Is the HESI Exam Hard?

Did you know nursing is the largest healthcare profession in the U.S.? There are currently over 3.8 million RNs (registered nurses), and new positions are expected to increase by 200,000 per year.

This creates an abundance of job opportunities, but also some stiff hiring competition. If you’re getting ready to take the HESI A2 Exam, mastering it quickly and effectively ensures you won’t miss out on any of the average $70,000 in nursing pay per year.

Is the HESI exam hard? Any exam can be difficult if you aren’t fully prepared for it. Our guide shows you how to use study tools like HESI practice tests to achieve success.

HESI Entrance Exam

You may already be committed to taking the HESI A2 Exam, or still researching different options. This exam plays an important role in both college nursing programs and your future nursing career success.

Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) is a Houston-based firm owned by Dutch publishing company Elsevier. Elsevier also publishes the notable scientific journal The Lancet and manages the ScienceDirect access database.

Elsevier’s mission is to provide products that help predict success for potential healthcare workers. This includes the HESI Admission Assessment Exam, also referred to as the HESI A2 exam, which is used for RNs.

This exam is a form of diagnostic assessment. A diagnostic exam method can help students determine their:

  • Academic strengths and weaknesses

  • Knowledge levels

  • Skills and aptitudes

  • Learning style

  • Personality markers

The exam will give you and your college a current outlook on your potential to complete their college nursing program and other nursing targets, such as passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

The HESI exam is also dynamic. Colleges and universities can adjust the exam according to their own nursing program requirements.

It’s important to know your particular (or potential) campus version. You don’t want to take the exam and find out there is no physics section, for example, after you already spent valuable study hours using HESI flashcards and practice tests to master physics.

HESI Exam Questions

The exam’s standard format is relatively straightforward. There are two main categories: academic questions and personal questions.

The academic sections can include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology

  • Biology

  • Chemistry

  • Grammar

  • Mathematics

  • Reading Comprehension

  • Vocabulary

  • Physics

The academic portion is the longest. You are generally given around 4 hours to complete the exam.

Each section will have a set number of questions and amount of time for completion. For example, biology can have 30 questions to answer in 25 minutes. The reading comprehension section usually will have 55 questions in 60 minutes.

The personal sections are usually optional. These include:

  • Personality profile

  • Learning style

Each section is around 15 questions and 15 minutes. The personal sections are not scored like the academic section, so fortunately you won’t have to read HESI study guides about your personality traits.

Is the HESI Exam Hard?

The exam can be more difficult for some students than others. It depends on your own individual college readiness and the college’s standards.

The HESI A2 exam isn’t scored using pass or fail. Each college admission process will have its own scoring requirements based on the nursing program’s competitiveness.

For example, some colleges may require an overall score of 75%. Others may require certain percentages per section. Competitive programs may even require scores of 90% or above.

How difficult the HESI exam feels for you also depends on your academic strengths and weaknesses. This includes your study habits, learning styles, and academic areas you struggle with vs. those that come naturally.

The HESI A2 exam can be tricky. If you read forums and social media discussions about the exam, however, successful takers say a high score is within reach as long as you go in prepared.

How to Pass the HESI Exam

You can increase your chances of mastering the HESI A2 exam by studying. Consistent study habits and study tools will help you prepare both academically (more knowledge and skills) and psychologically (less anxiety and stress).

There are a few rules of good study habits:

  • Study consistently over weeks/months, not just a few days before the exam

  • Space out your study sessions to avoid learning fatigue

  • Study more than one section at a time

  • Revisit material even after you’ve mastered it

  • Use a variety of study tools

Reading and re-reading material is ineffective for long-term memory recall. To cement the knowledge in your brain cells, you have to mix it up with different learning techniques.

HESI Flashcards

You can use HESI flashcards to help you with memorization. Every academic section will have certain formulas, vocabulary, or other similar elements to memorize.

