HESI A2 wasn’t a requirement when I applied to my nursing school, but it has become a much more popular exam to use since then. I’ve gotten so many questions about it over the years that I decided it was time for me to discover first-hand what it is like. So I registered to take it earlier this year, and I’m going to share my insights and suggestions about how to prepare to take each section of the HESI A2 over a series of blog posts.
First off, if you’re new to Your Nursing Tutor, I’m going to tell you right now that I think that 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. So I will never share specific test questions that I’ve seen on standardized exams, and I am not interested in buying or selling test banks for exams or textbooks. If you ever email me to ask me for something like that, I’ll politely tell you no and refer to this previous blog post.
Now that we’ve got that little disclaimer out of the way…
There’s a lot of curiosity and misinformation out there when it comes to the HESI A2. In fact, I have yet to find a really good, solid source of information about it…which is largely why I finally decided to take the exam myself and write about it. In fact, I think that even the official study guide is a little light on details that most students want to know. And there’s nothing like the unknown to increase an already high level of anxiety, right? So here’s the answers to a few questions you might be wondering about…or maybe haven’t even thought to ask yet.
Can I use a calculator on the HESI A2 exam?
Yes, you can use a calculator on the HESI A2, but you can’t bring your own. There will be a “calculator” button available on-screen for every question that requires math. Simply click on the button to open up the calculator, then click on the numbers to do your calculation. Make sure you’re comfortable using a computer calculator; the one on the exam is similar to the standard calculator that comes on every computer.
Will I be able to use scrap paper if I want to write something down?
Yes, there is paper and pencil available if you want to do written math calculations, or even to jot down notes for yourself during other sections of the test. The paper and pencil should be provided by the testing center; if it’s not, then you can ask for it. You will be required to turn in all of your scrap paper at the end of the exam to help prevent cheating. If they don’t ask you for it specifically, then demonstrate your integrity by trashing it your self before you leave 🙂
What order will the sub-sections of the test be in?
When you start your test, you will see a list of each content section that you are required to take for your school (if you’re not sure which sections your school requires, make sure you find out well before the exam so that you know what you need to study). You can take the sections in any order you want, so it’s good to have a plan of action before you get started.
I chose to take Anatomy and Physiology first because I was most nervous about that section and wanted to get it out of the way. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would have been if I had done poorly on A&P after I’m always stressing how important it is?!?! When I finished A&P, I mostly tried to identify the sections that required extra reading (such as Reading Comprehension) or contained a lot of questions (such as Math), and alternated them with the sections that I thought I could get done a little more quickly (such as Vocabulary and Chemistry). With this strategy, I got the intensive reading finished while my mind was still relatively fresh. Plus, I finished the longest sections early on while I still had plenty of time and didn’t feel rushed.
Another strategy to try (and please let me know in the comments if it works!) is to pause the exam section before you’ve completed it and switch to a different section. Each test section has an option to “pause” and leave that section, but I was too chicken to try it out after the huge technical fiasco I had already experienced at the beginning of the exam. What I think would happen, though, is if you felt like you needed a break from that particular section (and seriously, the Reading Comprehension and Math sections seem to last forever), then you could press “pause” for that section, and switch to a different test section for a while. Then you could go back to the section you paused whenever you are ready and finish up those questions. So if you try it out, make sure to come back here and leave a comment to let us know if it worked the way I thought it would!
When do I find out my score?
Oh the dreaded score! We fear finding out, and yet we’re impatient to discover what it is. Well, on my exam I was able to see my scores for each section immediately after I finished each section. Eek! How’s that for pressure? Basically, if you do well, you get a bit of encouragement from a good score. But if you do worse than you expected, then it might be more difficult for you to focus for the rest of the exam because you’re worrying about that bad score.
While it’s pretty much impossible to avoid looking at your score at the end of each section, you must resist the urge to open up the pdf score report that is also available at the completion of each section. Remember, this is a timed exam, and you can always look through your individual score reports later. In fact, you’ll even be able to access your score reports online within 2 weeks (and possibly even the same day).
What are the questions like on HESI A2?
I will be adding blog posts describing each individual section in more detail over the coming weeks, but here’s a few general tips to keep in mind. As you’re completing the HESI A2, you’ll probably notice that a lot of questions overlap across the different sections. Don’t let that confuse you or make you second guess yourself! For example, the Vocabulary section asks about definitions for A&P terms, even though A&P has it’s own section. And the Grammar section has some question types that are extremely similar to the types of questions that appear in the Vocabulary section.
Sometimes I even noticed what seemed like a duplicate question. There was one scenario that was used in both the Math and Grammar sections, but the question being asked about that scenario was obviously different each time. There was another scenario that was presented twice in my Math section. It appeared identical at first glance (maybe even the numbers were the same, I can’t remember), but it asked you to solve for something different each time. For example, they might have asked for the percentage total in one version versus the number total in another section. And once, in the Reading Comprehension section, I would almost swear that there actually was a completely duplicate question…but since you can’t go back once you’ve answered a question, I’ll never know for sure 🙂
In any case, if you start having a sense of deja vu, just use it as a reminder to read each question very carefully. Reading carefully will help you to figure out what the question is really asking, and prevent silly mistakes.
What questions do you still have about HESI A2? If you’ve already taken it, how was your experience similar or different to my experience? Did you try the “pause” technique to take a break from a section…and did it work?
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Nicole Whitworth is the founder of Your Nursing Tutor. She has a BSN and an MA in Clinical Psychology, and has been a professional nursing tutor for over 12+ years. Nicole specializes in getting nursing students through school confidently and calmly so that everything finally “clicks”. She is also the creator of the Silver Bullet Study System, an easy-to-follow study method that automatically trains your brain to become a nurse at the same time that you study for your normal nursing classes.