How To Pass the RD Exam On Your First Try

  Feb 11, 2018  |  #Nutrition

This post was originally written in 2016, and updated as of May, 2019. 

Today, I want to chat about how to pass the RD Exam, how I passed the RD exam in 1 month, and how I became interested in nutrition. 3.5 years later, how that interested turned into a Nutrition Master’s degree and becoming a Registered Dietitian! I’ll even discuss tips for the dietetic internship

This is a little bit of a longer one.

How to pass the RD Exam

Girl studying with text overlay

Wondering how to become a Registered Dietitian? Well, the registered dietitian exam is the 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.

Becoming a Registered Dietitian

I was never a huge cook or really helped out much in the kitchen growing up (gasspp – this may be a sin in the food/health nutrition world), aside from eating anything that was out or my mom cooked. As a three-sport athlete, I wasn’t very much concerned with health or food outside of feeling good for performance. 

I went to class, made good grades, and practiced and competed really hard in sports. I loved sports so much that I chose to study them as an undergrad, and earned my Bachelor’s in Sport Management from UMass Amherst.

After graduating college, I worked in college athletics for a few years. Ultimately, though, I decided that working in sports wasn’t the lifestyle I desired. At this point, I was gaining incremental interest in running while dating my now-husband, and starting paying much more attention to the foods I was putting in my body.

New to the cooking world, I spent time preparing easy meals with minimal ingredients. I relied alot on this and this.  You can find the recipe for the below Pumpkin Crockpot Chicken Chili here.

Pumpkin Chicken Crockpot Chili

I was starting to see the results of putting real food into my body, rather than microwaveable, processed foods (yea you, low-fat granola bars, fiber one bars, fat-free yogurt, etc). And, most importantly, I liked the results. I felt so much better.

Becoming Interested in Nutrition

I moved to Charlotte, and spent time working at a bank and then in marketing. But, I still wasn’t completely satisfied in my professional life. I would sit at my desk, exposed to the many food, fitness and healthy living blogs. 

I began reading everything I could get my hands on. Michael Pollan and The China Study especially peaked my interest.

Other favorite books related to nutrition and health:

Intuitive Eating and the Intuitive Eating Workbook (I listened on Audible while driving)

Health at Every Size (Audiobook)

Body Kindness (Audiobook)

Nancy Clark Sports Nutrition

Intuitive eating Books | How to study for the Registered Dietitian Exam

I’m a big Audible fan (your first two books are free!), so I downloaded these books and study prep to listen to while walking, running, driving, etc.

Sadly, they didn’t teach us this in school so I think as a future RD, you should be aware of these concepts. The non-diet perspective on nutrition is growing and awareness is so important. I wrote this post on the best intuitive eating resources and hope that can provide some guidance as well. 

But, ultimately, I knew that was what I wanted to do. It would be worth it in the long run. I wanted to be a person with the RD credential behind my name, a resource for health and nutrition, a “go-to” knowledgeable source. I wanted to focus on preventative health, work with athletes, help improve peoples’ relationships to 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.

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, this post on becoming a dietitian walks you through all of the preqeqs. I also have a full post on tips for getting matched to a dietetic internship

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 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 (career coaching or getting matched coaching) because then you have a 98% likelihood of getting matched (their numbers are that high!) and being able to start your career as an RD sooner (more on that below).

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, they also have an individual self-study membership option you can work through. 

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, the 33-40% passed. While these numbers may seem intimidating, don’t freak out.

You CAN pass the test on your first try! My favorite resource, Visual Veggies, was a game changer! I’ll discuss more about why I love this resource below.

How To Study For And Pass The RD Exam

Now, I’m going to touch on the Registered Dietitian exam (RD exam) and 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. I had some other things going on each day, so I felt that not over-committing myself would be best for me.

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. 

What Resources Do You Need?

I mainly used the Jean Inman study guide and Visual Veggies, and I found both to be sufficient. 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.

I used the Krause textbook as 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.

I also found this software and these practice tests to be helpful. Doing a variety of practice questions is the best way to learn!

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

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.

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. 

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 they have 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. 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.

5. 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.

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!

5. C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E. Becoming an RD is SUCH a proud moment and accomplishment. So much work goes into it. You deserve to celebrate!

Celebrating passing RD Exam at Cabo Fish Taco


Note: This post may contain affiliate links. These don’t affect the price of your purchase, but help me run and maintain this blog. Thank you for your support. 

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

How do you best study?


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

  1. I think it is so awesome that you made the switch! I think a lot of people stay in jobs that don’t make them happy because the feel it is too late to go back.
    I’m really concerned about the RD exam at the moment… but I foresee different feeling over the next couple of months!

  2. LOVE THIS. You have to follow what drives you. That is not only how you get the most out of life but also how you do the best serving others. AKA how you reach rockstar status. Congrats!

  3. Mad props for making the switch and pursuing something you were passionate about! And I think it’s so awesome that you included study tips for the RD exam since I’ve heard it can be a bit of a doozy.

  4. This is so exciting! I’m so glad you did this. I have met so many virtual RD’s online, and they have been SUCH a blessing to me with their nutritional advice on their blogs.

  5. I actually changed my major in college to public health because I was unhappy in the current major. I was asking myself, would I be happy for the rest of my life doing that? The answer was no and it was scary but I’m so glad I switched. I don’t regret it at all.

    1. That’s great. I agree it can be scary and unknown but if you’re passionate and know what will make you happy, it only seems sensible to go for it. Kudos to you for making the switch as well.

  6. It’s so awesome that you went back to school to get your RD credentials. It seems like a lot of work, but if it’s what you want to do, then it’s totally worth it.

  7. Loved this post! It is funny because I went into dietetics because I had no idea what to do with myself, I had no previous nutrition knowledge, like whatsoever. It was only once I was in the program that I fell in love with nutrition! I hope when I graduate someone makes me a cake at least half that nice !! 🙂

  8. Great post. I think you covered the important tips for passing the exam. I used the same study guide and basically just studied stuff over and over again. I personally found that writing down info helps me so I filled up a whole notebook jotting down important things I wanted to remember.

    Also – I didn’t know you went to UMass – I did my masters there! 🙂

  9. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to discover your blog, but HI! 🙂 Yay BGB member love! I’m a dancer and I’m also very interested in nutrition and health coaching. This post is really inspiring me right now because I feel like nutrition is really the path for me, and maybe not dance. Subscribing to your blog right now! <3

  10. Thank you so much for sharing! If all goes well, I’m planning on starting next fall to get my RD! I love hearing how other people got into nutrition and went through schooling! Such helpful info!

  11. I was a dietitian for 6 years and then went into hospital admin. I kind of retired and then decided to get back my RD. I studied for months and just recently passed the test with 33 after 28 years. Congratulations to you!

    1. I am studying after two years of finishing my degree…I have not taken the exam D/t personal circumstances.. How did you study and pass after long period of time? Any advice? Resources?

    2. Hello, I also was an RD for many years – dropped the credential. Now interested in getting it back after 22 years
      I became a professional coder – hardest test I ever took, so I’m thinking the RD exam again may be doable.
      Any insights?

    3. Help! I am considering the exam again after 32 years!! If you have any suggestion Lallong I would certainly welcome it!

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