43. What is the HESI Exam? (Part 1-HESI A2 Entrance)

What is the HESI Exam for nursing school? Is it the same thing as the ATI? How can you prepare for it, and what should you do if you FAIL it?

Today, I’m starting a series that will help you feel more confident and prepared for the many different standardized exams that you’re likely to see in nursing school. And while I’ll mostly be focusing on HESI during this series, you can be sure that you’ll be able to pull out useful information that will help you understand ANY nursing school exam, standardized test, and even NCLEX!

Listen Now!

Some links below may be referral links…purchases made from referral links don’t cost you any extra, but may provide a commission that helps support Your Nursing Tutor’s free content, so thank you!

Links from Episode 43:

*Official* HESI A2 Study Guide (published by the writers of HESI A2): https://amzn.to/3BHpjhb

Another excellent HESI A2 Study Guide: https://amzn.to/3lrHcLa

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Transcript for Episode 43

What is the HESI Exam for nursing school? Is it the same thing as the ATI? How can you prepare for it, and what should you do if you FAIL it?

Welcome to Episode 43 of Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor! Today, I’m starting a series that will help you feel more confident and prepared for the many different standardized exams that you’re likely to see in nursing school. And while I’ll mostly be focusing on HESI during this series, you can be sure that you’ll be able to pull out useful information that will help you understand ANY nursing school exam, standardized test, and even NCLEX!

Like maybe your school doesn’t use HESI, maybe your school uses ATI instead. Will today’s episode still be useful? Honestly, yes it will, because although there are some differences between HESI and ATI, generally speaking they are just 2 different brand names of test publishers who both create standardized tests for similar purposes in nursing school.

So the general ideas that I’m sharing today about how to prepare for the different HESI nursing exams, they’re also going to apply to ATI nursing exams as well. But…if you think I should do an episode specifically for ATI exams sometime in the future, then send me an email to tell me! You can reach me by emailing Nicole(at)YourNursingTutor(dot)com

Before we get into the meat of the information today, I’d like to introduce myself!

My name Nicole Whitworth, and I completed my BSN back in 2008. I have been tutoring nursing students ever since I was hired by my BSN Program during my very first semester of nursing school. After I graduated, I realized that there were many more nursing students beyond my school who were seeking affordable tutoring support…and were definitely not finding it from their nursing programs or their professors.

So I with the help of my husband, we created Your Nursing Tutor, which features the VIP Tutoring Membership, to provide the answers for why so many hardworking nursing students continue to struggle, and even fail, despite all the effort you put into studying.

Because the truth is that our current nursing education is failing us! Not because our nursing professors aren’t good enough or don’t care, but because the nursing school system has not adapted to the times. And dedicated students like you get stuck in the middle, constantly feeling failure, yet not knowing what to do to change things. And neither do your professors, even though they desperately want to help you.

If you’d like to learn more about what I do to help nursing students, then you can visit www.YourNursingTutor.com/vip to get the details for how I solve this problem for nursing students so that you can turn your semester around and finally find success.

Now, let’s talk about today’s topic…

What is the HESI Exam? Are all HESI exams the same?

HESI is a brand name of standardized exams that are created and published by Elsevier, who you probably also recognize as a popular publisher for many of your nursing textbooks. There are actually 3 different types of HESI exams, and each one serves a completely different purpose.

This is where a lot of the confusion comes in among nursing students, because if someone asks for advice on HESI, you need to know which one they’re talking about, before you offer your advice. So it’s good to know about all 3 types, even if you’re past the stage of ever needing to take one of them.

The first kind of HESI exam is called the HESI A2, and it’s an admissions exam for pre-nursing students, so it doesn’t contain any nursing content. But like I said, even if you’re already in nursing school or beyond, you should still take a few minutes to learn about the HESI A2 so that you don’t accidentally give someone the wrong advice in the future.

Then the second type of HESI Exam is the HESI Exit Exam. This should only be for nursing students who are at the end of their nursing school programs, because it’s a much more comprehensive exam that’s comparable to the NCLEX.

And finally, there’s the Specialty HESI Exams that you might take take at the end of each of your nursing classes, sort of like a final exam. These Specialty HESI’s are topical, and only ask questions about the subject matter for a single nursing class.

Over the next few podcast episodes, I’m going to teach you a little more about each of these HESI Exams, how they’re the same and how they’re different, what to expect from them, how to prepare for them, AND what to do if you don’t get as good of a score as you need when you take them.

For today’s episode, I’m going to start by covering the HESI A2 Admissions Exam, and then I’ll cover the next 2 types of HESI exams in our next podcast episodes.

