The Complete Guide to HESI Exam Scores

Are you ready to become a nurse? Many nursing schools require entrance exams before you can officially start their nursing program. The Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) exam is a common test used by many colleges and universities.

Nursing school programs are competitive. If you want a top-notch nursing career, you need a high HESI score to beat the competition. Learn what your exam scores mean and how to get top-grade HESI exam results in our complete guide to HESI exam scores!

Entrance Exams: Taking the HESI

The HESI exam is also known as the HESI A2 or HESI Admission Assessment Exam. It’s owned and managed by academic publishing company Elsevier Education.

HESI is one of several exam formats used to qualify potential nursing school students. Other exams include:

Colleges and universities decide which specific entrance exam they use for their nursing school. Each campus program can also have different standards for the same test.

For example, the UTHealth program at Houston University uses the HESI exam. It requires 7 academic sections, including chemistry and biology. The minimum qualification score is 85% for each section.

By contrast, the South Texas College HESI exam has 5 academic sections, not including biology and chemistry. Its minimum score requirement for each section is 75%.

It’s critical to know your nursing school exam format and scoring requirements so you can appropriately prepare for the exam. Many programs will also tell you the recommended and/or required classes needed before attempting the entrance exams.

HESI Exam Format

The HESI exam’s standard format has eight academic sections and two personal sections. The academic sections are:

  • Reading comprehension

  • Vocabulary

  • Grammar

  • Mathematics

  • Anatomy and physiology

  • Biology

  • Chemistry

  • Physics

The personal sections are:

  • Personality profile

  • Learning style

Each nursing school program will decide which section they want to include, based on their program’s curriculum. Most exams include the math, English language, and anatomy sections. The two personal sections can be optional or mandatory when available.

The exam comes in a computerized format and is generally administered through Elsevier Evolve. Each section will have a set number of questions and a set amount of time to answer.

The HESI exam can take around 3-5 hours overall. You can take short breaks depending on your exam proctor, but you won’t be allowed outside internet access during testing.

HESI Exam Scores

The personal sections are not scored. The eight academic sections can be scored cumulatively or separately.

For example, the reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary sections may be one cumulative English language score, or they may be individual section scores.

Scores are based on percentages. The HESI exam requires 75% for a minimum passing score. Anything below 75% is considered a failing score.

The passing score thresholds are:

  • Average: 75%-80%

  • Above Average: 80%-90%

  • Excellent: 90%-100%

HESI scores are usually just one factor for program entrance requirements. The scores are considered a form of diagnostic assessment to predict your chances of nursing school and career success.

1. Reading Comprehension Exam Scores

The reading comprehension section tests your ability to analyze written information. Nursing duties rely on quick and accurate analysis of written reports, charts, and health records.

This section provides a paragraph and deductive questions for you to answer about the information provided. Testable skills include:

  • Locating the main idea

  • Identifying supporting details

  • Determining the author’s purpose

  • Interpreting the work’s tone (formal, condescending, ironic, etc.)

  • Making informed inferences

  • Drawing supported conclusions

  • Separating fact from opinion

  • Comparing and contrasting information

  • Using context clues to find meaning

  • Summarizing the work’s overall purpose and message

The exam scores for this section are based on 8th-grade reading level comprehension:

  • Excellent: can easily read and understand the material

  • Above-average: understands most material, some additional effort may be needed

  • Average: will struggle with some of the more complex material

  • Below passing: will struggle with most of the basic material

If you fail the reading comprehension section, it indicates you won’t be able to keep up with the nursing school’s curriculum. A high exam score indicates you should have no trouble following along in the textbooks or other reading materials provided by your nursing school classes.

2. Grammar Exam Scores

The grammar section tests your grammar skills, or the proper structure and assembly of English-language sentences. It’s important for nurses to be grammatically correct, as even small communication mistakes can result in serious errors during patient care.

This section has many different aspects and can be somewhat trickier than the other sections. For example, you may be asked to find the “best” sentence even though they are all grammatically correct. Other skills include:

  • Identifying parts of speech

  • Knowing correct verb forms and tenses

  • Using pronouns appropriately

  • Proper capitalization

  • Using accurate punctuation

  • Knowing the right homophone in context (your vs. you’re)

  • Using clear sentence structure

This exam score is based on high school level grammar skills:

  • Excellent: can easily write grammatically correct text

  • Above-average: may struggle with correct grammar or take longer to write

  • Average: will have consistent difficulties writing

  • Below passing: will be unable to write according to time and grammar constraints

Failing this section shows you will not be able to keep up with writing assignments and verbal instructions throughout your nursing school program. An excellent exam score generally means you’ll have little technical difficulty creating grammatically correct written assignments throughout your classes.

3. Vocabulary and General Knowledge Exam Scores

The vocabulary section will test another aspect of communication: the range and depth of the English-language words you know. If your vocabulary knowledge is limited, you won’t be able to communicate clearly and concisely with patients, doctors, and other nurses.

This section has two main areas: medical vocabulary and general English language vocabulary. These testable skills include:

The exam scores are based on a 10th-grade reading level:

  • Excellent: can easily read and understand the terms and vocabulary words used

  • Above-average: may require more time and effort

  • Average: the majority of terms and vocabulary will be challenging to understand

  • Below passing: will not be able to understand the material due to vocabulary limits

A failing or even average exam score can indicate you probably won’t be able to pass most major coursework without great difficulty. An excellent score shows you already have a high aptitude for absorbing nursing school knowledge.

