How To Pass the RD Exam On Your First Try

  Feb 11, 2020  |  #Nutrition

This post was originally written in 2016, and updated as of February, 2021

Today, I want to chat about how to pass the RD Exam, how I passed the RD exam in 1 month (largely thanks to Visual Veggies), and how I became interested in nutrition in becoming a dietitian. 

Fast forward 3.5 years later, that interested turned into a Nutrition Master’s degree and becoming a Registered Dietitian! Rd prep is the best thing you can invest in for the RDN exam. 

When thinking about how long it takes to become a dietitian, passing the RD exam is pretty much the last part!

How to pass the RD Exam

Girl studying with text overlay

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Wondering how to become a Registered Dietitian? Well, the registered dietitian exam is almost like the “final board exam” you must take in order to become a Registered Dietitian.

You have to pass the RD exam to become a credentialed dietitian, and then you’ll want to get licensed in your respective state to practice.

Hopefully, this post will reach those of who you are contemplating a career change, are currently studying nutrition and are an #rd2be, or maybe you’re just interested in nutrition and health like I was.


After changing careers to study nutrition, I knew I wanted to focus on preventative health, work with athletes, help improve peoples’ relationships with food.

Furthermore, I wanted to help people understand the tried-and-true amid all the false information out there.

So, I started taking my prereqs in  2012, and 3.5 years later, I became a Registered Dietitian with my Master’s in Public Health.

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Tips For Getting a Dietetic Internship

If you’re looking to take the exam, likely you’ve already completed your dietetic internship.

But if not, my post on becoming a dietitian walks you through all of the prereqs. I also have a full post on tips for getting matched to a dietetic internship

potatoes, chicken sausage and veggies on a sheet pan

If you don’t apply to or get into a coordinated program, you will have to apply for a separate didactic internship, which can be a very competitive process. I

highly recommend working with All Access Dietetics Get Matched Course (use the code “BUCKETLISTTUMMY” for 20% off!) because they’re pros with helping you get matched to a dietetic internship. 

They’ve been doing it for years and know how to make you the most competitive applicant for an internship.

It’s worth investing in one-on-one coaching or a course because then you have a 98% likelihood of getting matched and being able to start your career as an RD sooner. 

What is the RD Exam Pass Rate?

According to the Academy, as of 2018, 71-72% of takers passed it on their first try. Among those taking it on their 2nd or 3rd try, 33-40% passed. While these numbers may seem intimidating, don’t freak out.

You CAN pass the test on your first try, especially with these rd exam tips.

My favorite resource, Visual Veggies, was a game changer. I’ll discuss more about why I love this resource below.

cup of espresso with cookie and laptop on wooden table

Ultimate RD Prep: Where To Start

I’m going to share my favorite RD prep resources and what I used to pass the RD exam on my first try. I think you will find many of these useful as well so you can pass the RD exam on your first try. 

For example, the Inman dietitian study guide is completely worth it. And some of the computer study programs I used I would 100% recommend.

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How To Study For And Pass The RD Exam 

Here is my experience with the Registered Dietitian exam (RD exam) and my RD exam prep.

If you’re looking to pass the RD exam on your first try, hopefully you’ll find these tips helpful.

The exam can seem overwhelming, but let’s break it down. 

Worrying about passing the RD exam? The Registered Dietitian exam is the last obstacle to becoming a Registered Dietitian. This post outlines how to study or the RD exam, as well as helpful RD exam prep materials.

The RD exam is a grueling test that really tackles your critical thinking skills. I spent about a solid month studying for it, putting in a few hours each day.

I know many people who had success studying for just 1-2 weeks, and some that needed more time. 

Everyone is different, and at this point, you know best how you study and take tests because the dietitian exam pass rate doesn’t reflect how we all take tests differently. 

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the most organized person (if you can’t tell by these pictures) but I found what worked best for me. 

Try Visual Veggies for Free today

What Resources Do You Need for RD Prep?

  • I mainly used the Jean Inman study guide and RD Exam Study Suite, and I found both to be sufficient. The Jean Inman RD Exam Study Guide, specifically, walks you through each domain. I downloaded it and would actually listen to it in my car.
    • While it’s pricey, it really focuses in on the four domains and key points of the exam – nutrition care, the science of nutrition, food service, and management of food programs and services.
  • Visual Veggies is a great platform for visual learners with included flashcards for prep! In my opinion, it’s the best rd exam study material. 
  • I also used the Krause textbook as a supplemental and a great way to refresh MNT (new 14th edition here). Please do NOT sell this book if you used it in school. It’s one you always want to keep and have in your toolbox.

Worrying about passing the RD exam? The Registered Dietitian exam is the last obstacle to becoming a Registered Dietitian. This post outlines how to study or the RD exam, as well as helpful RD exam prep materials.

