How to Prepare for the RD Exam


After years of hard work, classes, a year-long clinical dietetic internship, sweat, blood and tears (or OK, no blood, but some sweat and tears), I passed my registration exam last year.

What was the experience like? The exam contains a lot of material, but most of it shouldn’t be new. You have 2½ hours to complete the questions. The computerized test adapts based on how many questions you answer correctly and what you answer correctly or incorrectly. You’ll answer at least 125 questions and, if you’re on the borderline of passing, you will have up to 145 questions. Keep in mind that 25 questions are experimental — as in they do not count toward your score. You can read more about the test on the CDR website.

So, what did I do to prepare for my exam? This is what worked for me. How to Prepare for the RD Exam - RD Exam

Choose Your Materials

Do your research on study materials and find something that works well with your studying style. Although these materials can be pricey, I 100-percent believe they are worth the investment. You could also easily split the cost with a co-intern if you don’t mind sharing the materials while studying.

Make a Plan and Write it Down!

I gave myself about three weeks to study, knowing that I had other commitments during that time. I printed out a blank calendar and made a rough outline with assignments and study goals. I decided that I wanted to review all the material at least twice and complete all the review questions provided (that’s more than 1,000 questions).

Get Started

First, I reviewed the material by listening to the CDs that came with my study guide and followed along with the written outline. I paused the CD every time the word “note” was used and highlighted that information because I knew it would be important. At the end of each topic within the domain, I went back and wrote down every “note” on a separate piece of paper. I read through these many times before the exam (and prayed to the nutrition gods a little, too). While your study materials might not be the exact same as what I used, you should be able to use some version of this practice with whatever you choose.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

When I finished each domain, I did at least 50 to 100 review questions. Immediately after I again reviewed every single question. With each question, I suggest you:

  • Make sure you know why you got it correct or incorrect.
  • Understand why the other answer choices are incorrect.
  • Write down any facts you need to memorize on a separate sheet of paper.

Reinforcement is KEY!

When I need to memorize things, I use flashcards. I brought these with me everywhere. If I couldn’t remember something, I wrote it down on a Post-it and left it on my bathroom mirror, the refrigerator or anywhere else I would see it several times a day.

As for the exam itself, to be honest, I thought it was hard. I second guessed myself all the time — don’t recommend that! — but I trusted my gut and could eliminate two of the choices in most cases. Remember: It’s nearly impossible to know everything in the review materials, and that’s OK! You’ll be familiar with the test material, which works because, in the end, the test is more about critical thinking than memorization.

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Chelsey Amer
Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, is a New York City-based registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in weight management, food allergies and intolerances. When not helping clients, she is developing tasty, food-allergy friendly and mostly vegetarian recipes and photographing every bite for her healthy food blog,