Friday, July 28, 2017

Review - Visual Veggies RD Test Prep Program

Hi everyone,

I’m Tony Scornavacco and if you couldn't guess, I’m Kim’s son.  I am fortunate enough to have a mother who is an avid and successful blogger who was graciously willing to host my product  review of a test prep program for becoming a Registered Dietitian.  

As for my background, I’m 24  years old and have been studying nutrition and dietetics for about 7 years.  I completed a 4.5 year undergraduate nutrition and dietetic program at Dominican University to achieve a Bachelors degree in nutrition and dietetics. From there, I went on to become a Dietetic Technician Registered (DTR) and then completed a 42 week internship/residency with the Veterans Administration.  I finally became a Registered Dietitian on July 11th, 2017 after passing the licensing exam for Registered Dietitians (RD exam).  

Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with the field, the RD exam is often renowned in the dietetic community as the most difficult, frustrating, and final task to overcome to finally achieve those two little letters after your name (RD). For this reason many people spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on test prep materials to ensure that they pass on their first try (because each time you take the exam it costs $200).  Also, the sooner the test is completed the sooner you can start working.  In order to ensure that I could be as well prepared for the RD exam as possible I reached out to Ryan Hartz MS, RD, CSSD who is the founder and CEO of a  RD test prep program called visual veggies (VV). Ryan Graciously allowed me to use and review a similar program about 1 year ago to prep for the DTR exam, which I passed on my first go around.  For this reason, I was eager to use this program again for the RD exam.

Before I start the actual review of the program I’d like to say that Ryan has done an incredible job with continuously improving his program. Multiple features have been added to the program over the past year.  Also worth noting is that the RD exam guidelines changed this past year in a way that completely changed the RD exam, and Ryan updated the program to reflect these changes, which I’m sure was no easy or quick task. I wanted to touch on this because it shows that the program is continuously updated and revised to provide the best experience possible. Also worth noting is that the program comes with 3 months of free updates so that any changes made during the first 3 months of purchase can be automatically downloaded free of charge. This is beneficial because the science of nutrition changes so frequently.

Now then, the review.  When you first open the program it will prompt you to take a pretest composed of a mix of 125 questions from different domains (the different categories of the RD exam).  This test is timed at 2.5 hours and does not provide feedback as to whether or not you are answering questions correct or wrong in order to provide a realistic testing experience. Both the time and number of questions are the same as the RD exam.  After the test you will receive a total score, a breakdown for how you did in each domain (so that you can see where you need to concentrate your focus), an analysis of time management, and recommendations for improvement.  Below are the results of my pretest. This system is excellent because it shows you where you begin and then allows you to review later and see how you have improved. The key takeaway from this part of the program is that it simulates the actual exam. All practice tests in this program other than a full random test and the original practice test will immediately tell you if you got the question right or wrong and give you an explanation.

After the pretest you are free to roam the program and select from a number of different options for how you want to study.  There are a few main categories of study “modes” to choose from which are shown below.

The practice exam mode allows you to choose from 1-4 domains as well as sub categories of each domain and a math section. Very customizable so you can focus on exactly what you need. The key takeaway from this study mode of the program is that it simulates the actual exam.  During any test other than a full random test and the original practice test the program will immediately tell you if you got the question right or wrong and give you an explanation. Additionally, any question you answer incorrectly is automatically stored in the “redeem yourself” section on the practice exam mode. This allows you to go back and answer only those specific questions that you did not get correct.  This feature allows for excellent information recognition because of the repetition.  This remains my favorite aspect of the program because I feel it benefits learning the most, and it is unique to this program as far as I’m aware. 

You can choose to take any of the entire domain tests, a subcategory test, or you can choose to create your own test and really study exactly what you want and how you want. I personally opted for putting all 939 questions into a personal test and just kept answering until my brain wouldn't work anymore.  I felt like this was a good way to get an idea of how I would score overall on the real exam.  I ended up doing 500 of the 939 questions straight through and got about an 88%. I think its worth noting that my average stayed between about 87-89% from questions 100-500, which I feel displays how well rounded the program is at giving a good mix of questions.   

Like I said earlier, the program has 939 questions at the time of this review, however, the amount of information given in the 
explanation section could probably make up over 2500 questions.  For example, if the question is “at what temperature must pork be cooked to in order to destroy harmful pathogens” the explanation category tells you the internal temps for ALL foods you will need to know.  The program does this for a myriad of other types of questions as well, which is why this program is so well rounded and great for test prep. The amount of information it provides is unbelievable. 

The final aspect of this section of the program is the “progress” section.  This tracks your progress and shows you exactly how many questions you get correct for each domain for each individual test or all tests taken.  This allows you to see which sections are your weaknesses or strengths to allow you to tailor your studying strategy.

