How I Passed the RD Exam (While Working Full-Time)

As you might have seen in my previous post, I recently passed my RD exam! I’m still in shock after the amount of time I spent studying and stressing over it. I still have dreams about taking it… So while it’s all still fresh, I wanted to share my studying experience. Maybe some of my strategies will be helpful for you as you prepare to take the exam yourself!

Let me start by saying that even though most RDs have a lot in common, we are not all the same when it comes to test-taking. These are some of the things that really worked for me while I was studying, and while I hope to provide some useful suggestions and tips, it’s important to focus on the tactics that really resonate with your specific study style, and not just choosing certain things because it worked for others.

My Study Materials

So to start, here’s a list of the specific materials I used to study. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve heard of many different study options and don’t really know what to choose. I’ve been there. These are the things that really helped me narrow down the information that I needed to cover and study in an efficient way that worked for me.

My Internship’s Study Binder

I was fortunate enough to receive a comprehensive study binder from my internship just before graduation. If you’re familiar with the Jean Inman study guide, this was very similar to that. (Because I had this, I chose not to buy Inman, but I know several people who used Inman to study from in place of this.) The binder provided me with a review of all relevant topics. Your program may provide something similar! But if not, the Inman study guide is definitely the closest thing that you can purchase. And after talking with several other people who have used it, that’s what I would recommend if you aren’t provided a study binder of your own.

Inman Recordings

Though I didn’t use the Inman study guide, I was able to get my hands on the Inman recordings. If you’re not familiar with these, they’re essentially recordings of Jean Inman discussing the information in her study guide. While I can’t say I retained a whole lot from listening to them, they were definitely nice to have when I wasn’t able to be sitting down studying.

Quizlet

Growing up, I made quite a few sets of flashcards for school. Then I used quizlet a lot in high school and college. So I knew that this was a study strategy that had worked for me in the past. There are many options for using quizlet for the RD exam. Lots of people have already made flashcard sets with study material. But I personally liked making my own so I knew that all the information I wanted to include was there. They also have an app which allows you to easily review no matter where you are.

Chomping Down the Dietetic Exam Podcast

This is a fairly new resource, so if you’ve taken the exam in previous years, you may not recognize it. Chomping Down the Dietetic Exam (CDDE) Podcast is a podcast designed specifically for studying to become an RD. Dietitian Feraz is great at explaining various concepts in extreme detail and always provides strategies for how to remember difficult things. I would definitely recommend listening to each of his podcasts, particularly the ones that cover topics that you struggle with. You can find them on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

Pocket Prep

The Pocket Prep app (aka “Medical Pocket Prep PTCE RD”) is definitely the tool I would recommend most out of all of my study tools. It’s $14.99 for a 1 month subscription or $35.99 for 3 months (though I really think 1 month is the perfect amount of time). The app provides 650 practice questions covering all 4 domains. You answer them in 10-question quizzes, and then get your average score per domain and overall to help gauge your progress. Each question comes with a thorough explanation behind it, which is incredibly helpful. While I wouldn’t recommend only using this to study, it’s a great way to test your knowledge and gain more understanding about the why behind each question.

How I Studied

One downside of working while studying for the exam is that it takes a little more planning and time. I took the exam about 2 months after most of my fellow interns (partly because of other things going on, but mostly because of the additional study time I needed). I was definitely jealous of all of my friends who were already RDs while I was still studying for hours a day and hoping I would pass. Because of my job, my study timeline looks a bit different from that of others. Would I recommend this? Ideally, no. But I also know that it can be difficult to find a job as a new dietitian. So I started applying early in order to have something lined up as soon as possible given the pandemic and the oversaturated job market. And when I got an offer, I was very ready to accept it for that reason. So my recommendation is this: start applying for jobs early on, and if something comes along before the exam, take it. And if not, look at it as an opportunity to get the test over with in a shorter amount of time.

Read Through Binder, Highlighted, & Made Quizlets

The very first thing I did to start studying was read through my entire binder, highlight, and make a quizlet set for each section of each domain. This helped me to review everything completely at least once and make sure I had things written out in a way that made sense to me. (Here is the link to my study sets if you think you might find them helpful.)

Listened to Inman Tapes & Chomping Down the Dietetic Exam Podcast

As I mentioned above, a small amount of my studying was done by listening to the Inman tapes. I was able to download them onto my phone so I could listen to them while walking and on the train to work. I also listened to all of the CDDE podcasts, usually while doing work around the house or while in the shower. These were extremely helpful in understanding a lot of the broader topics on the exam.

