What is the HESI Exam? (2024's Student Guide)  

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: June 21, 2022

The HESI A2 is an important test that will determine if you can enter nursing school or your chosen healthcare field. But studying for the HESI A2 exam can seem overwhelming.

There are so many different topics that you need to know, and most of them seem challenging.

Our years of experience in the test prep industry means that we know all the tips and tricks needed for the HESI A2.

This article will provide some information about the exam, as well as tips on how to do well.

What Does HESI Stand for?

HESI stands for Health Education Systems, Inc. Admissions Assessment (HESI A2), which tests to see if you have the cognitive skills and knowledge you need to succeed in nursing school or a health care education program.

It will test academic readiness and assess if you are prepared for the required health sciences students' coursework.

The HESI A2 was developed by Health Education Systems, Incorporated to help health care programs weed out applicants who may be unprepared or not ready for the rigorous requirements of nursing school or their academic program of study.

Who Uses the HESI A2?

A doctor smiling in front of the camera

Nursing schools throughout the United States make use of the HESI entrance exam as part of their admissions process.

The most common use of the HESI exam is in many nursing programs' selection or admissions process.

However, other programs may also use the exam.

These other health care programs include: 

  • medical assistants
  • medical laboratory technicians
  • radiologic technologists
  • medical sonographers
  • surgical technologists

So, it's not just most nursing schools that use the HESI A2 - it's an admission assessment exam for many programs.

What Is a HESI A2 Test Passing Score?

An answer sheet with a pencil

Interestingly, there is no official successful score for the HESI exam.

Each school or exam sponsor has its own passing score and minimum score standards for each of the subtests, and what is passing for one school may not be passing for another.

There are some rules of thumb for this standardized test:

  • Scoring below 75% on the HESI exam indicates that the test taker is not well prepared to enter the academic or nursing program.
  • Students who tally from 75% to 80% on the HESI test have a good chance of passing their classes, but will probably need some assistance.
  • Scores between 80% and 90% on the HESI exam indicate that a student will pass the academic program without any significant difficulty.
  • Students who get above 90% on the HESI test will almost certainly excel in their studies, and so schools are eager to accept students with these scores into their nursing program.

But again, each school sets its own policy and own standards, so you should check on the school’s website.

What is on the HESI Admission Assessment Exam?

A student answering and shading his answer sheet

There are nine content areas on the HESI exam. Each of the nine specific subjects on the HESI test focuses on a unique area.

Here is a list of the subtests that make up the examination, how many questions are on each of them, and the average time you have to spend for each one [1]:

  • Anatomy and Physiology: 30 questions with 25 minutes to answer
  • Basic Math Skills: 55 questions with 50 minutes to answer
  • Biology: 30 questions with 25 minutes to answer
  • Chemistry: 30 questions with 25 minutes to answer
  • Grammar: 55 questions with 50 minutes to answer
  • Physics: 25 questions with 50 minutes to answer
  • Reading Comprehension: 55 questions with 60 minutes to answer
  • Vocabulary and General Knowledge: 55 questions with 50 minutes to answer
  • Learning Style section and Personality Profile: 29 questions with 30 minutes to answer

Recognize that nursing schools may adjust the number of questions and the time you have to answer them, so the above may vary at your institution.

The good news is, most students do not have to take every single test. In fact, most students will only take between four and seven of the subjects and not the full exam.

The most common tests that academic institutions have students take are Reading Comprehension, Basic Math Skills, Grammar, and Vocabulary and General Knowledge.

However, it is critical that you know what subtests your particular nursing school or program requires. This way, you can be sure you are studying the right material and maximize your chances of doing well on the tests.

What Are Some Strategies for Answering Questions Quickly and Accurately?

A woman holding and reading a book
  • Read the question carefully and make sure you understand what it is asking. Do not just jump to an answer if you are unsure of what is being asked.
  • Look at all the possible answers before marking your best one, even if this means taking a bit more time than usual with each question.
  • Do not change your answer unless you are certain that you marked it wrong. Go with your gut.
  • Don't panic if you do not know the answer to the question right away. Take your time and read it over a few times before you skip to the next question.
  • If all else fails, make an educated guess at the correct answer. There is no penalty for answering incorrectly, so give it some thought, eliminate the things you know are wrong, and give it your best shot.

4 Tips for Taking the HESI A2 Exam

1. Come up with your plan

A person using sticky notes to organize his plans

Everyone needs a plan to know which essential academic skills they are going to study and how much time they should devote to each study session.

You want to know how much time to devote to study and how much time for practice test questions.

A review plan for your admission assessment exam review should outline what study materials you'll use and what HESI A2 study guide you'll consult.

