5 Tips on How to Pass the RD Exam!

Nothing can explain the feeling of walking out of the testing center with this paper saying that I passed the RD exam! 

My exam was at 4pm that day (only available time for the day) but I had a good breakfast with eggs, toast, and bacon, and went to the city the test was being held early and made sure I knew how to get to the testing center. I grabbed some notes on items I wanted to review briefly and went over them at a local cafe with an ice coffee and a light lunch of a protein bar until I got a call around 2pm saying that they could take me early. I remember my heart was pounding out of my chest. This was it, this is where all my hard work would pay off. This was the day I would (hopefully) officially become a Registered Dietitian.

Years of education and a year long rigorous 1200+ hour unpaid internship before I could sit for this 2.5 hour exam. And many people do not pass on the first go. The CDR (Commission of Dietetic Registration) updated the exam format in 2017 so that that balance of questions and types of questions changed, making it seemingly more difficult. The pass rate for first time test takers went from about 80-85% to about 70%, and second time test taker pass rate statistics drops into the 30%. So you can see why I was so nervous!

I remember walking into the testing room, there are people from all different disciplines taking the exam and as I was going to my seat I saw another test taker with a screen in what looked like a lot of parentheses and math (maybe an engineer?). I sat down and started reading over the rules of the exam. There's a computer calculator but I was provided with a physical one as well as a dry erase marker board for any math questions. You can start whenever you are ready but the clock starts ticking as soon as you click the start button. "Here goes everything." There are 125 questions, 25 being "experimental" questions but you don't know which ones those are. If you are on the borderline of passing or if it's a test with easier questions (less weight for each questions) you could go up to 145 questions. I remember getting to question 125 and really hoping I didn't need to answer any more questions. The computer went blank for a second and they make you take a survey about the testing center, (I breezed through - great, strongly agree, yes!) I answered them as quickly as I could knowing I either passed with flying colors or failed miserably.

My heart was pounding, I was sure everyone in the room could hear it. When I saw the screen my eyes welled with tears. Euphoria washed over me. "Congratulations, you have passed the Registration Examination for Dietitians." I had all I could to not yell in excitement. I raised my hand to have the proctor come escort me out of the room. I couldn't think straight, I had to sign something I can't remember, and I almost dropped my dry erase board and calculator handing it back. I really couldn't believe it. The proctor said with a smile, "Congratulations! Now go celebrate!" This moment was finally here. I couldn't wait to tell my husband who was waiting for me at a nearby cafe, and my family, friends, and coworkers. I was Erika Behrmann RD!

Sorry it got all crinkled in all the excitement!

I walked up to my husband who was seated outside the cafe and I couldn't hold back my excitement. Even other patrons sitting outside asked, "what are you celebrating?" as I replied with, "passing the biggest exam of my life!" We talked with them a little bit, grabbed a celebratory drink and went over to a local farm to table restaurant called Revival in Concord, NH and had one of the best tasting meals of my life with a bottle of champagne.

Thinking back on all the hard work, and how I was able to do it, I had to constantly remind myself of these things to keep me going: 

1. My passion about nutrition and how I continue to incorporate it into daily life
2. I want to be a good role model for my family and set a good example for my daughter

Keep thinking about your "why's" to keep you going when you feel the stress creeping high. 

As an RD (Registered Dietitian) there is so much you can do! Sports nutrition to long term care, foodservice, to acute care hospital, specializations like pediatrics, renal, and diabetes, and beyond. I got a job as a clinical dietitian before my internship ended at one of my rotation sites and I love what I do!

The internship experience was invaluable and I was really able to pull from my experience to study, take, and pass the exam. But there are ways to really make the most of your studying time, especially if you have a family or work full-time. You can still pull it off!

Here is how I studied in a nut shell:

1. Schedule the exam as soon as you can

 This will allow you to make a study plan and look at your schedule to see when you will realistically be able to do. Depending on how much you're working, give yourself ample time to be able to study 4-12 hours a week. I had gone through the Inman study guide once before the internship ended because I had an exit exam to take in order to complete the internship, but plan to get through it at least twice and answer the corresponding questions to each domain. I scheduled my exam about 1.5 months out taking all of this into consideration. I would study 0-4 hours per day either for a couple hours after my daughter went to sleep or on the weekends. Try to split up your studying into manageable chunks or you're going to be too daunted to even start! I would recommend choosing one main study guide. More on that on the next point!