Went Through Each Quizlet Several Times

Once I had finished making the quizlets (which took me a while) I went through all of them at least 2 or 3 times to make sure I had at least a general knowledge of the concepts. Because I was only studying a few hours a day, this process alone took me about two weeks to get through.

Rewrote Certain Material

In grad school, I found it really helpful to make my physiology study guides by writing out certain facts and processes in a way that helped me to visualize and understand them. So after I went through each section of Quizlet, I would comb through all the information to find certain things that I knew would be more easily understood if they were written out. This usually included things like physiological processes, various ranges of numbers, and diagrams. I then reviewed these as I went through my studying and referred back to them as needed.

Practiced with Pocket Prep

Last but not least, I used Pocket Prep constantly during the last few weeks before my exam. This app was seriously so helpful, not only in reviewing information, but also in just getting used to the format of the test questions. It also really helped me to gauge how I was doing and which topics I needed to touch up on. This is the only study tool that I actually paid for, and it was worth every penny. While I’ve heard great things about other programs such as Visual Veggies and the eatrightPREP, I just couldn’t justify spending that much money on them. Pocket Prep is easily just as valuable of a resource, for a fraction of the cost! I highly recommend it!

General Study Tips

Know Your Own Study Style

It can be very tempting to hear about someone else’s successful study strategy and follow it to a T. But the truth is that it’s not going to benefit you unless it matches your own study style. When you’re preparing to start studying, be honest and realistic with yourself about what works for you. If using flashcards or rewriting things is really helpful for you, try it out! If you really like listening to things and are able to learn that way, then do it! If you work best rereading things and doing practice questions, great! Just be sure to tailor your studying to what works for you. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Give Yourself Time, But Not Too Much Time

It’s important to be realistic about how much time you need to study, especially if you have other things going on, like work. This is a big test and there is a lot of information to cover. This being said, I wouldn’t recommend studying for any less than 1 month. If you’re working, I would recommend allowing 1 and a half to 2 and a half months to review. But as I mentioned before, while you obviously want to be sure to give yourself enough time to study, giving yourself too much time won’t be doing yourself any favors. I studied for a little over 2 and a half months, and once I passed the 2.5 month point, I felt really burnt out. I reached the point where I started to forget things that I had already previously memorized because of how much time had passed. I think somewhere between 1.5 to 2.5 months is where you’ll likely find your sweet spot.

Focus on Keywords & Read Carefully

If you’ve started using any other source to study, then you’ve likely heard that it’s important to focus on keywords for this exam, especially words like “most” or “best.” The RD exam likes to trick you and list multiple correct answers, but asks you to pick the best answer. Really the only thing I can recommend to get past these is doing plenty of practice questions and looking at the explanations for each to understand the reasoning behind the correct answer.

Another extremely important thing to keep in mind is to read each question thoroughly and slowly. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but I can’t tell you how many practice questions I got wrong simply because I had missed one single word in the question. It was so frustrating, but I learned my lesson. I was too rushed going through the questions and wanted to get to the answers as quickly as I could. But in the process, I missed a major part of the question that lead me to the wrong answer. So be sure to read carefully both when practicing and when taking the actual exam.

Make a Study Schedule & Stick to It

If you’ve made it to the point where you’re about to start studying for your RD exam, you’re likely type A like the rest of us dietetic professionals. (: So you might already have a plan for a study schedule. For smaller tests during college, I never felt the need to make a study schedule. But just because of the sheer size of this exam, a study schedule was a must for me. It’s best to make one early on to help you map out how much time you need to cover everything. And most importantly, make sure your schedule is realistic. It’s tempting to say that you’ll cover a certain amount of information in a short amount of time just to get the exam over with. But don’t bite off more than you can chew; you will end up regretting it when you don’t feel prepared by your exam date.

Take Breaks

No matter what your study style is, most people benefit from the occasional study break. Studying for this exam can feel tedious and overwhelming, and often takes a lot out of you. Rather than pushing through for hours and hours, I would recommend stopping every once and awhile, and I mean really stopping. Don’t just sit at your desk on your phone. Have dinner with your family, call a friend to chat, do some housework. Anything that can help clear your mind from all things test-related. This really helps retain the information you’ve already studied and allows your brain to absorb more once you return to studying. Plus it’ll help keep you sane. (:

Wow, this ended up being a lot longer than I initially thought it would be. Turns out I have a lot to say about this exam! Thanks to everyone who’s made it all the way through! Hopefully some of the things that helped me can help you too. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or need any help! I believe in you!

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