7 tips on passing the RD exam (for the type B personality)

I passed my exam yesterday, and I am happy to say that after four years, I am now a Registered Dietitian. I’d like to share my experience and advice with all the #RD2B ‘s out there.

If you are emotionally “prepping” yourself for taking the RD exam and are anything like me, you probably googled, “how to pass the RD exam”. I’ll let you know it is a WASTE of time, but if it led you here.. I’m glad! The thing is, most of the blogs I came across were of extreme type A individuals (more power to them), but reading their advice only made me freak out even more, which leads me to my first bullet of advice…

1. DON’T compare your study regimen to others. Everyone is different and everyone studies differently. What works for one individual, probably doesn’t work for another. If I would have been taking this exam as 19-20 year-old me, I probably would have been exactly like those type A individuals, studying months in advance and outlining every paragraph in Inman’s, taking the practice exams 10 times through until I felt adequate. You will hear advice like “you should study for at least 1-2 months for 1-2 hours/ day then 10 hours a day during the week prior”. I read these blogs, and an already freaked out me, only freaked out more. I looked to these blogs for assurance and comfort not to make myself feel inadequate and unprepared. Trust me, I had been doing PLENTY of that in my own head. I finished my coordinated program (internship done during undergrad) and graduated in May. I got a job that would give me six months to pass my RD and moved to Arkansas and started working immediately. I was so busy moving and getting used to my new job, that the last thing I wanted to do after a full day at work was come home and study for the most overwhelming exam of my life. Sure, I studied on the weekends here and there and told myself that going to work everyday and seeing my patient load counted as studying for MNT, but to be 100% honest, I didn’t start REALLY studying until exactly 1 week before my exam. I know, I’m terrible. So hopefully you haven’t put it off as much as I did, but if you did, I am here to tell you that IT WILL BE OKAY. The knowledge that got me through my exam was not any of what I had studied during the past months/week, but rather what I remembered from my experiences through my internship and job.

2. Don’t put off scheduling your exam or studying for it. The mere idea of the exam scared the ever-loving poop out of me, for lack of a better word. I was so nervous about it, I couldn’t even bring myself to sit down and study for it. I couldn’t even congratulate my peers that had already passed it in fear that I would fail. It took me FOREVER to even schedule my exam. My boss kept asking when I was taking it. After a few of her concerned questionings, I finally scheduled the exam for a month away. If I could go back and do it all again, I wouldn’t. But if I had to, I would have taken it the week after graduating, Really I was playing Russian roulette with the whole ordeal in that, if I had failed, I would have been pushing it to take it again before my deadline for work. The closer to your internship/ CP as possible, the better! You have been studying this stuff for at least four years. You know it! The longer you give yourself, the longer you have to suffer through the uncertainty and stress. Honestly, I don’t think I would have done any worse having taken it four months ago.

3. Get Inman’s! My coordinated program offered a group deal for Breeding and Associates. It was a very pricy package including a multiple day class, flashcards, access to online practice tests, and a review book- all of which was a COMPLETE AND UTTER WASTE OF MOOLAH. The class was multiple days long, ~8 hours a day and all they did was read the subtitles of the review book. No details. The book was really thick yet very undetailed and poorly organized (not to mention terrible binding, the pages are everywhere!). The flashcards were absolutely worthless, I went through one section of them and promised myself to never waste another minute on them.  The online tests were so hard and specific that they did nothing but convince me I was going to fail and I was completely incompetent. Luckily I was introduced to Inman’s shortly before my exam. I know there is an Inman’s class, that I did not do, but I have heard great reviews from it. The audio tapes are slightly dry but great to listen to on long car rides or when you’re showering or getting ready. I even listened to them when I went to sleep in hopes that my subconscious would absorb some of the info. Who knows if it worked? I passed didn’t I? The review book is amazing! Not very thick, but very organized and just enough detail. I regret wasting so much time and money on Breeding and Associates. Here’s the link for Inman’s . I also had no idea until after taking the exam that CDR offers a review book for $65. I have never heard of anyone using it, but I would be willing to bet that it’s a good resource considering that they MADE THE EXAM. If you are past the point of too late to order study materials, RELAX. Use what you got. It will work. Majority of what you study won’t be on the test anyways, it will come from your previous knowledge, which I promise you have a lot more of than you think.

