What is the HESI Exam? (Part 3-Specialty Exams) (Episode 45-Navigating Nursing School Podcast)

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Today, I’m going to share with you why mid-Fall is NOT my favorite time of year as a professional nursing tutor. We’ll also be talking about the HESI Specialty Exams, which you might be facing in a month or two during finals. I’ll let you know how they’re different from the Entrance and Exit HESI Exams, how hard they are, and what you can be doing right now to prepare for them. 

Welcome to Episode 45 of Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor! I’m your host, Nicole Whitworth, BSN, RN, and a professional Nursing Tutor with over 12 years of experience. 

Today is the third in a 3-part series about HESI Exams, where I’ll clear up a lot of misunderstandings, as well as answer the most commonly asked questions  about them. We already talked about the HESI A2 Admissions exam and the HESI Exit Exam in our last 2 episodes. So today, we’re going to be talking about all of the different Specialty HESI Exams, and what they’re like. 


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Links from Episode 45:

Looking for info on HESI A2 Admission Exam? Try: www.YourNursingTutor.com/episode43 

Looking for info on HESI Exit Exam? Try: www.YourNursingTutor.com/episode44 

Free Facebook Group: Nursing Students in Nursing School, (Free Help and Support)

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Transcript for Episode 45

Today, I’m going to share with you why mid-Fall is NOT my favorite time of year as a professional nursing tutor. We’ll also be talking about the HESI Specialty Exams, which you might be facing in a month or two during finals. I’ll let you know how they’re different from the Entrance and Exit HESI Exams, how hard they are, and what you can be doing right now to prepare for them. 

Welcome to Episode 45 of Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor! I’m your host, Nicole Whitworth, BSN, RN, and a professional Nursing Tutor with over 12 years of experience. 

Today is the third in a 3-part series about HESI Exams, where I’ll clear up a lot of misunderstandings, as well as answer the most commonly asked questions  about them. We already talked about the HESI A2 Admissions exam and the HESI Exit Exam in our last 2 episodes. So today, we’re going to be talking about all of the different Specialty HESI Exams, and what they’re like. 

But first I want to give you a quick update on what’s been going on in my life lately. We’re halfway through the Fall semester right now, and as you might imagine, that’s a REALLY busy time for a professional nursing tutor like me. 

But honestly, it’s NOT my favorite time of the year. That’s because I end up hearing so many depressing stories from nursing students who haven’t found me until now, when it’s over halfway through their semester already. And that ends up making me feel really sad for the hard situations that they have to go through as a result.

Sometimes, when nursing students first find me, they’re hoping that I can give them a quick tutoring review in an hour or two, and that will magically be enough to help them ace their next exam and get them to pass their semester. But that’s really not how tutoring works…if it were THAT simple, then everybody would be able to pass simply by watching a few YouTube videos. It’s clearly not that simple since so many students continue to struggle.

The problem is that sometimes when I honestly tell students this, it’s not what they want to hear. What they WANT to hear is that I can somehow magically fix 2 months worth of bad grades with only 1 or 2 tutoring sessions before their next exam, so that they can go on to easily pass their semester. And that’s just not the reality of how tutoring works at all. 

So when they’re not ready to face that reality, they decline the kind of proven help that I’m offering, and continue looking for their “magical” solution instead…even though it doesn’t exist. I know that they’re gonna be wasting a LOT of time continuing to look, because I’ve been working in this field for over a decade. And I haven’t found that kind of magical solution yet, either. Their time would be better spent studying, rather than dreaming like that. But they’re the ones that have to make that decision for themselves, but it’s hard for me to sit on the sidelines and watch them fruitlessly searching. 

On the upside, though, there ARE more realistic students out there who seek help from me, and understand that what they’re trying to find doesn’t actually exist. That’s not what they hoped to hear when they first find me, of course, but they’re willing to face that short-term reality in order to ultimately be successful in the long-run. 

Those are the type of students who tend to go on to join my VIP Tutoring Membership. By doing this, they save themselves time if for no other reason than they stop their endless searching, they start taking action, and as a result they see improvements on their nursing exams pretty quickly, in as little as 1-2 weeks…all by changing the way that they study. 

But let’s state the obvious here…even for those students who made the smart move to take action and make proven study changes as soon they discover what to do differently, it’s still not always enough to save their semester. Sometimes, the grading math just doesn’t work out. 

If you’ve been borderline passing for half your semester, then the math says that you need to get straight A’s and 100%’s for the second half of your semester to counterbalance all that mess…and that’s just really unlikely to happen. I mean, even if I were suddenly required to go back to nursing school, knowing everything that I know now after being a professional nursing tutor for over 12 years, I’m pretty sure even I couldn’t even get grades that good! 