4. Math Exam Scores

The HESI math section tests your general math knowledge, from addition to algebraic formulas. Nurses need a wide range of math skills, such as finding trends in patient data or measuring proper medication dosages.

This section allows you to use a very simple calculator provided during the exam. It will still test your computation and formula skills, however, along with:

  • Working with fractions

  • Understanding decimals

  • Calculating percentages

  • Knowing military time

  • Reading Roman numerals

  • Converting basic measurements

The exam scores are based on a 9th-grade math level:

  • Excellent: can perform all necessary arithmetic calculations

  • Above-average: needs additional improvement in arithmetic performance

  • Average: performs at a rudimentary level

  • Below passing: cannot perform adequately at the required levels

A failure for this exam score shows you won’t be able to perform many future nursing duties, like administering medication. An excellent score means you can perform with little to no supervision during and after nursing school.

5. Anatomy and Physiology Exam Scores

The anatomy and physiology section is usually included in the science requirements. Nurses need a fundamental working knowledge of these areas to perform most patient care.

For example, it’s not enough to memorize the parts of a circulatory system. The difference between blood types and their compatibility with each other is also very important.

Other knowledge areas include the:

  • Endocrine system

  • Skeletal and tissue system

  • Muscular system

  • Nervous system

  • Male and female reproductive systems

  • Urinary system

  • Respiratory system

  • Digestive system

All the science subjects are based on the school’s nursing program levels. This is why biology and chemistry are sometimes not included, and physics is only rarely included.

  • Excellent: exceptional aptitude to learn required curriculum sciences

  • Above-average: can keep up with science requirements

  • Average: likely to need assistance passing curriculum

  • Below passing: will be unable to pass with current knowledge and skills

A failure for this exam score means you’ll struggle with any science-related concepts and learning requirements needed to pass your nursing school program. An excellent score shows you already have a solid foundation of knowledge for medical-related sciences.

6. Biology Exam Scores

When included, the biology section tests your overall knowledge of basic biological systems and concepts. This section’s testable knowledge includes:

  • The classification of organisms (taxonomy)

  • The scientific method and its functions

  • Functions of cells, tissues, and organs

  • Genetic principles

  • How heredity works

  • The processes of mitosis and meiosis

  • Photosynthesis

Biology gives nurses a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind anatomy and physiology, including why human body systems function as they do. Some nursing school programs may also require the biology section because they include classes in medical microbiology and pathophysiology.

7. Chemistry Exam Scores

Like biology, the chemistry section is only included depending on your nursing school requirements. The testing areas include:

  • Units of measurement

  • States of matter

  • Atoms, elements, and mass

  • Acids and bases

  • Chemical equations and reactions

  • Oxidation and reduction

This section can apply to specialized fields within nursing. Chemistry concepts and formulas are especially important in pharmacology, the science of medications and drugs. It provides nurses with a fundamental knowledge of medication’s physiological effects on their patients.

8. Physics Exam Scores

The physics section is generally not included in HESI exams for nursing school programs. However, it can be included in programs with certain classes, such as radiology. Testable concepts include:

  • Laws of physics

  • Types of waves and wave parameters

  • Kinetic and potential energy

  • Currents and voltage

  • Motion and mass

  • Optical formulas

  • Static electricity charges

  • Gravitational force

Physics formulas and concepts can actually help nurses understand many routine functions of nursing, such as measuring vital statistics and drawing blood. It also ties into relevant biology and chemistry knowledge, such as how medications can affect blood pressure and why.

How to Get High HESI Exam Scores

Excellent HESI exam scores come with many benefits:

  • Competitive edge during nursing program selection

  • Makes up for weaker academic and professional performance in other areas

  • Shows you can have the knowledge and aptitude to pass nursing school classes

  • Indicates you can pass the NCLEX-RN exam

  • Saves time and money from delayed program entry

Passing with high HESI scores doesn’t have to be tough. You can achieve high exam scores with the three P’s: planning, preparing, and practicing.

1. Plan

Research shows you get the most out of short but consistent study sessions. Schedule a regular time each day for your study sessions, which include:

  • Minimal distractions

  • No interruptions

  • Fully prepared study materials

  • Effective study tools

  • Snacks and water

  • Notes and note-taking materials

  • Short breaks

Your study session quality is just as important as the quantity. If you’re constantly distracted or unprepared, you can study for hours and still learn surprisingly little.

2. Prepare

Preparation means having effective study tools ready to go. Simply reading material is often not enough to really keep the knowledge in your mind until test day.

Your mind learns best through assertive learning methods, such as active recall. Effective study tools can include:

  • Video lessons

  • Lesson plans

  • Study guides

  • Flashcards

  • Educational games

  • Concept mapping

Many HESI exam study tools are already available. For example, UnionTestPrep offers HESI flashcards and study guides for free online.

3. Practice

“Practice makes perfect” is an old saying that’s especially true for passing with high exam scores. Practice tests have reliably proven to be one of the best exam preparation methods out there.

Practice tests help students measure their knowledge and performance. It also indicates how prepared they are for the actual exam. Students who score well on practice tests generally come away with even higher official exam scores.

It’s Time to Start Your Way Onto a Rewarding Nursing Career Path

The HESI exam helps to predict your success in nursing school. Your exam scores help colleges and universities determine whether you’re ready to begin, or if you need more preparation first.

Are you ready to get started on your nursing career? Don’t let entrance exam setbacks get in your way!

We offer all the tools you need to succeed, including practice tests, informative articles, and study session tips. Sign up for a free account to get started today!

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