few I struggled with, but in the end you can only memorize so much!
Along with this, I completed a Virtual Veggies practice test, which I got around a 80% on, and a Jean Inman practice test (I randomly chose questions in each section) and got in the high 80s. At this point I was very confident.
The day before the test I reviewed the flashcards I struggled with. I really took it easy that day! I stopped studying around 5pm, 24 hours before my test.
The Day of The Test:
I relaxed! I watched a little too much Summer Heights High and went for a walk around the neighborhood. I got to the testing center 45 minutes early (yes, I’m that girl) and they took me in right away.
I’ll be honest, the first few questions of the exam my heart was pounding so loudly and had to remind myself to breathe. But after the 5th question I was able to focus better. After question 125 hit, my exam ended and I knew I had passed the RD exam!
If you don’t already know the exam can last anywhere from 125-145 questions. If you have already passed by question 125, the exam stops. If you haven’t, they let you go until question 145 to redeem yourself.
Other tips to help pass the RD exam
Tip #1: Make acronyms and associations!
There are some topics/values I would not have remembered if I hadn’t created a silly little acronym. Here is one that I found super helpful (but didn’t actually get the use for the exam):
Lips: red, cracked, dry might be caused by a ______ deficiency?
NPR stands for National Public Radio and if you talk on the radio all day your lips might get cracked and dry!
Try to come up with acronyms or associations like these. Choose things that you can remember, even if they are a stretch. For example, I remember that biotin is important in fatty acid synthesis because people take biotin for hair, skin, and nails, and coconut oil, which is a fat, is commonly used in beauty products/masks. I’ll admit this is a huge stretch, but it really helped me remember!
This video also has some good tips on remembering lab values:
Tip #2: Learn how to take to test
The RD exam is knowledge based, but often if you don’t know the answer off the top of your head, you can figure out the correct choice by reading the question carefully and eliminating wrong answers. Here is an example:
What is the most important final step in writing a book?
- Choosing a topic that your audience wants to hear about
- Revising and adding the finishing details
- Researching the best way to publish the book
- Advertising the book in various ways
First let’s read the question. The words that stand out to me are “final” and “writing”. The question needs to be a “final” step and needs to have to do with “writing” the book.
The choice a) is an important step, but is not a final step. This would likely be one of the first steps. The choice c) is not a final step nor does it have to do with writing the book. The choice d) is a final step, but it doesn’t have to do with writing the book. The choice b) is a final step and is one of the processes in writing the book! Therefore c) is the correct answer.
When you come across a question you’ve totally blanked on, try this strategy and see if you can narrow it down to 1-2 answers! This helped me tremendously during the exam. Remember: a guess and an educated guess are very different.
Tip #3: Relax!
The day of the exam, relax. Don’t think about anything difficult. Watch a mind numbing TV show or movie. Don’t even think about if you’re gonna pass the RD exam!
Along with this, when you start the exam, close your eyes and take 5-10 deep breaths. Do this every time you feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry about not having enough time. The exam gives you more than enough. Taking a breath will help you focus and will probably save you from nervously reading over the same question 20 times (I made this mistake).
Yes, the exam is scary, but remember that the pass rate is ~70% on the first try. Chances are, if you prepared beforehand, you will do fine! You are far more likely to pass than not pass.
I hope this article has been helpful! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions and/or comments.