It also should help you pick the subtests you focus on - grammar, math, anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, etc.

Create a plan that's realistic for your individual needs so that you can come up with a reasonable timeline.

You want this schedule to stay as consistent as possible; otherwise, it will be hard for you to gauge what is working or not working.

Decide whether you want to concentrate on your best areas first, or tackle the difficult ones while you are still fresh. Everybody is different, and you need to decide for yourself the best way to study.

2. Know what is going to happen

The HESI test is a lengthy exam that can take over 5 hours if you have to do all the sections. You will take the exam either at a campus location or a proctored remote site.

You will get a few brief breaks that total only 30 minutes in length. So be sure to bring a water bottle and a few snacks so that your energy does not flag during the exam.

"Don't watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going."


- Sam Levenson, journalist

Taking some practice tests can make all the difference when it comes to test day. So ensure you work practice questions into your study plan, that way you will know what is coming on the HESI entrance exam.

3. Practice, practice, practice

A woman writing

There are a number of ways to review the material before you take the HESI entrance test. One of them is to use free HESI A2 practice questions available on many websites.

You can also purchase review material in hard copy form or online.

But one benefit to doing the online practice test is that it mimics the actual HESI examination more closely than a review book does.

Either way, HESI practice questions are a key way to prepare for the actual test. It will help you see what to expect and find out what your strong and weak areas are.

HESI practice tests can help you find out if you are good at biology and chemistry but could improve in vocabulary, anatomy and physiology. Or, maybe they will show you that grammar is your thing but you need to work hard at science.

Regardless, they let you focus on the right section of the HESI using the correct study materials.

They also come with detailed answer explanations to help test takers get better HESI scores.

Another helpful way to review is finding a classmate who is also preparing for the examination and quiz each other on the information.

Together you can review study guides, look at specific math problems, work on reading skills, study up on anatomy or biology, or even dig into the periodic table.

Of course, you will take the exam alone, but doing a great job with group studying can often help solidify information into your memory and prepare for your HESI.

If you both work on the same practice test, you can help each other with the Math and English sections, science sections, reading comprehension exams, or any other specific exams.

4. Sleep well

Young woman sleeping peacefully

You want to get a good night's rest for the HESI exam. Pulling an all-nighter right before the examination will only hurt your performance.

Having a clear and well-rested mind is a far better idea than cramming the night before the exam [2].

However, many people find that having a 30-minute review session right before going into the exam helps them recognize the correct answer on the exam.

Where Do I Register for the Hesi A2 Exam?

Every school has its own policy for how to register for the HESI exam. So it is very important that you read your intended program's website and follow their procedures.

However, most schools either offer the exam on site or through a distance exam through Prometric.

Either way, students must create an Evolve account on the Elsevier Inc website to schedule and pay for the HESI.

Can You Retake the HESI?

If you did not do as well on the HESI A2 as you would have liked, most schools will allow you to take it again.

However, they each have their own rules on how to do it.

Some schools let you have as many retakes as you want, while others will only allow a single retake.

Similarly, there are schools that let you retake the nursing entrance exam in the same semester as your first try, while others do not. There are schools that only permit you to take the test once a year.

While some schools will make you retake the entire exam, others will allow you only to retake the sections where you did not do well enough.

As you can see, the answer to retakes is very program specific, so you need to find out your school's policy.

Why Is It Important to Take Practice Tests Before You Take Your Official Hesi A2?

A pencil, notebook and a sticky note lying on the table

The best reason to take HESI practice tests before taking the HESI exam is to accurately estimate your ability to get a passing score.

It's hard to know how well you will do on the HESI if you don't take one or two practice tests.

HESI A2 practice test results can help give you an idea of what types of questions are easy and which ones require more effort so that you can focus on the more difficult section of the HESI during study time.

Additionally, taking HESI A2 practice tests can help you learn how to pace yourself on the exam. Each section has a different time limit and question count.

Doing a HESI A2 practice test can help give you an idea of how long it will take to finish the test and then you can make adjustments so that you don't run out of time on a section.

What is HESI Exam: The Takeaway

By taking the HESI exam, you will be one step closer to achieving your dream Health Sciences education. You don’t need good luck, because by preparing well you will maximize your chances of a great score.

Be sure to take the time to study and practice well ahead of the HESI. You have what it takes to do well and get a good score, you just need to put in some work before the big day.


  1. https://study.com/academy/popular/how-long-is-the-hesi-a2-nursing-exam.html
  2. https://nieuws.kuleuven.be/en/content/2014/for-better-marks-get-a-good-nights-sleep

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