What’s the Fuss about the HESI A2 Entrance Exam?

It can be kind of scary to have a single test standing between you and your dream of nursing school.  But that’s exactly the position that more and more pre-nursing students find themselves in every year as schools begin requiring the HESI A2 Entrance Exam as one of their admission requirements.  To add to the confusion, there’s also several other types of HESI tests that are used during nursing school.  So what’s the deal?  And what do you need to do to be prepared?

First off, you do NOT need to know anything about nursing in order to do well on the HESI A2 Entrance Exam.  Many online resources that discuss HESI fail to mention that the A2 exam and the Exit exam are completely different.  In fact, the only thing they really have in common is that they were created by the same company.

What’s the purpose of HESI A2?

The purpose 0f the HESI A2 is to try and predict how likely it is that you will succeed in nursing school.  In that way, it’s actually very similar to the ACTs or SATs, which try to predict how likely it is that a student will succeed in college.  Higher scores on any of these tests are correlated with better performance in school.

You might feel upset or even angry because it seems unfair that a single test could prevent you from getting into nursing school.  You might feel like if you were just given a chance, then you could become an excellent nurse despite your test scores…and you might even be right!

The truth is, the HESI A2 can’t perfectly predict if you would be successful or not, it’s just a correlation.  A correlation is a type of statistic that shows that two things tend to be related, but one thing doesn’t necessarily cause the other to happen.  In the case of HESI A2, that means that if you do well on the entrance exam, then you’ll also tend to successfully complete nursing school.  On the other hand, if you do..ahem…less well on the entrance exam, then you’re less likely to successfully complete nursing school.  Notice that doing well on HESI A2 doesn’t cause you to do better in nursing school, though.

With claims like that (and research to back up those claims), it’s no wonder that an increasing number of nursing schools are using entrance exams.  It might seem unfair, but think about it from the school’s perspective.  You know that they get a ton of applications, and that number increases each year.  Nursing schools are run by people, and people have limited time.  They need some way to quickly narrow down the applications into a more manageable number, so they use a test.  If you don’t get the minimum required score, you’re application is automatically rejected.  That reduces the total number of applications for nursing school recruiters to review, and (arguably) increases the chances that everyone who is accepted with successfully graduate.

Regardless of how you feel about entrance exams, you’re going to have to take it if your prospective school requires one.  And knowing what the purpose is is the first step to doing well on it.

Any questions about HESI A2?  Leave a comment below!


  1. 1

    Jeremy says

    Totally disagree. These standardized tests are NOT good predictors
    of successful students. There are plenty of book smart students that
    ace these tests and do horrible in nursing school. Your pre requisites are
    the best indicator of how well you will do in nursing school. It shouldn’t be
    up to one randomized test. Totally unfair. Lots of students are terrible at
    standardized tests but are excellent students.

    • 2


      Hi Jeremy,
      Hopefully most schools that use the HESI A2 also take pre-req’s into consideration, because you’re definitely right that those are an important indicator of future nursing school success too.

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