Applications for the season were first released on August 15, 2015. The application was done online. It consisted of general information about the applicants. the blog is RRNFreshMeat and the tag is #RRNFreshMeat.
Prior to the season, each of the 12 newcomers (referred to as "Fresh Meat") participate in a series of challenges to test their skills. Each alumnus selects one of the rookies to be their partner for the entire season, using the stats from the pre-season challenges.
In odd-numbered episodes, teams participate in a challenge. Challenges are sometimes called "missions." The winners of the challenge have immunity from going into Exile, and selects one team to go into Exile. The remaining teams get together to vote for the other Exile team; the winning team and their pick for the Exile are not present during the process. Each individual gets a vote, and voting is not secret. The team with the most votes is picked to go into Exile.
In even-numbered episodes, teams participate in another challenge. If one of the two teams picked for Exile wins the challenge, referred to as winning the "pardon", they can select another team to go into Exile in their place, however, they cannot pick the team that won the previous challenge as that team has immunity. The challenge of this episode is followed by the Exile.
Exile is a race between two teams. Unlike the elimination games of other seasons of The Challenge, the remaining teams do not watch the battle between the two Exile teams. The Exile teams run a course and whoever crosses the finish line first stays, while the other team goes home.