RD Exam Practice Questions

I also found this software and these practice tests to be helpful. The Visual Veggies RD Exam Study Suite has over 1,000 questions, whiteboard tutorials (believe me, these are SO helpful!), a timer like in the real RD exam setting, repeating incorrect questions and more.

It’s really worth the investment so you don’t have to retake the RD exam.

Plus, doing a variety of practice questions is the best way to learn!  You can find several free rd exam practice questions available on the internet. 

And if you’re a flashcards person, these already made for you flashcards are a game changer. 

I used all of these resources to make my own little RD exam study guide, and I really think they helped.

Worrying about passing the RD exam? The Registered Dietitian exam is the last obstacle to becoming a Registered Dietitian. This post outlines how to study or the RD exam, as well as helpful RD exam prep materials.


RD Exam Study Tips

These tips were super helpful as I reviewed everything for the dietitian exam. 

  • I spent between 3-5 days reviewing each domain (some were shorter than others), listening to the lectures as I followed along in the study guide. Then, I rewrote things and would later rewrite them AGAIN to make flashcards (this is the best way I learn, though it is time-consuming).
  • The practice tests were so essential. I went through the practice test for each domain and really tried to understand the questions I got wrong – mostly, WHY they were wrong.
  • It is SO essential to understand the “why” to better understand the wording and writing of the test.

You have to be able to think critically like they want you to think. Visual Veggies really helped me see where my strengths and weaknesses were. 

  • By the last week, I was reviewing all of the domains again and basically just quizzing myself with the flashcards. And, going through the practice tests again. At this point, I was just feeling anxious about the upcoming RD exam and was ready to have it over and done with (AKA Watching Giada and The Food Network).
  • I also downloaded this app and used it for when I was sitting on the couch watching tv or reading in bed. It was a good way to spit out information for questions that were a little different from the Inman guide.

The questions were somewhat basic, but helpful for some concepts and a mindless way to review things and reminded me of my own rd exam tutoring. 

Worrying about passing the RD exam? The Registered Dietitian exam is the last obstacle to becoming a Registered Dietitian. This post outlines how to study or the RD exam, as well as helpful RD exam prep materials.

Visual Veggies

Visual Veggies is also a very popular option that has a great success rate! I love how the software visually displays your results and the percentage of questions from each domain so you can easily see your strengths and weaknesses.

They also have tons of different study tools, like flashcards and an app too. Best of all, they have reduced pricing for students too!

Desktop shot of Visual Veggies Software to Pass RD Exam

I also found that Visual Veggies offered great practice for learning to take the actual RD test on the computer. 

Try Visual Veggies for Free today

Other Tools

I know people have loved and used  Hess and Hunt, RD Flashcards and other study resources. I can’t speak to them since I didn’t use them but I know registered dietitian study flashcards worked for others!

In my opinion, picking a few will be the least overwhelming option and help you study efficiently for the RD exam.

Final Advice for Taking the Registered Dietitian Exam:

  1. Allow ample time to prepare yourself.
  2. Schedule the exam as soon as you are eligible. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Knowledge fades fast.
  3. Do all of the practice questions and then some. Use them to focus on your weak points.
  4. Make studying fun. Use the resources that work best for you! I outlined many above, but some may work BEST for you.
  5. Eat a filling breakfast the day of. The last thing you need when you want to pass the RD exam is feeling hungry, sluggish or tired. As RD’s, we know this already, but reminders always help. Some easy breakfast favorites include sweet potato blueberry baked oatmeal, skillet breakfast scramble, and apple pumpkin pie oatmeal.
  6. The exam is hard. Not everything you studied will be on it, and vice versa. You’ll doubt yourself during it but be assured that you know this.
  7. You’ve taken harder tests throughout school, memorized all of the biochem pathways, worked with carbohydrate counting, and likely treated someone with chronic disease. You got this!
  8. Celebrate! Becoming an RD is SUCH a proud moment and accomplishment. So much work goes into it. You deserve to celebrate!

infographic about how to pass the rd exam with study tips


If you’ve taken the RD exam, do you have any points to add?

How do you best study?


33 responses to “How To Pass the RD Exam On Your First Try

  1. This article shade a ton of light. Bumped into it just at the right time while feeling overwhelmed with all preparations. I’m preparing for KCAT which is the very first step of CDRE/ RD exam process.
    I’m reaching out to see if you could help me with any tips and resources or practice test links/ sites I could find to prepare for KCAT.

  2. I graduated from the coordinated program at Ohio State in 1981. I practiced as an RD for 6 years, then went into hospital administration field for over 2 decades. After 28 years of not practicing dietetics, I decided to study for the exam. I studied for 9 months and passed with a 33. That was 3 years ago. I still have not practiced since then in my retirement. I wanted to do it for the challenge and relearning everything. I studied Inman, and took practice tests.

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