HESI A2 Admissions Exam

If you’re a pre-nursing student, then the HESI A2 exam is most likely what you’ll need to learn about because the purpose of the HESI A2 is primarily as an admissions exam for nursing school. It does not contain any specific questions about nursing content, so you don’t have to worry about that, since you obviously haven’t started any nursing classes by the time you need to take it yet.

Do all nursing schools require HESI-A2?

No, all nursing schools do not require HESI A2 for admission. Some nursing schools use a different brand of test for admissions exams, such as the TEAS test, and other nursing schools don’t use any admission exams at all. So you really need to check with the school that you’re interested in attending to find out their specific requirements and policies.

What is the difference between TEAS and HESI?

The TEAS test is created by a different publisher than HESI, and that’s really the main difference. TEAS stands for “Test of Essential Academic Skills”. Both TEAS and HESI-A2 are commonly used as entrance exams for nursing school, and will require very similar preparation.

What is on the HESI A2 Exam?

The subjects on the HESI A2 exams include more general, nursing pre-requisite type content. This includes basic math, reading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, biology, chemistry, anatomy & physiology, and physics.

However, just because the HESI A2 could cover any of these topics, doesn’t mean that every section will be required for your school’s application process!

Each nursing program can choose whichever subtest topics are most important to them, so you’ll want to look through the application materials carefully to make sure you know how to best prepare. If your nursing program doesn’t require a particular subtopic, then you most likely won’t even see it as an option when you take your test.

But you can pretty much depend on the math and reading comprehension sections to be required.  Probably also the vocabularly, grammar, and often the Anatomy & Physiology section, too. The Chemistry, biology, and physics sections, however, are what I see included least commonly for nursing school admissions.

But again, always check with the nursing school that you’re applying to, so you know exactly what to expect.

How hard is HESI A2?

Since HESI A2 is an admissions exam, it’s not intended to be super hard. However, if you’re returning to school as a non-traditional student, or if you struggle with math anxiety, then it can still feel intimidating!

Luckily, there are some decent review books available to help you refresh your knowledge and refamiliarize yourself with the skills that you’ll be tested on.

What is the HESI A2 Exam Like?

Since I didn’t originally have to take the HESI A2 back when I applied for my 2nd Degree Accelerated Nursing Program, I decided that I wanted to get some first-hand experience about what it was like because I get so many questions about it as a professional nursing tutor. So after I had already been a nurse for a few years, I made arrangements to take the HESI A2 at my local community college. 

You know, just for fun because I’m kind of weird that way.

I didn’t do very much studying to prepare, since I obviously wasn’t using my score to apply to nursing school, I just wanted the firsthand experience with taking it. But let’s just say I was feeling very thankful that my particular school did not include the Chemistry, Physics, OR Biology sections on their HESI A2, as it had been more than 10-years since I had taken any of those classes and I really didn’t feel like I remembered any of it.

But besides that point, I found that the math and English sections reminded me a lot of when I had taken the SATs in high school, perhaps even a little bit more straightforward than that was. Although honestly, now that I think of it, I don’t even know what the SAT is like anymore, so maybe it’s completely different than when I took it. But I took the SAT’s in the late nineties, so that was my basis of comparison in case that’s when you might have taken it, too.

The A&P section, on the other hand, asked for a little more details than I typically dig into when providing nursing tutoring nowadays, but I managed to muddle through and still scored well enough that it would have gotten me accepted into nursing school.

If I had taken the HESI A2 shortly after having finished my A&P classes, however, like many of you will be doing, then I think I would have scored even higher than I did.

But if it’s been a while since you’ve taken your A&P class, maybe you’re a non-traditional student going back to school after doing something else for a few years, which is the situation that many of my VIP Tutoring Members are in, then you will definitely want to do some focused A&P Review. It will serve you well even beyond the HESI A2 test, as A&P is THE most important pre-requisite you’ll need to be successful in nursing school. It’s also the foundational information for a lot of different nursing topics when you’re studying using my Silver Bullet Study System, so it’s always worth reviewing, and it’s never going to be time wasted.

What is a good HESI A2 score?

Since HESI A2 is not taken for a class grade, then the score really depends on the requirements for the nursing school that you’re applying to. But here are the general guidelines:

  • 90%-100% Excellent!
  • 80%-90% Very Good!
  • 75% Most common cut-off for nursing school admissions

However, even though 75% is typically the minimum score required by nursing schools for admissions, you still need to do your due diligence and make sure you know exactly what your nursing school application requires. Some schools might require an 80% or even higher, especially if you live in a competitive area.

Plus, you might be required to have a higher score on certain sub-sections of the HESI A2 test. For example, you might only need a minimum score of 75% for the reading comprehension, but they might require an 80% for Anatomy and Physiology. So do your research carefully for each different nursing school that you apply to!