4.Know what to expect. I don’t really like surprises, especially for situations like this. Knowing exactly what you are walking into may help reduce some of your anxieties. First off, the test is hard! I am not going to lie. But not necessarily in the way you’d expect. The actual material they test you on is not the advanced MNT and biochem that you’ve been cramming, it’s more so basic principles in application. You just have to know how to find exactly what they are asking and choose the BEST answer you are offered. That’s the hard part! Every question, you will second guess yourself on subjects you thought you knew. And I promise you, no matter how confident you are when you walk into that room, every person I have ever talked to or read about their experience felt like they were going to fail in the middle of the test. Even with the best reviews in the world, only about 40% of what you study will be on the exam. You will most likely be over-prepared and be lacking in the minute details that you will never use in your career or can’t remember from that one slide your freshmen year in college. But if you can calm your nerves enough to think clearly, you CAN pass it! Read the CDR Q&A’s about the test, it goes into detail about exactly what percentage of the test is from which section and they are VERY strict on those guidelines. Within the first 100 questions (of 125-145) a certain percentage are “guinea pig questions” that you won’t be scored on. So don’t sweat it if you come across a few that you have to 100% guess on. Odds are, it could be a unscored question that won’t affect you. The test is guaranteed less than 10% calculations, so don’t stress about memorizing every formula. In fact, with the food service management questions, it is best to review your basic algebra skills and food service vocabulary and try to answer some practice questions using you own logic rather than the ridiculous formulas that some cruel individual created for food service shenanigans. Leave space in your mind for more important things. Like how to breathe.

5. Sleep. This one’s important. And it WILL be a challenge during the week leading up. I am still catching up on my lack there of. I found it hard to put myself to bed every night feeling guilty that I should stay up and cram some more. One thing that helped me fall asleep and not feel guilty about it was listening to the Inman’s CD’s I had downloaded on my laptop to play on shuffle every night. I probably didn’t sponge info in my brain while dreaming, but it did put me to sleep. Sorry Jean. Get at least 6-8 hours, especially the night before. You WILL NOT remember what you crammed for at 2 am the night before, and it is 99% likely that it will not even be on the exam, so you just wasted some precious Zzzz’s for nothing. NADA! The only thing that will get you through this exam is a clear mind. Be well rested. Don’t drink too much caffeine (especially energy drinks.. why?? because YOU ARE AN RD! come on). Being wired, jittery, and anxious won’t help. All you need is a little bit of coffee and A WHOLE LOT OF JESUS!

6. Breathe! The best bit of advice I can give you is to go get a tattoo on your wrist with the cliche “breathe” to remind you to use those big air bags in your chest at least every 30 seconds or so. But really, if you come to a question that really stumps you or you find yourself reading the question with your eyes but thinking about how you’re going to tell your mom you failed your RD exam, stop. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Say a prayer. Picture yourself with your passing certificate and move on when you are ready. You will have plenty of time for at least 3-5 of these small panic attacks during your 2:30 hour allotment.

7.  Mind over matter. This may be the hippie inside of me, but I am 100% convinced that the #1 thing that got me through this test was God and the insight he gave me to conquer my self-doubt. Don’t let this test overpower you. You are the expert. You are an RD! You have to believe that. Write it on your mirror, practice you signature with your credentials behind it, and believe it! You would NOT have gotten through undergrad or especially the CP/internship if you were incompetent in dietetics. At least once a day while studying leading up to your exam (or every time you have a panic attack) try to imagine yourself at the testing center having just received your results. Imagine getting that passing score that YOU WILL GET and how happy you will feel. As silly as it sounds practice your reaction; Will you cry? Will you call your mom? Will you hug every stranger you see for the next hour? Will you go get a big tall boy or a glass of wine? How good will it feel? Picture it, believe it, and look forward to it! This test is simply a mind game. Don’t let it get the best of you. Remember, this is an entry-level exam. 79% of CP students pass and 88% of DI students pass (see statistics) Do not let this test stand between you and your biggest dream for the past 4+ years. It does not have that much power. You have the power. And you will triumph!

