Studying for the RD exam = the most stressful, annoying, terrifying, semi-fun (barely!) thing you get to do AFTER you have just spent 10 months as a dietetic intern/slave/student/professional handout creator. Especially when all you want to do is go outside and play beach volleyball!
I’ve never been one to love to study. I’m a procrastinator by trade and typically put things off to the last minute. However, based on everything I’ve read and advice from friends and preceptors, this was one of those circumstances where that mentality wasn’t going to work for me. So I buckled in for a long summer hanging out with Jean Inman.
I was fortunate that one of my preceptors gave me her copy of Jean Inman. It’s expensive BUT TOTALLY WORTH IT. I briefly looked online and found one on Craigslist, so older versions or used copies are available if you are looking to save some money. Girls in my internship split the cost and made copies of the materials. No matter which way you do it, I would recommend utilizing her guide.
However, I couldn’t listen to the CDs. They put me to sleep and I knew there was no way I could sit and pay attention. Instead, I focused on reading the material and creating notes and flashcards of the material I didn’t know. I think this helped me to streamline the material and organize what I knew vs. what I didn’t know.
The best way to prepare yourself is via practice tests. The practice tests were invaluable when it came to preparing me for the actual exam. I used a combination of the Inman tests and the StEp practice tests from the Academy. Fortunately, our internship paid for us to have access to the SteP guide. I liked the StEp guide because it provided feedback and cited sources for the questions. As a researched based profession, I found this especially helpful.
The final step to studying for the exam was mental toughness. This past summer, I was fortunate to watch a lot of professional beach volleyball. Watching these tournaments and athletes up close, you can tell which players have the mental edge. It’s what separates the Kobe Bryants and Kerri Walshs of the world. Those players with mental toughness, close out games and make their serve when it counts. The extreme focus and dedication are what have led them to greatness. This is the mentality I used to approach the exam.
I focused on my strengths and didn’t spend too much time studying information I already knew. I kept my cool, trying to think about what would an entry-level RD be expected to know? Most entry-level clinical RDs would not be thrown into an advanced field of dietetics practice without any resources to refer to. I used this thinking throughout most of my RD exam preparation. I did not spend my time memorizing specific lab values or medications but instead focused on understanding nutrition concepts and how to apply them in situations to problem solve.
On the day of the exam, I was nervous (who wouldn’t be????) but I knew that there was no amount of morning cramming that’s going to help you pass. I remained calm and knew that if I got to 125 questions and the screen went blank I passed. There weren’t very many surprise questions. I did get asked a few questions about steroid medications that I wasn’t as prepared for, but I think they may have been test questions. I passed and was grateful that I did not over study. After taking the exam, I realized that for me and my test taking skills, I studied the ideal amount of time.
The time frame for my studying wasn’t too long. I felt that with the amount of schooling, work experience, and the internship, I was either prepared or not. I intensely studied the exam for 1 week. The month prior, I spent a couple of hours a week reading over Inman and taking the StEp practice exams. I’m the most frustrated about how intensely I studied the first domain (my weakest area) only to discover that I got asked zero memorable/hard questions.
The best advice I can give is to know your study habits and what works best for you. Focus on the areas that you are weakest in and be open to different study material options. Don’t stress out about memorizing the material! To me, the exam was very conceptual. Focus on problem solving skills and read every question thoroughly!
Lastly, here is a round-up of blog posts from other RDs that I found helpful when studying. These helped me to formulate my study plan and also what resources are out there!
Hope that helps! Best of luck to any future RDs 🙂