How to Pass the RD Exam on the First Try

Attaining the Registered Dietitian (RD) credential is a big deal for those of us who work in the health and nutrition industry. It is the standard of a truly evidence-based, scientific nutrition education. The credential has changed a bit over the years so now you see it written in a couple of different ways but typically you’ll see it noted as “RD” or “RDN.”

The exam is going to have  125 – 140 questions that’ll take about 2.5 hours to complete. The exam is segmented into four sections with the following approximations outlining how much of each section the test requires: 

  • ~25% – Principles of Dietetics
  • ~40% – Nutrition Care for Individuals & Groups
  • ~21% – Management of Food & Nutrition Programs and Services
  • ~14% – Food Service Systems 

The exam is computer-based and is adaptive to the test taker which means the worse you do, the more questions you’ll have to answer (max 140) and the better you do, the fewer questions you’ll get (minimum 125). The test also understands what area(s) you’re doing well in and those you aren’t and adjusts the test to ensure you have the knowledge needed to earn a passing score.

In preparing for my RD Exam I worked with, interned for and interviewed 14 Registered Dietitians which included 2 program coordinators at major universities in the United States. From those 14 interactions, I came away with a very clear-cut approach to preparing for the RD Exam and I’ll share that with you here and will work to link to each, if possible, so you can see what they’re all about.

Best Overall Prep Tool: Visual Veggies

Visual Veggies was recommended to me by my internship coordinator and 8 of the other RDs I’ve met throughout my process. People swear by it and it is absolutely a top notch program. My program coordinator told me she has had hundreds of students use it with absolute success and every one of them have raved about the product. I’m no different! My thinking is that Visual Veggies is a must-have study resource if you want to ensure you pass the RD Exam on the first attempt. Sure, you could pass without it, but why overlook such a well respected, effective study tool? Be smart. Check it out.

Best Fast Learning Tool: RD Pocket Prep

Registered Dietitian Pocket Prep is awesome! It’s not a full-service study guide like Visual Veggies but rather an app-based study method that you interact with daily to keep your mind focused on the test and to keep you engaged with the test taking process. It’s also super-cheap, see that price!

Best Study Guide: Jean Inman RD Exam Study Guide

The Jean Inman RD Exam Study Guide is the work horse exam preparation tool that has been around forever. My program coordinator did mention that she would like me to be familiar with this guide and to use it as daily reading material. However, she pushed me to Visual Veggies as my primary RD Exam preparation tool. I did find a decent copy of the Jean Inman RD Exam Study Guide on Amazon and can say that the Jean Inman guide was of great use because I physically had it available and could thumb through it, and work with it, when the motivation hit me. 7 of the RDs I know have used the Jean Inman RD Exam Study Guide and did quite well with it, but most of them have since started to recommend Visual Veggies as their premier choice in RD Exam prep.

Best Ease of Use Guide: EatRight Prep

EatRight Prep is great! Again, most of the RDs I know have pushed me and others to Visual Veggies over this guide, but I tell you what, I see the EatRight Prep and the Visual Veggies prep guides as virtually the same regarding quality of the programs. At this point I’d say go either way. The only reason I give Visual Veggies more emphasis here is because the majority of the 14 Registered Dietitians I’ve worked with have recommended that one over the EatRight Prep guide. That being said, I looked into the EatRight product a bit more and found that they have recently reworked much of the guide so I am betting that is the reason more and more RDs are starting to recommend EatRight Prep to their interns these days.

The Conclusion

My hope is that you found this article helpful. I purposely limited my recommendations to just a few products because mentioning too many options just clouds the picture and makes it hard for readers to choose. I am telling you, these 4 options are top tier. There are no better options out there at this point in history and I sincerely hope you decide to choose Visual Veggies or EatRight Prep as you main study guide because you will have the best chance of passing the RD Exam with those two guides.

Best to you my friend!