One more thing to note is that obviously some nursing schools ARE going to be more competitive than others, and it’s not always enough simply to score the bare minimum. So if you can find it out, then I definitely recommend inquiring about what the average HESI A2 score of an accepted student is, so that you can aim for a score in that range instead of just the bare minimum cut-off score.

What happens if you fail HESI A2 exam?

Since the HESI A2 is not taken for a class, you can’t really “fail” it in the traditional sense. However, if you don’t achieve the minimum cut-off score for the nursing school you want to apply to, then obviously you won’t be able to submit your application quite yet.

And as I just mentioned, you could also be in a situation where even though you achieved the required minimum cut-off score to apply, you still might not be in the average “competitive” range for accepted students.

But let me be clear that HESI A2 is only ONE criteria that nursing schools look at, so don’t freak out yet if your score is lower than than the average for accepted students, because there are also other things you can do to make yourself a competitive nursing school applicant, as well.

So it might be useful to apply anyway, and make sure to highlight your other strengths in your application.

Can you retake the HESI A2 exam?

Yes, in most cases you absolutely CAN retake the HESI A2 exam if you’d like to try for a better score. However, once again you’ll need to make sure you know the guidelines for your particular school, as every nursing school has their own policies for retaking HESI A2.

The 2 most common policies that I have seen as a professional nursing tutor are either 1) you can retake HESI A2 almost immediately, but they will be administering a different version of the exam, or 2) you will have to wait for a pre-determined amount of time, usually in the 6-12 months range, before you are allowed to retake the HESI A2 at that same school.

If you retake HESI A2 using a different version, don’t worry! It’s still the same topics covered, so you would prepare the same way. Only the specific questions will be different so that you don’t get the benefit of “remembering” the answers to any specific questions from the first time you took the exam. Totally makes sense to keep it fair.

And that’s also the reason why some schools choose to implement a waiting period, as well. At those schools, they may or may not have you retake the same version of HESI A2 that you took the first time, there’s really no way to no in advance, cause obviously they’re not going to tell you. But since so much time has passed, as the theory goes, you’re unlikely to remember the specific questions from your first attempt anyway.

And since most schools who require HESI A2 will also have an option to take it through their own campus, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are prevented from taking HESI A2 through a different nursing program’s application process, either. So if you are in an area that has a lot of nursing programs available, and you are open to attending a different school, then look around and see what your other options are.

Ultimately though, since HESI A2 is a standardized exam, you should be able to use your same HESI A2 score at multiple nursing schools. So definitely keep that in mind.

I hope that this information about HESI A2 makes you feel a little bit more calm and confident about your nursing school application process if you’re still pre-nursing, or helps you feel better equipped to mentor and help the nursing students who are coming up behind you if you’re further along on your nursing school journey.

In our next episode, I’ll be jumping to the opposite end of your nursing school journey to talk about the HESI Exit Exams…they tend to instill terror in the hearts of many nursing students. But it doesn’t have to be that way! And we’ll talk about the question you should ask about exit exams before you apply to nursing school, as well as how to avoid the major pitfall of failing your exit exam once you’re already IN nursing school. And, of course, what you can do if you DO fail your HESI Exit Exam, and what that will mean for your future as a nurse.

In the meantime, if you appreciate all the free content that I provide for nursing students, would you please go to Apple podcast and leave me a 5-Star rating? The more positive ratings and reviews that the “Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor” podcast gets, the easier it is for other nursing students to find this helpful information. So thank you for your help in getting the word out!

If you’re still a pre-nursing student, and you’re wondering if it’s too early to join the VIP Tutoring Membership, I’d like to give you some more information real quick so you can make the best decision for you!

So how can the VIP Tutoring Membership help you as a pre-nursing student? First off, you are the sum of the people that you surround yourself with. So I always recommend that you surround yourself with positive, successful nursing students who are going to encourage and motivate you…instead of scaring you with more nursing school horror stories.

Second, access to good mentorship always makes life easier. Nursing school is often described as jumping into the deep end of the pool without a life jacket. Having a good mentor, which the VIP Tutoring Membership provides, will speed up your learning curve, offer larger perspective, and guide you through the important things to think about before you even start nursing school.

And thirdly, there are some very specific skills you can master before you ever step foot in nursing school that will set you up for success and give you a huge head start. Skills like how to confidently solve dosage calculations, stay in control of your Test Anxiety, and even knowing the absolute best ways to study nursing material…which I guarantee is different than what you’re used to, even if you’ve always been a good student in the past.

So if you’d like to do everything you can to avoid failure in nursing school, and instead feel as confident as possible, then I would love to support you now through the VIP Tutoring Membership at www.YourNursingTutor.com/vip

Until next time, good luck on your nursing journey!

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