HESI A2 – Chemistry

Chemistry was never my strong suit.  I took Honors Chemistry 101 my very first semester the first time I went to college to study Psychology (nursing was my second degree a few years later).  For my second semester I ditched the Honors class and took standard Chem 102.  I remember frantically studying for my final exam, as my smug classmate down the hall kept wandering in to tell me how he would have to get a -33% on the Final in order to fail the class (yes, if you’re paying attention, that it is impossible to get a negative score on an exam).  Needless to say, I needed a grade much higher than that, and I was more than a little nervous about it!

chemistry_girlI passed both of my Chemistry classes with less than flying colors, so I was curious how much I would actually have to recall for the HESI A2.  Before I jump into the details of my HESI A2 Chemistry experience, I need to give a little disclaimer.  I never had to take HESI A2 when I applied to my nursing school, but I’ve gotten so many questions about it over the years that I signed up to take it earlier this year and I’m in the process of sharing my experience in a series of blog posts.

That being said…for those of you that are new to Your Nursing Tutor, I’m going to let you know up front that I think maintaining honesty and integrity are two of the most important things you need to do as a nurse.  And that includes not cheating on tests for any reason when you are a student nurse.   I will never share specific test questions, and I am not interested in buying or selling test banks for exams or textbooks.  If you email me to ask me for something like that, I’ll politely tell you no and refer you to this previous blog post.

Now that we’ve gotten that little disclaimer out of the way…

What is the HESI A2 Chemistry Section Like?

The HESI A2 Chemistry section has 25 questions.  There isn’t a time limit for each individual section on HESI A2, but your school will probably have a time limit for the entire test so it’s important not to spend too much time on any one section.  I took 11 minutes and 45 seconds to complete Chemistry, which means I averaged less than thirty seconds per question (about 28-29 seconds per question, to be exact).  I found that to be a pretty reasonable pace because these are not critical thinking type questions, so you don’t have to spend as much time thinking about them.  Once you read the questions and answer choices, you pretty much either know it or you don’t.   

What types of questions are on the Chemistry section?

In my opinion, the official HESI A2 Review book (update: Check out the Resources page for current study book recommendations) makes the chemistry section sound like it will be a lot harder than it actually is.  I made a note after the exam that there was some overlap with the Biology questions, although now I can’t remember exactly why I thought that.  I’m thinking it was probably because of questions regarding chemical reaction equations like cellular respiration (i.e. glycolysis, which is also covered in Biology), that ask something about the direction of the reaction and the Products vs Reactants.  Even if my memory is wrong on this point, it won’t hurt to review those topics anyway, since you’ll definitely need it for the Biology section.

Another funny thing in my notes that I initially had no clue what it meant was “Oil-Rig.”  I mean, how in the world did I expect to remember what that meant 10 months later? But while I was flipping through the Chemistry section of the official HESI A2 Review book a few minutes ago, I saw something that suddenly made it all clear:  “Oxidation ILoss, Reduction IGain.”  OIL-RIG.  A happy little mnemonic that’s included in the study book to help you remember something you need for the exam 🙂  Make sure you know what it means!

Also review neutrons, protons, and electrons.  Identify their relationships to each other, how they’re represented on the Periodic Table, and what happens when a molecule gains or loses them.  Bonds are also another major topic to review, specifically  the different types of molecular bonds and how they work.  The states of water was also a topic, which might be another reason why I though there was some overlap with the Biology section

So…What Was My Score?

I got 23 out of 25 of the Chemistry questions correct, which gave me a score of 92%.  To see how that compares to other HESI A2 test-takers, the minimum recommended score for the Chemistry section at this school was 80% (according to the official documentation, each school can set their own minimum recommended score).  My score report also stated that the National Average of all HESI A2-takers for Chemistry was a 75%, and the average of all HESI A2-takers at my school was a 74%.  So all things considered, I did pretty well.

Despite my traumatic past experiences in Chemistry, I apparently had retained a pretty good foundation.  Specifically, I had a strong memory about working with the periodic table, protons and electrons, and identifying atomic weight.  I feel like it was those topics that helped me the most to do well on this section, and that if I would have taken the time to study chemical bonds then I could have improved even more.  (I didn’t really spend any time preparing for HESI A2 since I was only taking it to see what it was like, and not to try and get into nursing school).

Bottom Line

I thought that the Chemistry section was fairly basic, and didn’t go into as much detail as the official HESI A2 Review book made it sound like it would.  Looking back, I think that most of what I needed to know I actually learned in my high school Chemistry class (which I took the year after my high school Biology class, so yeah…it had been a while).  And Microbiology might have given me a little bit of a review with certain concepts such as cellular respiration and oxidation/reduction.

Which Chemistry topic would you most like to see me review here at Your Nursing Tutor?

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8 thoughts on “HESI A2 – Chemistry”

    1. If you need it to answer the question, they should give it to you. But if it’s simply a question that requires you to understand how the table works (i.e. that the atomic number is the same as the number of protons), then you wouldn’t need it.

  1. I am taking hessi A2 soon and I do not remember a lots of things in chemistry, Biology and A&P section. Can someone guide me from where I can Prepare for these sections please Thanks.

  2. I am retaking the Hesi for the first time in about a year and I remember the chemistry part being fairly simple. Yet I have been taking practice tests through some website my college recommended and the practice tests are going into so much detail on redox reactions and precipitate reactions along with the molar ratios to make certain product and I am kind of freaking out because I dont rememer the Hesi really going into that much detail on redox and precipate reactions..when you took it did it have alot of either?

  3. Your blog is so helpful thank you! I have a question regarding the chemistry section. Do you need to memorize elements characteristics, for example the atomic number of lithium? Some practice tests I’ve taken have questions where a periodic table is certainly necessary. Online I’ve been reading the chemistry section is basic, yet these practice test along with the study guide as you mentioned paint a much more difficult picture.

    1. Hi Glenn,
      You shouldn’t need to memorize the periodic table. I see what you mean about some of the review questions in the study guide being misleading in that way. It’s definitely not the BEST study guide, but it’s the best one that I’m aware of!

      If you focus on understanding the characteristics of the elements on the periodic table then that should be fine. Basically, make sure you can identify the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons based on looking at the periodic table, and you will be likely to know enough to do well with those types of chemistry questions come test day.

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