If you would like to hear/read my story of my experience taking the RD exam, see below….. If you just came for the 7 points, thank you so much for reading, and I hope it was helpful! I would appreciate any feedback (constructive criticism included), and as my dad says, “I’d wish you luck, but I know you don’t need it” cuz you got this! Go get em tiger! Meow.

October 11th, 2014 (specifically after 9:30 am) was the best of day 23 years on this earth thus far. I had originally planned to wake up early and look through my cheat sheets (condensed study notes) one last time while I drank my coffee. I ended up being really nauseas as soon as I woke up secondary to anxiety, so I ended up zoning off to the weather channel while attempting to spoon-feed myself some eggs. Before I knew it, it was time to go, so I brought my study materials to look at while I waited. My boyfriend drove me so I wouldn’t have to worry about driving. There ended up being no wait, and even though I had gotten there 30 minutes early I was immediately rushed in to take my test. I was surprisingly calm throughout the majority of my test, in fact, most of it was a blur. When I finished answering question 125 (the minimum number of questions you can answer) my screen went blank for a moment and then popped up to inform me that my exam was complete and the results were to follow after an 11 question survey! My heart stopped for a moment. I was sure I had failed in that moment. It had cut me off on the minimum amount of questions, “it must mean that it’s given up on me and I’ve missed too many to be able to pass”. I clicked through the survey answering neutral to every response. It felt like it took 30 minutes. My heart was pounding. When the survey was finished, the screen said I could gather my materials and exit now. The sweet old lady came in to escort me out and I was panicking, “Where are my results?”, she replied that she didn’t know if my test would tell me immediately and I insisted that it did, “WHERE ARE THEY?!” Poor lady. She sweetly directed me to lady that had checked me in who had a folded up piece of paper with a neutral look on her face. I panicked again. I had to have failed. She handed me the paper. I unfolded it and started scouring the document trying to find my results. “DID I PASS OR FAIL?! WHAT ARE ALL THESE WORDS?! ” I finally saw a number and I couldn’t remember the passing score requirement. I finally start reading the document from the top and it reads, “Congratulations, you have passed the Registration Examination for Dietitian Nutritionists.” I gasped. “OMG!” The lady congratulated me. I went to gather my things from my locker. I couldn’t even get the key in, I was shaking so hard. I finally got the key to work and I started my way out the building. I felt the tears welling up but I managed to make it outside where I immediately broke out into an ugly cry. I managed to turn my phone on and dialed my boyfriend to come pick me up. I had gotten out an entire hour earlier than expected. He answered the phone with a concerned tone. I was boohooing, and for some reason the first thing that came out of my mouth was. “will you come pick me up?”, sobbing still of course. Then I realized that he probably thought I had failed and I said it for the first time.. “I passed!” I was hyperventilating at this point. A nearby store owner looked out of his window concerningly. While I waited for my bf to come pick me up, I called everyone in my family and told them I had passed. Mom laughed at me for crying. I was in public with snot running down my face profusely and I did not care at all! He arrived with a 32oz beer to celebrate. When I tell you it was the best feeling in my life, I literally mean that I have NEVER felt so much joy in my ENTIRE life. The struggle was so worth the reward. And I would never do it again! I hope my story will help you look forward to your own! You may not be as emotionally unstable as me, but I’d be willing to bet you’re going to feel pretty relieved!



2 thoughts on “7 tips on passing the RD exam (for the type B personality)

  1. Thank you for this post! My husband is definitely a type B personality! He has been off and on studying for the past 2 months but didn’t start intensely studying until about 2 weeks ago (taking the exam in 3 days). I did the Google search and got so worried! Your post has calmed me enough to know he can do it! Thank you!


    • I’m so happy it could bring some relief! I think that’s the hardest part of the exam is getting over test anxiety. Yes, he can do it! I wish him (and your sanity as well) the best of luck!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s