How useful are flashcards for memory? Flashcards force you to remember an answer without any context cues or multiple-choice selections. This helps you learn material using active recall.

The active retrieval mechanism boosts your brain’s memorization power more than passive reading. Research has shown students who incorporate active recall ranked higher in educational performance.

To use flashcards effectively, don’t give yourself clues or include answer choices. Flashcards should be challenging (but not impossible).

HESI Study Guide

Using a HESI study guide for each section helps students in several ways:

  • Information guidance: includes what information will be tested

  • Information summary: the main theme of information included in each section

  • Information organization: outlines each section’s main themes, subcategories, and their individual elements

  • Information synthesis: Understanding how all the information forms the complete section of study

An effective study guide is similar to a map for a road trip. It provides guidance, organization, and gives you a “big picture” of your journey.

Without the map, you run the risk of getting lost and wasting time on unnecessary paths and areas. You might not even reach your destination successfully.

Using a study guide will keep you on track. You can also use study guides along with HESI practice tests and lesson plans to organize your study schedule.

HESI Practice Test

You can use HESI practice tests as a comprehensive tool. Each academic section has a wide range of material to cover. You don’t want to lose any of that information before you take the exam.

Why are practice tests so effective for learning? Like HESI flashcards, practice tests keep the study material fresh and your brain active. They increase learning retention through effortful retrieval.

When you use knowledge as part of your job, you’re keeping that knowledge intact through the practice-effect, or using the knowledge in practice. This learning mechanism isn’t present for academic learning and exams, however.

Educators rely on the testing effect instead. This mechanism allows students to use their knowledge for practical effect and increases their memory-recall efforts, both of which aid long-term memory retention.

HESI Lesson Plans

Using a HESI lesson plan for each section helps students study more effectively overall. This tool is useful if you’re crunched for time or juggling other work and education commitments.

How does a lesson plan help you study more effectively? It’s a dynamic learning tool that bases new learning and study material on your previous performance.

The content is adjusted as you study to show what areas you’ve mastered and what areas need further instruction and practice. You spend less time studying in total, but more time studying productively.

This quality over quantity approach can also highlight your academic strengths and weaknesses. You may struggle with biology but master math very quickly, for example.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you adjust your long-term learning strategies for your degree, your professional nursing exams, and your career performance.

HESI Discussions and Study Groups

Social learning often gets overlooked as a learning mechanism. You can use HESI discussion threads and forums to get a boost from online social learning, as well as tips from previous test-takers.

You may also have questions about material or learning methods that are not included in the FAQs. You can read previous answers or ask a new question for help.

Study groups are another great way to facilitate social learning through cooperation and collaboration. Research has shown for decades that cooperative and collaborative learning enhances academic performance.

Social learning also helps you develop skills you’ll use in college and in your career. These include communication skills, teamwork skills, and other interpersonal skills.

Other Important HESI Entrance Exam Study Tips

You’ve got your arsenal of HESI flashcards, your study guide roadmap, and your lessons and practice tests. So why are you still struggling with the material?

There are many, many factors that can throw off study session effectiveness:

  • Emotional and mental distractions

  • Lack of sleep

  • Low energy

  • Low motivation

  • Stress and anxiety

  • Burnout

  • Work and family commitments

  • Physical health issues

  • Over-scheduling

Everyone has different life situations. It may be difficult for you to schedule consistent study time, and to focus on the material when you do.

You may have to strategize ways to get more sleep, adjust priorities, or limit distractions in the time leading up to the exam. The best way to slip effective HESI exam studying into your schedule is by ensuring you have quality study sessions that don’t waste your valuable time and effort.

Joining the Career of Your Dreams Starts Today

The HESI A2 Exam can be tough if you aren’t prepared. Effective tools like HESI flashcards and HESI study guides can help. You won’t waste time studying ineffectively or studying material not even included on the exam.

Passing the HESI exam with a high score is your first step into an exciting new nursing career path. Are you ready to achieve your dreams? Create a free account to access all our learning resources today!

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