What You Can Expect with the RD Exam

You dedicated years of your life to studying the science of how food and nutrition affects human health.

You learned some important things like how to manage a variety of medical conditions through nutritional interventions, and how to translate research related to health and nutrition into practical guidance for the general public.

Consequently, you also learned some seemingly unimportant things like the mechanisms of alkene reactions or the electron configuration of atoms.

With all that knowledge, you were also able to match to — and survive — a competitive, rigorous dietetic internship.

Now, the last thing standing between you and your goal of becoming a registered dietitian is the RD exam.

This article will discuss what the exam consists of, the types of questions you will be asked, as well as some tips to help you study pass the RD exam.

What Does the RD Exam Consist Of?

You have two-and-one-half hours to complete the RD exam, which has a minimum of 125 multiple-choice questions and a maximum of 145 (1).

Of those questions, 25 will be randomly placed throughout and will not count towards your overall score. You won’t know which questions they are so answer each question to the best of your ability.

Those pilot or beta questions are designed to provide the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) with useful information on the quality and relative difficulty of the questions.

If you answer enough questions correctly after question 125, the exam will shut-off and notify you on the screen that you have passed.

Should you have to go beyond question 125, because you didn’t answer enough questions correctly, take a deep breath and relax, you still have 20 questions left to get a passing score.

The RD exam consists of four domains, each of which, make up a certain percentage of the exam (1):

  • Principles of Dietetics (25%)
  • Nutrition Care for Individuals and Groups (40%)
  • Management of Food and Nutrition Programs and Services (21%)
  • Foodservice Systems (14%)

Types of Questions on the RD Exam

There are two types of questions on the RD exam: comprehension and application (1).

A comprehension question is one that tests your understanding of concepts, principals and procedures.

An example of a comprehension question is:

 1. In which situation is total parenteral nutrition (TPN) indicated?

  • (a) The digestive system is functioning
  • (b) It does not align with patient wishes or medical prognosis
  • (c) Prolonged bowel rest, usually longer than five days
  • (d) Nutrition needs can be met with oral or enteral nutrition within five days

The other type of question is called an application question. They involve using information or knowledge to solve a problem or make a decision.

An example of an application question is:

2. Eric is a 54 y/o patient who complains of a malodorous ileostomy and frequently eats each of the following foods. Which food would you advise that he limit?

  • (a) Yogurt
  • (b) Broccoli
  • (c) Kiwi
  • (d) Almond butter

Application questions require more critical thought and, thus are weighed more than comprehension questions.

RD Exam Study Tips

Now that you know what to expect on the RD exam, here are a few tips to help you prepare for it:

  • Schedule the exam as soon as you’re eligible for it. This forces you to set a studying schedule and keeps everything you learned from your internship fresh in your mind.
  • Make a study schedule. Doing so will help break all the material down into manageable parts while also ensuring you’re not cramming everything in the week before.
  • Know the why. Don’t just memorize the answers of practice questions. Make sure you know why you got it correct or incorrect, and understand why the other answers are incorrect.

When it comes time to take the test, be confident. It’s easy to second-guess yourself, but don’t.

More often than not, each question has more than one answer that could be correct, so it’s up to you to choose the best one.

Therefore, it’s important to carefully read each question and look for what the question is really asking.

Bottom Line

The RD exam is not easy, but neither was the schooling or internship that led you to this point.

Knowing what the exam consists of and the types of questions you will be asked, provides you with what you need to study and how to go about it.

Schedule the exam as soon as you’re able to, devise a study plan and make sure you understand the material.

The questions on the RD exam aren’t meant to trick you but remember to read them carefully and evaluate each choice for the best answer.