What if You Don't Pass the RD Exam?
Updated: Sep 19, 2022
Have you ever thought to yourself, "What if I don't pass the RD exam?" You're not alone! Everyone that sits for the RD exam has faced the reality that they may not pass. And not everyone does pass the first time! The pass rate from 2019 data was 70%, so 30% of first time test takers don't initially pass. See for yourself here. It doesn't matter what kind of grades you got in your dietetic courses, one must be prepared to pass the elite RD exam!
The test can be retaken no less than 45 days after the previous test and will cost another $200. There is no limit to how many times the test can be retaken. For the chance you don't pass the test, reauthorization to take the test again must be requested. Go to CDRnet.org for more information.
People who didn't pass the first time share their experiences, and how they ultimately passed:
"I passed my exam today!!! This was my 2nd attempt. The first time I used Jean Inman and the Pocket Prep app, but I knew I wasn't ready as I memorized instead of learned the concepts. The second time, I added EatrightPREP (worth every penny) and The Review of Dietetics by Hess & Hunt, and I passed!" - K.C., facebook
"I passed my exam yesterday! And it was my 3RD TIME taking it! The first 2 times when I failed I had used Inman, visual veggies, and Eatright prep. What I did differently to pass the 3rd time was use pocket prep app, the CDR practice test (very helpful), breeders flash cards. After failing the 1st 2 times I was fed up with studying and went and got a job as a clinical dietitian...which helped tremendously. If you have failed and are debating on starting to work, DO IT!
As far as what I had on my exam/things to know... know AP/EP for foodservice, know the differences between capital/operating/zero based/incremental, etc budgets. Know carb counting and diabetes (type 1 and 2). Know phosphorus and all kidney stuff! Example, know that calcium and phosphorus have an inverse relationship (high phosphorus for chronic kidney disease can lower calcium levels aka weak bones), know that Yohimbe RAISES blood pressure. Know food sources for all nutrients for sure. Know research (I had 2 questions on research studies), also know standard deviation/curves. Understand management and what you should do first. Pay attention to KEY WORDS (ex. If asking about what education classes a person should take, remember that if they say “home bound”, that person can not go to a class...they will word questions like that differently to try and trick you. Good luck everyone! You’ve got this 🙂" - P.F., facebook
"I did not pass my first time out, I was ashamed, embarrassed, worried that I would fail a second time. I was so tired of studying, this test is exhausting and emotionally draining. But, the 2nd time around, I attacked the test: I got mad and not scared, determined not discouraged! I am older than most of students' mothers. Trust me, if I did this you can too. Just believe in yourself; that was the difference for me. I did not doubt my knowledge; you know this stuff, better than most average "joe". Just believe have confidence! I had to work while I studied for the exam, so I studied at night and on the weekends. I had written out colored coded note cards for each Domain from Inman Study Guide, and I really focused on those and the questions it comes with. Even though the test does not reflect the format of the Inman questions, it is the same content. The second time around I was much more confident. I did not second guess myself and stress over every question. I am just so thankful I passed! Good luck and believe in yourself. You can do this!" - G.S., facebook
"I took the test 8 times before I passed! Not passing has no reflection on you as a dietitian or how you will be as a dietitian. The most helpful resource, albeit pricey, is Jean Inman which takes a lot of information and explains it simply. Breeder and Associate's is more similar to how the RD exam questions are worded and was also helpful to study. The CDR study guide and visual veggies were the least helpful for me. EatRight Prep was okay in that it broke down the content into domains and let you know which domains you need to work on. Look at the exam as an entry level dietitian and answer from that perspective. Jean Inman will cover about 60% of the exam, and your old textbooks and college notes will cover the other 40%. If dietetics is something you really want to do and are passionate about it, don't give up!" - D.J.M., youtube
"Today I passed the RD exam after failing twice in a row. I knew I was never going to master all the information so here is what i did: My first attempts the way I was studying were not effective as I was putting in quantity vs quality. I identified in my second attempt that I needed to focus on food service as I did not understand the math. I purchased Visual Veggies specifically for the videos which helped as I am a visual learner. I also used Pocket Prep. During the preparation for my third attempt, I got a job and was working 40-50 hours, so I would do pocket prep anytime I was sitting down, I'd take my Inman questions and do them at lunch. Everyday I exposed myself to the material in small amounts; I didn't overwhelm myself because I knew I would burn out. I took the EatRight practice exam, but it scared the bejesus out of me and shook my confidence because I got a 66%. This last RD exam attempt, I took the time to really read the questions, and I only had 9 minutes to spare when I was done.
Tips: Identify your weakness (really you have to figure this out); if you can afford it buy material that will support your studying buy it! (that's why I got a job); On the exam READ THE QUESTIONS, take your time, breathe; look for study support, and don't do this alone! If you fail, take time to be sad and acknowledge your feelings and move on. I took the test every 45 days, and I was prepared to take it a 4th time. Don't give up. This is only a small part of your life, so don't let it define or defeat you. Just keep trying and trying until its done!" - M.M., facebook
Not everyone passes the first time around. If this is you, join the crowd. The RD exam is known for having more than one right answer and you must pick the "best" answer. In other words, these questions can be outright tricky. We're in this together! Best wishes on your exam!
So what was the RD exam experience like for me? I spent all of one summer studying Jean Inman that I got for a reasonable price here. I also have a masters degree that emphasized the clinical side of dietetics and felt that helped prepare me as well. I passed the first time and cried in great relief to be over the pressure of it all. I wrote this article for those that come after me and wonder if they will pass the test. It doesn't matter how many times you have to take this test as long as you pass it eventually. No one seems to ask how many times you took the test in the end, just that you are a credentialed registered dietitian.
Taking the test for the first time? Read this article for more on what the test is like.