The 2017 RD Exam: How to Study Smart & Build Your Confidence

I began studying for the RD Exam by reading the surplus of “How I Passed the RD Exam” blogs. A plethora of posts telling stories of how different individuals studied and passed the RD Exam, including the common themes of: “Buy Inman’s, don’t over study, and go out for celebratory drinks after your exam.” Fortunately, if you’re reading this article, there is no sugar coating the RD Exam or oversimplifying the adventure to obtain your license. This is a honesty interpretation of how to study smart and build your confidence for the RD Exam.

Forewarning: The RD exam is not easy and schooling may not have properly prepared you. You may experience extreme stress during studying, the day before the exam, and during the exam. The intensity of stress may result in extreme sadness or happiness upon completing the exam.

Here is a chronologic step-by-step 1st hand perspective of how to strategically study and optimize your preparation…

That all too familiar feeling…

1st: Research all of the available study resources

Ask people who have taken the RD Exam or professors in your program for advice on the best resources. The best bet is to get a first hand perspective on what worked and what didn’t work for them based on the resource they utilized. Based on my research, Inman’s is the most popular selection and it is also what I began studying with.

Find a Study Buddy


2nd: Select your foundational study resource

Choose a study resource to be your foundation, which should be a comprehensive study guide, not simply practice questions or flashcards. You need a base of material that covers the breadth of the exam in an outline format, in which you will build on in the following steps.

  • Jean Inman’s Review of Dietetics: Inman’s is a great foundation with a comprehensive study guide that covers about 60-70% of what could actually be on the exam (Don’t worry the remaining 30-40% will be discussed in the next steps!). On the negative side, there are some sections emphasized as being important, but didn’t show up on the exam or other resources as in-depth or at all.


How can you challenge yourself to learn, rather than study?

3rd: Make your study guide plan

Ask yourself, when do I want to take the exam? How many days a week am I going to study? How long will I study each day? As Jean Inman says, “Count the number of days between today and the Sunday before the test… Then add up all the pages in this manual. Divide the number of pages by the number of days. That will tell you how many pages you need to review each time you sit down to study.” Even though, you may get behind or ahead of this count, this is a great way to establish a study plan and keep you motivated to stay on top of your studying without getting too far behind (or ahead). Once you have this timeline set, be ready to go on Day 1!

  • Personal perspective: I decided I wanted to take the exam mid-January and started the 1st week of December, giving myself 6 ½ weeks. The first 4 weeks, I studied weekdays for about 4 hours/day and the last 2 weeks, I studied every day of the week about 6-8 hours/day.


Don’t forget to schedule breaks! As in Hawthorne’s theory, “breaks increase productivity.”

4th: Begin your studying

Begin going through your study guide… SLOWLY. Whenever you come across a concept you do not understand, stop and figure out the process/concept/definition.

  • You can do this several different ways, including:
    • 1) Find an online resource, such as an article, picture, website, and print this out;
    • 2) Revisit your educational materials, such as re-visiting an old lecturing covering the topic or a book, and/or;
    • 3) Put these material in your RD study binder or take notes in your foundational study resource (ex: Inman’s)

My Inman’s covered in additional notes!


5th: Select your supplementary study materials.

After you have finished your foundational study material, select a supplementary study material. A supplementary study guide provides a different perspective and material than your foundational study guide has. There is so much material that not one study guide can cover it all. Consider the concept of the,“Law of Averages,” defined as: “the principle that supposes most future events are likely to balance any past deviation from a presumed average.” When you apply this concept to the RD Exam, it simply means the more resources and perspectives you are exposed, the more likely a question or concept is likely to come up again on the exam.

  • Supplementary resources I used:
    • RD Exam iPhone Applications (Pocket Prep, RD Prep): Great for on-the-go, quick studying (in the car, on the bus, at the gym)
    • Breeders & Associate: The 30-day study guide gives you access to over 800-questions in 120 increments…. These questions are most similar to the questions being asked on the RD Exam (aka: conceptual, application-based, not one-word or easy definitions) and asked in the same framework (120 questions).
    • EatRightPREP: A series of practice quizzes and full-length exams. Great tool for the initial stages of acclimating to test taking and learning basic concepts, but questions are a little more broad and simpler.

Try to make fun connections to your internships and life experiences while studying

6th: Practice, practice, practice!!!

At least 1 week before your exam, switch from study-mode to practice-mode. Start taking practice questions and full-length exams in a testing environment.

  • Practice: Stimulate the testing environment. Take at least 120-180 questions at a time in a quiet (no music) environment without distractions. Try to take this at the same time as your scheduled exam to re-create your real testing environment.
  • Practice more: After you complete your practice quiz/exam, review the ENTIRE set of questions. Make sure you understand WHY you got each question right or wrong, if not go back to step 4 (aka: take notes and make sure you understand the concept by revisiting old educational material or online research, etc.)
  • Practice even more: After you finish reviewing the answers, review your notes, and then RE-TAKE this exam again! I know it sound redundant and like “beating a dead horse,” but, when you re-take the exam, you can test yourself if you have retained the information and boost your confidence when your scores rise.

Reviewing an Inman’s Exam

7th: Prepare for the big day

After you have practiced plenty of practice exams and quizzes, making >70% on the 1st attempt and >90% on the 2nd attempt, chances are you are ready for the BIG day.

  • Here’s what to do the day before:
    • Finish your studying by 5pm the night before your exam then,
    • Go on a detox walk (or some other break to severe the ties with studying),
    • Take a bubble bath (glass of wine is recommended),
    • Have a standard, healthy dinner (avoid eating out or trying any new foods, a 2nd glass of wine is recommended),
    • Take a sleep aid, if desired (Half of a melatonin is my go-to, however once again, avoid any new practices, so don’t do this if it is not in your normal routine), and finally,
    • Get in complete relaxation mode and get to bed at usual time or earlier!

Make sure you practicing pacing yourself for the 2.5 hour exam

8th: Take the test with confidence

You are ready for this! TRY to leave any doubt behind the door when you head in for you test. Tell yourself you are ready, you are smart, and it’s your time to shine! There is always going to be more material that you could study, so leave everything else behind and head in with all you have now. If you have followed the above steps, chances are you will be prepared for the exam.

  • On exam day, have a standard, healthy breakfast and skim through any notes for no more than 1 hour, get to the exam center 30-minutes before your appointment and walk in with CONFIDENCE!


Make yourself proud, for yourself.

Some of my favorite quotes along my journey…

“Law of Averages”

“If you get above a 25, that means you over studied.”


Some things I would have done differently…

  • Bought Breeders earlier (Practice questions and feedback were SO helpful!)
  • Practiced the testing environment even more (Stimulated the 8am exam start, 120-180 questions at a time, no music)
  • Not taken the entire practice set of questions for a domain in Inman’s in one sitting (Over 300 question for some domains, 3+ hours to complete, and not realistic to the testing environment)


Some things I would have done again and again…

  • Not relied 100% on Inman’s and acquired supplementary study resources
  • Ate standard healthy meals the week leading up to my exam
  • Made a study plan and stayed on top of it

Pure Happiness After Receiving a Passing Score!


A final take-away message: Take charge of your experience with a strategic studying game plan. Collect your foundational study resource and build on it with supplemental materials. Take advantage of every resource you can get your hands on… Take advantage of the Law of Averages…. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be on exam day. You are smart, you are good-looking, and you can do this!

Good luck,

Maggy Boyd, MS RD


Comments are closed.