I’m so excited to have a Guest Post today from my dear friend Amy, who recently became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.
You may not know this about me, but a few years ago I was toying with the idea of a major career change – while my day job is in Financial Services, much of my spare time is spent reading, writing, and talking about food, nutrition and health. From speaking with friends like Amy, Laura and Sarah, I learned that becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is far more difficult than I ever would have imagined – including a science-heavy curriculum, unpaid internships that are surprisingly hard to get, and to top it all off – a very intimidating exam.
These conversations taught me that I’d personally be happiest staying as a food & nutrition hobbyist, and also how truly passionate Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are.
For any readers that are on the Registered Dietitian path or are considering it, I’m honored to have Amy here today sharing her tips for passing the RD exam on her first try!
I’ve been a registered dietitian nutritionist for a little over three months now, passing my exam on September 24. While I was studying, I read every “how I passed my RD exam post” I could find — so now I’m sharing my words of wisdom with you. Of course everyone has different study habits, but hopefully some of these 12 tips will help you.
- Schedule your exam as soon as you’re eligible. I’ve heard suggestions to study for anywhere from two weeks to six months. Think about whether you want to study full-time (I did) and how quickly you want to take your exam (I wanted to do so as soon as possible). I finished my internship with my clinical rotation and wanted to take the exam with that information fresh in my mind, so I scheduled my exam for 27 days after finishing my internship. I gave myself one weekend off before I began studying.
- Choose the right materials. My neighborhood friend Diana [Editor’s Note: a different Diana :-)] gave me her Jean Inman ($385) printed and audio materials, and my friend Alicia also shared her print copy. They’re expensive, but I strongly recommend them — the guide provides a strong and not-too-overwhelming overview of the four domains. I hadn’t saved my nutrition textbooks, so I also purchased the Hess & Hunt Review of Dietetics ($150) to answer any questions I had. Some people swear by this guide, as it’s incredibly thorough. On its own, I would have found it too overwhelming and probably could have done without it. To help memorize formulas and numeric-based nutrition recommendations, I created 50 pages of fill-in-the-blank study worksheets covering every domain. I filled these out every day, and they helped me immensely. If you’re interested in purchasing your own copy for a small fee, you can contact me here.
- Make studying interactive. Studying was so intense that I looked forward to “breaks” during which I could answer practice questions. I used the questions provided in the Jean Inman materials, as well as computer software. Visual Veggies makes two useful programs: RD Hanging with Nutrition ($149.99) is a hangman-style computer game that helps you learn nutrition vocabulary, and the RD Practice Exam ($179.99) allows you to take either full or mini exams, providing strong explanations. I never had time to take a full exam, but I enjoyed answering small sets of questions. Of the two, I found the practice exam the most helpful. If you’re interested in purchasing this software, use the code AMYGORIN for $20 off. I also installed the app Registered Dietitian Exam Prep ($4.99) on my phone so I could test myself while waiting at the doctor’s office or on a subway platform.
- Study how you’ve always studied. By the time you schedule your exam, you’ve been a student for a long time. So continue tried-and-true studying methods. I highlighted every single word in the Jean Inman materials and rewrote any information I didn’t know. I learned a long time ago that I have a hard time focusing if I’m not “busy” every second that I study.
- Make a study schedule — and have some wiggle room. I outlined what I wanted to get done every day, including how many pages of Jean Inman I wanted to review, how much of her CDs I wanted to listen to, how many of my worksheets I wanted to complete, and how many review questions I wanted to answer. I gave myself a lax schedule on the weekends, allowing for a buffer if I needed it. I ended up playing catch-up every weekend.
- Start with the most difficult domain. In case you run out of time, you’ve gotten the most difficult content out of the way. I found domain II (nutrition care) the hardest. Midway through my studying, I adjusted my schedule, splitting days between what I found the hardest and easiest —there was a limit to how much I could cram into my head in one day!
- Make studying as fun as you can. I started off most mornings studying at home, then spent afternoons at local coffee shops and restaurants. Switching up the ambiance helped keep me focused, and I looked forward to trying salads, teas, coffees, and occasional treats at new neighborhood locales.
- Build studying into a workout. After spending hours of my day walking around a hospital during my internship, I didn’t like the feeling of sitting idle while studying. So I loaded the Jean Inman lectures onto my iPhone and spent up to two hours each afternoon walking and listening.
- Start testing yourself early. If I were to go back in time, I would follow this advice. I waited until the last week of my studying to seriously test myself, spending full days on review questions. I’d then go back and learn the answers to questions I got wrong. But I ran out of time and didn’t get to complete all the questions. I suggest spending at least half an hour each day testing yourself, beginning a few days into your studying routine.
- Eat a nutritious breakfast on exam day. This is a no-brainer, of course. I scheduled my exam for 8am in the morning, near Herald Square in New York City. I got to the exam site early and ate my Greek yogurt parfait outside while reviewing notes.
- When you pass the exam, celebrate! I was headed out of town the afternoon of my exam (which I don’t recommend, but I had a family situation arise). Before hitting the road, I stopped at the mall for a celebration smoothie snack and a quickie chair massage. When there was time to do a full celebration later, my boyfriend took me to a wonderful vegetarian dinner in Berlin during our post-exam European vacation.
- If you can, take a break before you work. My internship and studying were so intense that there was no way I could immediately jump back into working full-time. I also knew that I may never have so much uninterrupted time again. So three days after passing my exam, I headed to Europe for a month-long vacation!
Now that you’ve read all of this, relax! I was unnecessarily stressed for the entirety of my studying time and passed the exam on my first try, with a higher score than I needed. So if you stick to a schedule and focus, you will do great. Good luck!
What are your thoughts on this topic? If you’re studying for the RD exam, what are your main concerns and questions? If you’ve passed the exam, what advice would you give to those preparing for it?
Amy Gorin is a registered dietitian nutritionist in Jersey City, NJ. Frequently interviewed by the media, she privately counsels clients in New Jersey, New York City, and long distance — and works as a nutrition consultant and motivational speaker. Amy writes a nutrition-focused blog, “The Eat List,” for WeightWatchers.com and has written hundreds of articles on nutrition and health. Her work has appeared in Health, Women’s Health, Prevention, Weight Watchers Magazine, Parents, Runner’s World, Self.com, EverydayHealth.com, Sonima.com, and more. Connect with Amy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.