The Health Education Systems, Inc., or HESI®, exam is a standardized test conducted to grant admission to nursing school and help students prepare for licensing and board exams. The HESI® exam may also be referred to as the HESI® A2, the HESI® Admission Assessment Exam, or the Evolve Reach A2.
Along with the HESI®, there are two other standardized tests used for nursing school admissions: the Nursing Entrance Test (NET) and the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS). Prior to taking any of these exams, you should check with your nursing school of choice to see what they require for admission.
The HESI® exams are designed by Elsevier Student Life and rather than being one single test, the HESI® is actually a series of exams to assess the mastery of core subjects for students in the healthcare field. In total, the HESI® exam has ten sections, and which sections you are required to take will depend upon your school of choice. Some schools may identify and require as few as four sections, while others may require all sections be taken. An overview of the sections, their time restrictions, and the number of questions on each section is provided for student reference below.
These sections are ungraded and not used by all schools. They are designed to give students insight into their preferred learning styles and study habits.
If taking all sections, the HESI® exam is scored on a scale ranging from 750 to 900. Each school sets their own minimum score for admission. The time you are allowed to take the exam will depend upon which sections you are taking. There is a fee to take the HESI® exam, which usually ranges between $35 and $70.
Anatomy and physiology are perhaps the most fundamental areas for a nurse to study. Anatomy is the area of study in between biology and medicine that considers the structure of the body. Physiology is the scientific study of how the body and its organs and cells work. Understanding the location of parts of the human body is critical. A nurse must understand how each part of the body works in order to deliver the best patient outcome. Simply knowing where the heart is located is not enough; you must understand how the heart works, and how the other systems that depend on it work in conjunction. The Anatomy and Physiology section of the HESI® exam should take about 25 minutes, and is part of the larger science section, which is comprised of 30 questions (25 scored and 5 pilot).
Biology is the study of living organisms, and in order to understand anatomy and physiology a nurse must first grasp the science of biology. While you may not use your knowledge of biology directly every day, biology serves as a prerequisite before moving on to other sciences such as anatomy, physiology, and microbiology. The Biology section of the HESI® exam should take about 25 minutes and is part of the broader science section, which asks 30 questions in total (though only 25 actually count in your score). Be sure to study items such as cells, water, molecules, metabolism, and photosynthesis.
While chemistry may not seem relevant to nursing, it’s more applicable than you might think. A nurse must understand the actions and effects of the medication she is providing, as well as potential interactions that can occur with other medications or foods. Having a solid foundation in chemistry is key to understanding how certain drugs interact, which directly affects patient outcomes. Advancing your career into more specialized fields will require you to possess not only an understanding of basic chemistry, but perhaps organic or physical chemistry as well. The Chemistry section of the HESI® exam should take about 25 minutes and is part of the science section, which asks 30 questions in total (though only 25 are actually scored). Be sure to study the periodic table, atoms, and chemical and molecular bonding.
Grammar is very important to all nurses. When a patient’s life is on the line, a simple slip of the tongue can make all the difference. Understanding grammar is a key part of having good communication skills for any job, but in the role of a nurse as the patient advocate, communication is especially important. Be sure to review parts of speech and common grammatical errors when you study. The Grammar section of the HESI® is part of the 55-question English section, and should take around an hour to complete.
All nurses and nursing students will use mathematics for a number of calculations in nearly every area of their jobs. From urology to gastroenterology, nurses will use math to conduct dimensional analysis, read and analyze patient charts, make medication and weight conversions, and carry out day-to-day functions. For the Mathematics section of the HESI® exam, be sure to study addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, conversions, and ratios. The exam asks 55 questions and should take about 50 minutes. Five are considered pilot questions, so you will only be scored on 50 of the questions you answer. Note that you will have access to a very simple on-screen calculator but you may not use your own.
Physics is one of the most basic sciences and serves to give nurses a deeper scientific understanding of the other scientific disciplines, such as biology. Physics relates to many areas in nursing, such as radiation, which is applicable to oncology and x-rays, and the study of waves, which applies to ECGs and EEGs. The Physics section is NOT required by most nursing schools, so be sure to check your school’s requirements before you begin studying for this section of the HESI® exam.
