Well, the next chapter of my RD journey is complete! I am now a Registered Dietetic Nutritionist (RDN)! It feels good to know I can finally get rid of the hundreds of index cards I made over the past few months. Now that I have passed, I have been getting the questions of “How was it? How long did you study? Was it what you expected?” These are the same questions I asked everyone else who took it too 🙂 I must say, it doesn’t feel real just yet. In just 1.5 hours I went from an intern (who graduated) to RDN. Anyways, let me get into what you have been looking for to begin with.
How long should I study?
I took my exam about 6.5 weeks after I finished my internship. You want to aim for 1-2 months of study time (or so I heard and went with). The first week, I got things together to study. I made index cards, set up a study schedule, relaxed from my internship, etc. I used Jean Inman and RD in a Flash to study from (For more information on study materials: Studying for the RD Exam). The second/third/fourth week, I dedicated about 2 hours in the morning and 1-2 hours at night to studying. I would focus on a single domain each week (Week 2: food science, Week 3: Disease states and MNT, etc). The fifth week, I bumped up my studying to about 4 hours a day. I wouldn’t sit for that whole block though. I would study for an hour, take a break, get coffee, study, go to work, study, etc. I would usually spend at least an hour at a time (takes time to focus and get started). To be honest, there were days I just didn’t get a chance to study because of family events, work, or other things going on. It is good to give yourself a break every now and then.
The days leading up to my exam, I re-read all of Jean Inman. I also re-wrote my notes (re-writing things helps me to remember better). Four days before my exam, I was in panic mode thinking I should post-pone my test. I kept focusing on all of the things I didn’t know and getting frustrated. I was worried I would fail and have to wait the 45 days to re-test. I was rating my knowledge at about an 75-80% (Not from any specific math equation). After speaking with another intern, and current RD, I stuck with my test day. She reminded me how much I do know, and that I know more than I think (that last part is especially true). My boyfriend also reminded me that if I failed, it’s only a test. Yeah, it is a pretty big test; however, it is just one test! I just had to keep reminding myself that I knew a lot and it was okay if I didn’t pass (the world wasn’t going to end). The last 2 days before my exam, I spent time reviewing the answer keys to tests and focusing on the concepts I needed work on. I spent about 8 hours each day studying like crazy!
This was a schedule that worked best for me. It is important to find the best way for you to study. I heard of other interns only taking 3 weeks to study with 8-hour study days. I heard of other interns taking a 4-5 weeks to study with 3-hour study days. Again, it is all about how you study as to what schedule will work best.
What is the Exam like?
The day of the exam, my stomach was doing flip-flops. Everything is so formal and rigid when you go in to test! Throughout the exam, I kept thinking “I am definitely failing!” I found out that this is a pretty natural response. As I was answering questions, I was surprised at how much I studied and how little was actually on the test (only about 40%). I was happy to realize that all of the information I was worried about not knowing wasn’t even on the exam! There was one point where it took a couple of seconds for the screen to move to the next question. I remember thinking, “that’s it, I failed.” My heart sunk until I saw the next question. It is definitely hard not to panic when you are taking it. Just remember to keep calm and take it one question at a time. I thought it was funny that the night before I felt like there was so much I didn’t know and after leaving the exam I was surprised at how over-prepared I felt!
Best Tips for the Exam
1. Take deep breaths between each question. I found myself holding my breath because I was so nervous!
2. Read each question twice! I tend to go through things too fast and miss important parts of the question. My strategy was to read each question and answers twice, pick out the key points of the question, pick the best answer, and re-read the question to make sure I was picking what they were looking for.
3. A lot of the questions end up with 2 answers that seem to fit. At this point, re-read the question and pin-point what they are looking for.
4. Go with your first gut answer. Try not to over-analyze things too much. Remember, this is an entry-level test!
5. Be confident in what you know. As I said, only about 40% of what I studied was on the exam. Goes to show how much you really know from all the schooling and internship!
6. Bring tissues! Whether you pass or not, you will probably need them. When I left the testing center, I burst into tears of happiness.
Hopefully, this helps you as you begin to study for your exam! Best of luck to all those who are RD eligible!