So it’s not because you’re not smart and not capable. It’s simply because of the way nursing school and nursing tests are currently set-up. And that’s a whole other podcast episode in itself that I could talk about, so I won’t expand on that point here today. 

Now: I’m not telling you all this to depress you or make you feel like it’s hopeless situation, because it’s definitely not. Yes, it’s a really hard time of year for a lot of nursing students…and for me as a professional nursing tutor to watch you all go through it, especially since I know it could have been prevented IF somebody had shown you the right way to study sooner than now! 

In just the last 24-hrs, I’ve actually heard from TWO of my current VIP Tutoring members who told me they ended up having to drop their nursing classes this semester because we did the grading math, and discovered that they were heading for a failing grade overall. Because by the time they had joined after failing their first few exams, there was really no realistic way for them to be able to make a comeback this semester, and I had been honest with them about that from the beginning. 

And while this situation was really upsetting because it truly IS difficult decision to make, it’s actually NOT all bad news for these 2 particular students, and surprisingly both of them were feeling very hopeful for the future! 

Here’s why…they took immediate action as soon as they identified the problem and found my VIP Tutoring Membership, and started working with me. As a result, they BOTH started seeing improvements on their nursing exams within only 1-2 weeks of joining and learning how to use the Silver Bullet Study System. 

So while it WAS too late to save their current semester by the time that they joined…it wasn’t too late to save all their future semesters, instead. And even MORE importantly, they BOTH now have a renewed sense of confidence because they no longer wonder if their bad grades mean they’re not cut out to become a nurse. Now they know that they actually CAN do this. They CAN succeed in nursing school. The bad grades were not a reflection of something inherently wrong with them, it was simply a result of not knowing how to study in a way that connects WHAT they’re learning to HOW they should think about it.

And now they know how to DO that. Now they know what kind of tutoring support they REALLY need. And even though they had to withdraw from this current semester, they’re still optimistic because they know exactly how to prepare differently from now on so that this never happens to them again in the future.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, I want to tell you this so that you don’t feel so discouraged! Don’t start questioning whether you’re cut out to be a nurse, because that’s really the wrong question to be asking. It’s only going tear you down and make you feel less confident than you should be feeling. 

Instead, take a realistic look at your personal situation, and decide what kind of action you can take TODAY to set yourself up for success. If that’s working with me in the VIP Tutoring Membership, then I’m happy to have you join our community. Just please don’t continue endlessly searching for a solution that doesn’t exist. Focus on your long-term success instead, and don’t waste time before you take action.

Now onto today’s discussion about the HESI Specialty Exams…

What are HESI Specialty Exams?

HESI Specialty Exams are a variety of standardized exams published by the Elsevier publishing company. These specialty exams cover one, specific topic in Nursing School. For example, you can find HESI Med Surg, Fundamentals HESI, Pharmacology HESI, Mental Health HESI, HESI Health Assessment, and Pediatrics HESI, just to name a few. 

These exams are more like the HESI Exit Exam that we talked about in episode 44, than they are like the HESI A2 Admissions Exam that we discussed in episode 43, because they DO cover nursing knowledge that you’ll need to know for NCLEX.

There’s not a whole lot of information available online about these Specialty Exams, which can cause you to have a lot more stress from the “unknown” factors. But the reality is that they’re pretty similar to any thorough final exam you might face at the end of your semester. 

In fact, that’s most often how these HESI Specialty Exams are used…as a form of final exam! So at the end of your Med Surg Class, you might take the HESI Med Surg instead of, or even in addition to, an instructor-written final exam.  It all depends on how your particular school decides to use them.

So…

How hard is the HESI Specialty Exam? Is the HESI health assessment exam hard? Is the HESI Med Surg Exam Hard? Are ANY of Them Hard?

The HESI Specialty Exam will probably feel challenging no matter which specific topic you’re covering…Med Surg, Health Assessment, Pediatrics, Mental Health, or any of the others. 

That’s because, similar to the Exit HESI Exam, they’re designed to measure your NCLEX readiness for that topic. Therefore, the questions you’re asked need to be at a higher difficulty level than the minimum passing difficulty level for NCLEX. 

Another reason that makes the various HESI Specialty Exams feel harder, especially if they’re being used as your final exam or scored as another part of your final class grade, is because they are NOT written by your instructor who actually taught your class. 

This can feel a bit unfair at first glance, because you’re being “held responsible” for knowing content that you may never have been formally taught on. But the truth is that this is actually really good practice for eventually taking NCLEX, because you will definitely be asked questions about content you’ve never formally been taught about on THAT test!

