How to Become an RD: the RD Exam

Hello everyone, it’s Tuesday, so that means it’s one day closer to spring break for me! I’ll be out of town next week on a mission trip (complete with 31 hour drive each way 🙂 ), so I’m doing my best to get a post ready to go for y’all for next week.

At last, we’ve come to the end of our series on the basic steps to becoming an RD! Once you’ve successfully completed the first two steps we talked about, you’re eligible to take the RD exam! The only thing standing in your way is lots of studying (but at this point you’ve probably gotten used to that, right? 😉 ). This is the only option for this final phase of the road to the RD, so we’ll spend more time looking at who’s eligible, what this test covers, when and where to take it, and how to study.

Who can Take the Exam?

You are eligible to take the test if you’ve successfully completed the following requirements:

  1. Bachelor’s degree or greater from an accredited American college/university, AND
  2. DPD program accredited by ACEND, PLUS
  3. At least 1200 hours of supervised practice (from your DI/ISPP) OR
  4. CP program accredited by ACEND

So if you can say that you’ve done the first, second, and third requirements, or the first and fourth, then you are considered eligible!

Once your eligibility is approved, you only have one year to take the exam. You don’t want to wait until the last minute, but you do want to make sure you have enough time to study for it, which we’ll talk about in a little bit!

So What is the RD Exam?

This exam has up to 130 questions that cover four domains: Nutrition Care for Individuals and Groups (40% of the exam), Principles of Dietetics (25%), Management of Food and Nutrition Programs and Services (21%), and Foodservice Systems (14%). The reason I say “up to” is that this test is an adaptive test taken online at a Pearson testing center! Questions change depending on your answers, but you’ll have at least 110 questions. So, because of the adaptive nature and online format, your test probably won’t be the same as your study buddy’s.

However many questions you’re given, you’ll have two and a half hours to answer them all. The total test-taking process takes 3 hours total though; the extra 30 minutes involve an introductory tutorial and a survey after you complete the test.

Just like the DI, you’ll want to have some money set aside for this $200(!) test. A testing center does have some benefits though, such as finding out your score right away (yay for no post-test angst!). In order to pass the test, you must score at least a 25 on a scale of 1 to 50. Fortunately, if you don’t pass the test right away, you can take it again after at least forty-five days. Testing centers are also open year round on weekdays (and Saturdays, depending on the testing center), so you don’t need to wait for a certain time of year.

How do I Study?

I’m glad you asked! While you might have been able to get away with light skimming of the material the night before your test in high school and even college, that is not going to work for this test. Just like the SAT or GRE, this test shapes your future, so you want to put quite a bit of effort into learning the material! I haven’t taken the test yet, so I’m not going to spout advice on something I have no experience with. Instead, I’m going to link to a couple of posts I found as I was researching for this. Unlike me, they do know what they’re talking about, because they all passed their exams!

After this whether you pass or fail, it’s important to treat yourself! Preparing for a test of this magnitude takes a lot of focused effort and that work deserves a reward. If you didn’t make it, no worries. Take a few days, figure out where you went wrong, schedule another test, and jump back in! If you did pass, congratulations! You’ve passed the final stage of becoming an RD and it’s on to the next stage for you! This time, however, the choice is all yours.

That’s all from me y’all. Whether your spring break is next week, already happening, or long been a part of your past, I hope this week is a good one. Make the most of it!

Why do you want to become an RD?


Additional Resources

  • The Commission on Dietetic Regulation (CDR) made an FAQ on the exam
  • The CDR also has lots of useful information about the exam here
  • You can learn more about testing centers here

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