Sage Nutrition Associates - RD Exam Prep

How I Passed The RD Exam on The First Try

By: Kaylee Hough, RDN, LDN 

As someone who just finished up the dietetic internship and passed the RD exam, I constantly get questions from RD2b’s who are curious about the secret sauce to passing the exam. Here is my take on the RD exam and the steps I took to help myself pass on the first try! 

How I Passed the RD Exam

My name is Kaylee Hough and I am a registered dietitian nutritionist. I completed my undergraduate education at Penn State University and shortly after graduating, I completed my dietetic internship through Morrison Healthcare’s Dietetic Internship Program. My passion for nutrition started when I was struggling with disordered eating patterns as a teenager. During this difficult time, I had the opportunity to work with a registered dietitian who completely shifted the course of my life and my mindset around food. The pathway to becoming a dietitian has been a dream of mine, but it certainly did not come without stress, anxiety, sleepless nights, and continuous hard work. 

Study Materials Needed for the RD Exam 

Enough about me, let’s get back to the RD exam and how I chose to tackle this beast. Let’s dive right in with the study materials I used. Similar to other RD2b’s that I know, when the time came to begin studying for the exam, I had no clue where to start! A few of my friends recommended Sage RD Exam Prep materials to me, so I was eager to check them out. Luckily for me, through my dietetic internship program, I was provided with the Sage RD Exam Prep Course and materials. The Sage study materials provided me with all the content and practice questions that I needed to feel confident going into the exam. I particularly enjoyed their live workshop and how thoroughly each concept is explained in the coursebook. I still remember the feeling of excitement I felt whenever I received my Sage RD Exam prep book in the mail—it made this entire process feel that much more real! My excitement aside, I was certainly hit with intense bouts of anxiety and stress along the way. 

Commitments/Time Management Needed for Studying

Thankfully, Sage provided me with a sample study calendar, which was a great starting point and made beginning this whole process process a lot easier. Using their calendar as a template, I was able to curate a study schedule based on my commitments, time available, and anticipated exam date. After finishing up my dietetic internship, I quickly began working full-time as RD-eligible in the hospital where I rotated! I also held two part-time jobs that I was involved in for a few hours each week. As you can imagine, beginning my studying while working full-time and part-time and also trying to maintain my mental health, physical health, nutrition, and social life was extremely challenging. Aside from creating a study calendar for myself, setting aside a certain time frame each day that was “study time” was crucial for me to stay on track. I found that planning ahead and also planning out my day each morning made a huge difference when preparing for the exam. 

Day in The Life – Study Time

Let’s look at a day in my life and how I fit study time in with my other commitments. Typically, I would wake up around 5 am, work out at the gym, get ready for the day, and then commute an hour to work. My work day as an RD-eligible clinical dietitian went from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. After another one-hour commute home, I made myself dinner and relaxed for about an hour. After this, I would start my study time around 6:30/7:00 pm and would study until 9:00/9:30 pm. I’d then go to bed and repeat this the next day. My days weren’t glamorous, but I did what I had to do to pay my bills and fit studying in! On the weekends, I would aim to get some more study time in, so I would do anywhere from 4-8 hours total the entire weekend. In total, I studied for 6 weeks before taking the exam. This being said, I did do some studying here and there during my internship. It is important to remember that everyone has different commitments and time available in their day, so individualize your study schedule and plan to fit best into your life! 

Study Tips 

My number one study tip is to study how you did in undergrad! My motto is: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it! In other words, if you found your study groove in college and were successful with those habits, use those same habits when studying for the RD exam. Everyone studies differently, so finding how you learn best is key. While studying for my exam, I loved the simple, but detailed information found within the Sage RD Exam Prep book. Since the live session recordings were easily accessible, I would rewatch the videos and take notes in my book—which I found super helpful. Despite how you study, I found the following to be helpful: – Study in a quiet environment that is free from distractions 

– Stay consistent with your study habits 

– Carve out dedicated study time each day/week 

– Make a calendar to stay on track 

– Listen to meditation music to boost your concentration (my favorite is “alpha waves” study music on YouTube) 

– Use the Pomodoro study technique: study for 25 minutes then break for 5 minutes and repeat 

– Ask for help – Sage RD Exam Prep offers email support through their course–don’t be afraid to utilize your resources! 

– Do as many practice questions as possible 

Should I Tell People About My RD Exam Date?

If you are experiencing intense anxiety about the exam, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Choose one to two people that you trust and share your exam date with them and no one else. Whenever I was studying for the exam, I had countless people asking me when I was taking it, which I found to be very stressful! As someone who struggles with anxiety, I found it helpful to keep my exam a secret and only tell two people. Not telling anyone and everyone your exam date can help to take additional pressure off. This being said, it is important to at least tell one or two people so you have a solid support system when preparing and going into the exam! 

Managing Exam Anxiety 

As I touched on briefly, I am someone who struggles with anxiety—especially whenever it comes to exams. Throughout the study process, I experienced intense chest pains, various panic attacks, and cried many tears. Learning to manage my anxiety was an ongoing struggle that I faced. If you’re someone who also struggles with exam-related anxiety (or just anxiety in general), here is what I found to be most helpful. 

– Yoga 

– Meditation 

– Positive affirmations 

– Visualizing the end result (I literally wrote Kaylee Hough, RDN, LDN on EVERYTHING) – Breathing exercises 

– Self-care 

– Ask for help/Use your resources 

– Schedule time off/breaks 

– Spend time with family and friends 

– Exercise/Physical Activity 

– Stay organized 

– Get adequate, quality sleep at night 

Overall, I found what helped my exam anxiety the most was taking care of my mental health, asking for help when needed, spending time away from studying, and engaging in exercise/meditation activities. Everyone manages their anxiety differently, so you may have to try out a few things before finding something that works best for you. 

Stress Management – Exam Week 

My anxiety and stress intensified the most in the week leading up to my exam. During this time, my brain felt like mush, I was struggling to sleep at night, and I felt constant pain in my chest. Looking back on my experience, I would have approached the week of my exam differently. I would have focused less on studying during this time and more on my mental health. My recommendations are to certainly study during the week leading up to your exam, but don’t overdo it! Your mental health is just as important as your knowledge going into the exam. 

Unfortunately, there is no secret to passing the RD exam; however, using good study materials, taking care of your mental health, and staying consistent with your study plan will certainly help! If you ever feel stressed or overwhelmed, remember that you’ve been preparing for this exam for the past 5-6 years—and you’re going to do amazing!

Happy studying,


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Lauren & Laura of Sage

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Take a look around to see what intrigues you. This is a great resource for RD2Be’s looking for some “sage” words of wisdom about the registered dietitian exam and the profession of dietetics. 

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