The reason why this set-up feels unfair, though, is because you’ve been trained all your life that the purpose of tests is simply to regurgitate information that somebody else has taught you. And now that you’ve started nursing school, you’re still doing all the same things that have always gotten you successfully through test, and gotten you good grades. But all of a sudden, it’s not working anymore, and your grades are suffering as a result. So it only makes sense that you would start to suspect or even outright blame your nursing school for treating you unfairly. 

But the truth is that’s NOT the real problem. The REAL problem is that the purpose of your tests in nursing school has changed, and nobody ever told you. They may have tried to explain it, by saying something like, “you have to learn to think like a nurse”, but even that’s not super clear AND it doesn’t tell you anything about what you have to do differently in order to successfully adapt. 

So…

How do I study for HESI Specialty Exams? How do I study for Med Surg HESI? How do I study for the fundamental HESI exam? How do I study for the HESI psych exam?

Ideally, you would study for your HESI Specialty Exams the same exact way you would study for any of your nursing class classes. But since most nursing schools have this major disconnect between how you’re accustomed to being tested in non-nursing classes, and how you’re ACTUALLY being tested now in nursing school, this can cause a BIG problem. 

It’s actually very similar to the situation I was in back when I started nursing school in 2007, and I failed my very first Fundamentals of Nursing quiz even though I had studied hard and done everything that had always helped me successfully prepare in the past. It wasn’t until I learned how to study using the principles of the Silver Bullet Study System that I was able to turn things around SO successfully that my nursing program actually created a brand new position for a nursing tutor…and offered me the part-time job.

Part of that process for me, and for the many students I’ve tutored over the years since then, is realizing that you’re not actually being tested on the content in nursing school, not primarily anyway. That’s why it doesn’t matter if your instructor wrote the test, or if the publishers of HESI wrote the test. 

Either way, you’re supposed to be tested on a very basic level of nursing knowledge, and then more importantly on whether you know how to analyze and apply that knowledge. And that’s what the HESI Specialty Exams are designed to measure, because that’s also what NCLEX is designed to measure. 

So if you actually know the basic nursing info, which you most likely do because you’re already working hard and studying so much, and you still find the HESI too difficult to pass, then odds are likely that your REAL problem is related to learning how to organize, analyze, and apply the nursing information that you already know by studying it through the lens of the Silver Bullet Study System so that you can get more questions right on your exams.

And when you do this, it really doesn’t matter WHO your nursing instructor is, OR how well they’re teaching, OR who’s writing your exams…because you will be able to see right through each test question to identify what they’re REALLY checking to see if you know. And THAT is how you get more exam questions correct, HESI or otherwise.  

Next week, I haven’t decided WHAT exactly I’m going to be talking about yet on this podcast! So it’ll be a surprise to you. The problem is that I have sooo many things that I want to share, but only so much time to share it on the podcast, so whatever it is, you know it’ll be useful. 

If you don’t already know, I also offer help in a lot of other online settings other than this podcast. Like I send out a lot of tutoring tips and nursing school help to students on my email list. You can join my email list by going to my website and registering for any of my free resources. 

I also help Nursing Students through my free Facebook Group called “Nursing Students in Nursing School (Free Help & Support)”. If you want to join that free group, just remember that we’re really strict about ONLY approving “join requests” from people who have answered ALL 3 of the membership questions when you request to join, because otherwise we get a ton of spammers which is really annoying to everyone in the group. 

So if you want to join that free Facebook group, we’d love to have you, just be sure you read and answer all the membership questions carefully. And that’s also another way you can get on my email list, too, because one of the questions is “Do you want to be on my email list”.

My last tip for today’s episode is to encourage you to answer this ONE question for yourself…What action can you take TODAY to set yourself up for success next semester? 

As hard as it may be when you’re feeling the time crunch of your current semester, you don’t want to risk trading long-term success for a false sense of short-term urgency. 

If you answer that question and decide that your best action is to join the VIP Tutoring Membership, then I’d be honored to help you navigate through the sometimes difficult process of determining whether you still have time in the short-term to find success in this current semester, OR if you need to switch your focus to your long-term success instead…mentorship is just one of the many benefits of the VIP Tutoring Membership.

No matter which situation you’re in, I can mentor and support you to make sure that you’re following a proven pathway towards success. We’ll also do that using the Silver Bullet Study System, which is the only study method I know of that mimics the way experienced nurses think, so that YOU can start thinking that way, too. You can join me in the VIP Tutoring Membership anytime by going to www.YourNursingTutor.com/vip

Until next time, good luck on your nursing journey!

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