As a final note on this portion of the program, you will almost never come across a test program or a practice test for the RD exam that has a question on it that will also be on the real RD exam. Therefore is it important to 1) be familiar with the information and be able to APPLY it, and 2) be familiar with how to read the question, deduce what the question is truly asking, practice how to narrow the answers down to at least 2, and then be able to make an educated guess.  This is what VV truly prepares you to be able to do.

The white board videos were an addition to the program that seemed almost too good to be true.  Ryan goes through each of the mathematical formulas you need to know for the RD exam, shows you how to work through the problem, and how to come to the correct solution.  For individuals who struggle with math or simply are not sure what formulas will be needed for the exam this is a tremendous help.  The great thing about truly knowing and understanding how to correctly work through each type of math question on the RD exam is that no matter what question you get pertaining to math you will be able to correctly answer it, which is completely different than any other domain. In my opinion, this section along with the math section of the practice exam mode are well worth the price of the program on their own.  To my knowledge, no other program out there has any characteristic such as this, making it incredibly unique and beneficial. 

When it comes to the RD exam it’s important to remember that you do NOT have to memorize everything.  The exam is what I would call the equivalent of knowing everything you learned in undergrad and your internship combined. That is how much information could potentially be on the exam.  Don’t forgot that the questions are multiple choice and therefore, there will be information to trigger your mind into narrowing it down to at least 2 answers 90% of the time.  Therefore, you only need to be familiar with some information and be able to pick the right answer out of the crowd and not conjure it from your memory.  This is where the matching section of the program comes into play.  

Ryan has compiled a long list of information that you most likely don't need to memorize (in my opinion), but will simply need to be familiar with and will only need to recognize.  For this section, you simply click the answer from the left hand boxes and then the coordinating answer in the right hand boxes and the program  will ask you to “try again” if it is incorrect or it will show you “correct” with an explanation. While you don't need to memorize MOST of this information there will be some that you will need to memorize and know slightly more in depth (you will be able to deduce for yourself what that information is based on your skills in each domain). The matching section is a great modality for memorizing this information because it provides information in a different format than the majority of the other information you study, allowing for better understanding and recollection. This was a great addition to the program and definitely helped me memorize key points.

The abbreviation section was another addition that was new to me.  For this section the program will give you a term or group of terms that are commonly abbreviated and you will type in the correct abbreviation. The program will answer awesome if correct or ask you to try again if incorrect.  Once you have gotten the answer correct, or “surrendered,” the correct answer will be displayed along with an informational explanation. This section is fantastic because the RD exam does contain abbreviations that you will need to have memorized to answer the question correctly.  Don’t let yourself get a question incorrect simply because you weren't sure what an abbreviation meant. This section was a great addition to help potential RD’s study and learn abbreviations. I’ve shown an example below.

Some Ideas For Improvement:

  1. There were certain questions in the practice exams that I didn't know but happened to guess correctly.  Since they weren't wrong they weren't stored in the “redeem yourself” section, and I wasn't able to go back and look at them.  I’d like to see a feature added where any question you choose can be added to the “redeem yourself” section so questions you got correct, but want to review can be found easily later on.
  2. While I found the questions to be of similar difficulty to the RD exam I found some of the answers to be too easily dismissible. I’d honesty say that 90% of the time on the RD exam you can narrow it down to 2 answers, but those 2 are usually quite similar which makes it difficult.  In the VV software I found that the correct answer was distinguishable from the other 3 more easily than on the RD exam.  My suggestion here would be to create answers slightly more similar to each other to more accurately simulate the exam difficulty and build up test taking skill.
**Note that Ryan already had plans to address both of the above in the future.

Overall Impression:

I truly believe VV is one of the best test prep resources for the RD exam.  I think that with everything it offers the price is unbeatable, especially considering how much information you get and how many study modalities are included.  I would refer this program to anyone in the process of studying for this exam. 

A Final Word:

I’d like to wholeheartedly thank Ryan for allowing me to review his program. I felt that it helped me study and retain the information I needed for the exam, and it broke up the monotony of studying flash cards and reading text.  I’m very grateful for the opportunity and thankful for how it helped me pass my exam.  

As a special offer to the readers of Snug Harbor Bay, Ryan has provided a code that discounts the program by $20.00.  

Discount code:  SNUGHARBORBAY

Disclaimer: To study for the RD exam I utilized a study guide provided through another test prep company that my internship required I purchase during the internship.  That guide was my primary source of information for the exam.  My secondary source was visual veggies. I was provided with visual veggies free of charge with the understanding that I would provide an unbiased review of the program. I have not received any form of monetary compensation for this review and will not receive monetary compensation with the use of the discount code provided above. 

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