Hi friends! I want to get this post out on the interwebs while it’s all fresh in my head. I’ll caveat this post by saying that I read a lot of blog posts about passing (or not passing!) the RD exam. Here’s one thing I learned from my own personal experience: our backgrounds, strengths, areas of interest, ability to memorize and comprehend information, etc. are very different. The study methods that worked for others didn’t work for me, and visa versa.
Overall thoughts about the exam
It’s weird. I really don’t know how else to say it – the exam is just weird. Some of the questions are straightforward, and others seem to come from another planet. Is the exam hard? No. Is it tricky? Yes. My biggest piece of advice: READ EVERY QUESTION CAREFULLY and ask yourself, “what are they really looking for with this question?”
I can confidently say that I made an educated “guess” on 75% of the questions. Many people told me that during the exam, I would feel like I was failing the whole time. I definitely went through periods of feeling like I knew nothing!
The exam is between 125-145 questions, and if I understand correctly, 25 of the questions are “test” questions and don’t actually count towards your score. I also cannot confirm this with certainty, but the test will “shut off” after question 125 if you’ve passed…or if you’ve failed. However, if you haven’t passed or failed yet after question 125, you have 20 more questions to try to pass.
The study outline for the exam is here, and the test is broken out as follows: Principles of Dietetics (25%); Nutrition Care for Individuals and Groups (40%); Management of Food and Nutrition Programs and Services (21%); and Foodservice Systems (14%).
The study resources I used
Like many others before me, I used the Inman’s RD Exam Review Guide. However, I used the 2011 version thinking that the material would generally be the same – while I did pass, I would not recommend using a guide that’s 6 years old 🙂 I had friends who used the 2017 version, so I was able to peruse that the day before the exam. Thank goodness that I did!
Other helpful resources:
How long I studied
I took about 5 weeks to study; spending between 0-4 hours per day. The week leading up to the exam, I spent every waking hour studying. I don’t memorize facts easily, so I knew that cramming wouldn’t work for me.
My study techniques
- I went through Inman’s (audio and book) twice. The first time, I just listened – the second time, I took notes on the topics I needed to refresh.
- I went through every single Inman’s practice question (over 1,000 of them), and did the MNT section twice.
- I used virtual flashcards to memorize the important vitamins and minerals
- I studied with a friend – and chatted over any questions/answers that confused me. Studying with others really helped me. I normally don’t like studying with others, but I would recommend at least trying it!
- I took the CDR practice test twice
- I tried to give myself breaks – spending no more than 3-4 hours straight before going for a walk, making dinner, hanging out with a friend, etc. Once studying became unproductive, I stopped!
The day before the exam
I was a nervous wreck leading up to the exam date, and had a really tough time falling asleep. The night before the exam, I knew I needed to calm down and get enough sleep, so I invested in the Candlelight Hot Power Fusion Yoga Class at Corepower. It was the best way to unwind before the test. I woke up bright and early the next morning, but at least I went to bed at a decent hour! I recommend finding your personal calming technique and using it to relax. I think it really helped!
The day of the exam
My exam was at 2PM, and I purposefully scheduled it that late so I had enough time to eat breakfast and review my notes. Many people advised me to “take the day off”, but it worked better for me to review notes up until I took the exam. After eating breakfast, I stopped for coffee and took a walk around Green Lake while practicing my flashcards. I made sure to eat a small lunch (although I definitely wasn’t hungry) and headed to the exam. I arrived about 30 minutes early, but they let me start early.
I was not allowed to bring any study materials into the testing center. I had my purse, which I stored in my locker, and my ID. When I arrived at the testing center, they scanned my palms. Before going into the testing room, they scanned my palms again to verify my identify. They also gave me ear plugs and “scratch” paper to use while taking the exam. After sitting at the computer and completing a tutorial on “how to use a computer/mouse”, the exam began.
The first question on the exam threw me (not a great way to start!), but I tried to stay calm and push through. The test felt really long until about question 60, and then I got into the testing groove. Before I knew it, I was approaching question 120…and that’s when I started to get antsy. I knew that I was potentially 5 questions away from becoming a dietitian, and question 123 (I REMEMBER IT SPECIFICALLY!) took me over 15 minutes to finish. Gah! And then I got to question 125, clicked the answer and BAM. The screen froze and I got a message that the test was over.
CDR is evil and makes you take a 10-question survey about the testing center before you can see your score. My heart was pounding out of my ears and I could barely see straight. And then I finally saw the little window pop up with my score. I read “Congratulations, you’ve passed” and about fainted. I raised my hand (I wasn’t allowed to get up without someone from the testing center coming to get me), re-tested my hand print to verify that it was indeed me, and received a print-out with my score.
I grabbed my items from the locker and heard an employee wish me good luck as I ran to the bathroom. I ran into a stall and started to sob as I sent very shaky texts to my family and friends. When I calmed down, I went outside and sat on the ground next to my car for about 30 minutes because I was too flustered to drive. I had done it! Almost 4 years later and my dream had come true.
What study materials did I find most helpful?
Honestly – I know many of you are not going to want to read this – but I found my dietetic internship experience, and my previous work experience, incredibly valuable. While I don’t know if I would have passed without studying Inman’s, I didn’t give my actual real-life experience enough credit. Inman’s says in her “test tips” that every guess is really an educated guess – and I completely agree. Trust your instincts and trust what you know!
Overall, I found the Inman’s practice questions to be most valuable. Make sure to do them, and to understand why your answer is correct or not. I also practiced calculation questions over and over again so they became second-nature. I knew that if I got nervous enough, I would have a hard time remembering how to do the calculations, so practicing a lot ahead of time was really important.
To anyone studying or about to take the test
Remain confident! There is so much information to cover to prepare for this exam that it’s nearly impossible to truly feel ready. You’ve got this! And when you do pass, make sure there’s bottle of champagne waiting for you nearby 🙂