2. Choose the study sources that will help you study best

The Jean Inman study guide has been touted as the bible of studying for the RD exam. I haven't looked at some of the others but I know most of the people I know have passed the exam just using this study guide. I received it as part of my internship but I know many programs that don't provide it. It is pricey (~$400) but sometimes you can find it through past interns or online for cheaper. As long as it is 2017 and later you should be fine since they have an addendum with new info if it isn't the 2019 version. It is comprehensive with 4 domains and comes with ~1000 multiple choice questions. The only thing it doesn't have are rationales to each question, so if I got a question wrong, I would go back to the correlating section of the domain the question came from to understand why I got it wrong.  Another tool I used to solidify concepts was the RD Pocket Prep app. Pay for the full version ($25). It is so worth it! It has 500 questions and it gives explanations to the answers. You can also join facebook RD Exam Prep groups to help you with live seminars, or questions throughout your studying.

3. Study the way that you have always studied

Not everyone studies the same so stick to the way you studied in college and don't try to reinvent the wheel just because you read it on a blog. Of course you can try a new method and if that works for retaining info, by all means go for it. The Inman guide tells you to go through the guide once by listening to it, and again with a highlighter. I DO recommend doing this. I think it stores in our brain better when we hear, read, and write the info, and even better when we teach it. I used a different highlighter for each domain because I'm definitely a visual learner and I could associate the material to a certain color when I was thinking of which section/domain to go back to to review answers to questions. The visual piece also goes a little bit further like when I was trying to memorize RD management theories, I would create a picture in my head that went along with the definition. For example, I would remember this flashcard ; Elton Mayo - Hawthorne studies. If you involve people in the process, they become more productive - by tying it to a memory. I remembered in childhood my mom and my grandma would involve me in making "10 minute tuna" which was tuna, MAYO, apples (or other fruit which could have stems or THORNS [hawthorne]), and apple cider and we would produce lots of it because they involved extra people (i.e. Me). Some things just need to be remembered by repetition like acronyms but if you can tie it to a memory I find it is easier/quicker to access. I also drew out the Krebs cycle until I could remember each step and used different highlighters for each cycle or reaction and understood the products and byproducts. Pocket prep also has a section on tips for how to take multiple choice exams which I found pretty helpful.

4. Make time and a route of attack

It is really important to split up they studying into manageable chunks. The book says to take the number of pages in the guide (195) and divide by the number of days you have to study. I think that's a good place to start. I wanted to try to get through Inman twice (almost 3 times) before the exam and have time to do mostly questions in the weeks leading up to my exam so I would try to study by doing a domain a day or split it into 2 days and the next day I would focus on questions. Or if it was a weekend day I would study the study guide in the morning and do questions that night and see what I absorbed. For Pocket Prep I would do these questions whenever I had a spare moment, waiting at the doctors office, while sitting on the couch watching TV, lunch breaks, etc. I would do about 10 at a time for the most part, sometimes if I had a good chunk of time I would do 25 or 50. You can try simulating the exam and do 100 questions if you want as well. For I started about 1 month out so I had time to try to get through all the questions. The last week I literally only did questions from Inman and eatright prep. When you feel like you literally can't study anymore, you are probably ready to take the exam. I felt like I could never study enough until that last week. Don't make rescheduling the exam an option unless absolutely necessary. You know a lot more than you think from all the years of being in school and through working in your internship. Studying is really just building confidence for the exam and re-solidifying concepts.

5. Know and visualize that you are going to pass

Some people like to write on the top of their papers or dry erase boards in the exam room their name and credentials. I just kept visualizing seeing that congratulations on the screen/paper and sharing with everyone I knew that I passed. I visualized what I could do with the credential. I visualized all positive things I could, but also had cautious awareness if I did not pass. It is not the end of the world if you don't pass. You can take the exam as many times as you need to. You are not any less of an RD if you don't pass the first time. There are so many life factors that can go into it so don't let that cloud your way to success. You WILL pass, even if it isn't the first time.

6. Make sure to celebrate!!

You've worked SO hard! You deserve it!


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