What to Expect… The RD Exam

As promised, I wanted to do a little write up on my experience taking the RD Exam.

So let’s jump right in!


I mentioned in a previous post that I used DietitianExam.com to prep for the test.  I actually really liked the format of this study guide.  Topics were broken down into manageable sections, or modules, which took anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour to review, followed by a 25 question quiz.  After completing 5 or 6 modules, a 125-question review quiz was available.  In total, I believe there were about 42 modules {I’m not sure the exact total as my online subscription has run out}.  In addition to reading through each module, I created flashcards – I’m a learn-by-writing kind of girl, which really helped me cement concepts and those pesky government program acronyms.  At the end of the study guide are more comprehensive review quizzes.  I went back and re-read all of the lecture modules before completing these quizzes.

After finishing the DietitianExam.com program, I skimmed the Hess & Hunt study guide.  I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something huge that DietitianExam didn’t provide.  The Hess & Hunt guide is much more comprehensive and content heavy.  There are no quizzes, only reading material.  I also felt there was a bit of repetition section to section.  But, let’s face it, at this point I had done plenty of review and I was so over studying.  I just wanted to get the damn thing done.

Overall, I would say DietitianExam.com has a great framework and helps you pace yourself for studying, but is light in the content area.  You get the facts, definitions, equations for calculations – mostly brief, but everything you need.   DietitianExam helped me refresh a lot of that dormant knowledge from my undergrad classes, and I really felt like it was the perfect review for me.  Hess & Hunt would be a better choice if: 1) a few years have passed between your undergrad and dietetic internship; or 2) you didn’t do exceptionally well in undergrad and need some refreshers.  That being said, I found that Hess & Hunt had a lot of superfluous material that could get you bogged down.

Going in to the test, I of course had some doubts – “Do I know all the vitamins and minerals well enough? Do I have every lab value memorized?  Will I remember all of the behavioral learning theories and the associated researchers names?” I knew I had studied enough, but there is just so much material that it is impossible to know everything.  During my internship, we had Cal Poly professor extraordinaire, Dr. Derelian {who sits on the test-writing board}, come and talk with us.  The biggest piece of advice that she gave was that the majority of the RD exam is critical thinking rather than fact recall.  Don’t get stuck on memorization.  Do yourself a favor and keep this in mind.

The Exam

A little less than 3 weeks after my DI graduation I received an email from CDR stating I was eligible to sit for the exam.  You get a user ID and password, and from that point on you have 1 year to log on and register for the exam, which mind you, costs $200.  I took my exam, exactly 1 month to the day after I received this email, if that gives you some idea of my test-prep timeline.  I had done some lackadaisical studying prior to graduation, but really bumped it up into high gear after I was eligible.

The day of the exam, I woke up bright and early to drink coffee, have a good breakfast, and most importantly, not be rushed.  I arrived at the test center the required half an hour before my scheduled exam time.  There were 5 or so other people there taking a variety of professional exams (I heard psych tech a couple of times), so the proctor gave us a run down of the rules, signed us in, took our picture, and then sat us down at a computer cubby.  I was provided a scratch piece of paper, a pencil with a shitty eraser, and a simple calculator.  The proctor logged me in to the exam, and I was off.

As you may know, the RD exam has a huge test bank of questions, all weighted according to difficulty, and categorized into content area – Nutrition Care Process, Food and Nutrition Science, Foodservice, and Management.  You must achieve a certain percentage correct in each content area to pass, and are given 2 1/2 hours to do so.  The test is comprised of a minimum of a 125 questions, and up to a maximum of 145, wherein which 25 are new pre-test questions being examined for accuracy, understanding, and difficulty, which are not counted for or against your overall score.  If you reach the minimum of 125 questions and have passed all content areas, your exam will be done, and your computer will change screens.  If you haven’t mastered all areas, you will be given an additional 20 questions to do so.

My test started off with ALL CALCULATIONS!  Food costing/percent yield/labor hours…  So my first 25 q’s or so were slow moving, and I was a little freaked out because I was worried I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the whole exam.  But then it was as if I got a metaphorical star on that content section and had no more calculations for the rest of the exam.  I think that’s just the luck of the draw.   After my slow-as-molasses start, I worked through the questions at a much quicker tempo.  Also, I think as the test goes on you become more familiar with how the questions are worded- it’s like the language gets easier to understand, if that makes sense?  {Kind of like Shakespeare, for my theater buffs out there- the more you read, the easier it is to understand.}  And remember:  Read ALL the answers.  All of the answers could be correct, but there is one that is really right.

As far as exam content goes, I would be sure to know your community/government agencies and their functions, as well as the Nutrition Care Process.  Like I said, don’t worry about memorizing little things like the AI for Chromium or the lab values for AST/ALT.  Focus on the big picture.

So after my 125th question {with an hour to spare on the time clock}, my computer redirected me to a brief 10 question survey about the test center.  {At that point I knew I had passed! WOOHOO!}  It then produced a message informing me to return to the exam website and re-login to receive my exam score.  When I clicked on the link, I was denied.  The proctor then came in, asked if I had completed the exam.  I told her yes, and then she explained she had to login for me on her computer to print my score.  The score never pops up on the screen as I had expected!  I received a printed out “Congratulations! You passed!” letter from the CDR, with my weighted score for the exam, and left the building as a Registered Dietitian!

I sat in the parking lot making phone calls, texting, and emailing friends, family, professors, and preceptors.    So exciting!  The rest of the day I spoiled myself a little.  My celebration started with a HUGE sandwich from High Street Deli – I always get the Mother Nature.


Then I went shopping – big surprise – hah!   And got my nails done.  And then drank champagne and celebrated!



Such a good feeling.

So there you go!  If you have any more questions please let me know, and I’ll do my best to answer!


Rock On Future RDs!


8 thoughts on “What to Expect… The RD Exam

    • Thank you!

      I didn’t see anything in my review on EOQ. What I did know was the prime/variable cost methods, how to find breakeven contribution margin, LIFO/FIFO methods and ABC method for costing/inventory.

      And yes, temperatures for dishwashers/sanitizers was something to know (I think I even had a question on the appropriate time/temp for dishwasher sanitation!).


  1. Pingback: Bean Bytes 53 | Health & Food Resources

  2. I passed the exam yesterday after rescheduling it for more than 10 times in the last 4 months!!! was going to reschedule it again but it was too late and the agent on the phone said I can not reschedule it, so I had less than 24 hours to take the test and I did not study at all. I browsed the first domain and some management study guide and reviewed kreb’s cycle and glycolysis (there was absolutely no question about the cycles). There was no time left to study more. I took the exam just to be familiar with the format of the test since I knew there is no way I am going to pass the exam and I had to pay another $200. Well, I passed the exam in disbelief! I would advise to all the interns to take the exam as soon as they get the email to register for the exam and get it done with!


  3. I am starting to explore the idea of starting a new career in nutrition at the age of 38. Thank you for sharing your story it was encouraging.


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