Most careers require a firm grasp of reading and writing. In nursing, having above average reading comprehension skills is paramount to your success. If you cannot read a chart and immediately understand everything that is written, you could be endangering the lives of your patients. Nurses need to read, and read at a high level, in order to function in a professional manner. For this section of the HESI®, you will be asked to read short passages, make inferences, and identify word meaning and main idea. The Reading Comprehension section should take about an hour and is part of the larger English section, which comprises 55 questions (50 of which count toward your score).
Nurses with a greater range in their vocabulary have greater chances of communicating correctly than those who do not. In the operating room or on the floor, nurses need to be able to communicate effectively, and having a robust vocabulary is a key part of being able to do that. As you prepare for the Vocabulary section of the HESI® exam, be sure to study common vocabulary test words from both the real world and the medical field. The Vocabulary section of the test should take about 50 minutes and is part of the broader English section.The English section asks a total of 55 questions, 50 of which actually count towards your score.
The HESI® exam is sometimes administered on school campuses, or it may be taken at a pre-identified testing center. You will want to identify which testing dates will work for you and register ahead of time. You will receive a username and password when you register. Do not lose this information; you will need it on the day of the test. On the day of the exam, make sure you know where you are going and plan to arrive early.
On your exam date, you will need to bring several things, including the username and password that was assigned to you when you registered, a copy of the payment you made during registration, and one form of legal identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. School IDs are not acceptable. The exam is electronic, so you will not need any pencils.
Do not bring any books, electronic devices (including cell phones), food, or beverages. You will also not need a calculator. There is one available for you to use within the testing software.
HESI® practice tests are one of the best ways to ensure you are prepared for test day. When you access HESI® practice tests from reputable sources, they often have practice questions that are remarkably similar to the actual exam content. This information can help you identify any weak areas where you may want to spend a little extra time studying. They can also give you a feel for how long the questions take you, and how much time you can afford to spend on each section. No matter what other study aids you may use, HESI® practice tests can work wonders in terms of preparing you for exam day.
In addition to practice tests, there are troves of alternative study materials that can help you to prepare to take the HESI® exam. Examples include study guides and flashcards. Some students find that working with the same content in multiple formats helps them to really remember the important points and the knowledge that is required during the exam. When you are preparing for your test, it’s always a good idea to check out these resources to see if they might be helpful for you.
While HESI® practice tests are great for identifying what content you should focus on in your studying, there is another big advantage when you actually use the practice tests in a way that simulates the testing experience. You can time yourself and just take the sections that you will be taking on the day of your exam to help you get a feel for how long you can allow yourself with each question and understand how your performance may be affected when you take the full exam. This is one of the best ways to calm your nerves and ensure you feel confident when you start your HESI® test.
The HESI® exam is timed as a whole exam, but the individual sections are not (even though there are guidelines for approximately how long is allotted for each section). This means that you can spend more time on sections that are harder for you, but it’s not a good idea to do this until you have completed the sections that are easier. When you do the easy ones first, you have a better idea of how much time you can spend on the more difficult sections.
Taking the HESI® exam can be incredibly stressful, since a good score is generally required for admission to nursing school. It may be tempting to spend the days (and nights) leading up the test cramming the material, but studying at a steady pace and ensuring you get plenty of rest before taking the exam will often result in a better performance. It’s also crucial to eat a good meal prior to testing, as the exam can be long and an empty stomach makes it much harder to focus.
Each of the sections on the HESI® exam has different instructions, and sometimes the instructions can be deliberately confusing and the questions worded in a way that makes the correct answer hard to discern. Be sure to read through the instructions and all test questions carefully.
Yes, you can retake the exam, but you can only take it once every 60 days, and no more than three times within a 12-month period. For this reason, it is essential to study and prepare for the exam as much as possible prior to taking it.
Examinees are allowed to take short breaks to use the restroom, get a drink, or eat a small snack. While you cannot have food or drinks in the testing area, you can bring them to the test site for break time. During breaks, examinees are not allowed to access the internet, check email, or look at any study materials or books.
The HESI® exam is administered on a computer, so your score is available immediately after you have completed the exam. Your scores may be accessed through the testing center where the exam was taken or through the Evolve Elsevier website.
HESI® scores are valid for two years from the date of completion of the exam.
If your school requires all 10 sections of the HESI exam, you will have 326 questions in total, 297 of which are graded. However, since many nursing programs do not require the physics section, you will likely take closer to 300. Be sure to check with your school to see what sections will be required for your exam.
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