What Is The HESI A2 Like?

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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38 thoughts on “What Is The HESI A2 Like?”

  1. mary

    I took HESI on the 18t h of August , 2017 and decide I needed to share my own experience to encourage someone out there.The most important advice I will give is MANAGE TIME WISELY. I almost ran out of time. (MATH, 80 READING COMP 90, VOCAB 90, A&P 76, Grammar 87)
    Let me point out here that I was scared, like many others, when I wanted to write the exam because a lot of people failed it and had to take it many time.
    I am just an averagely smart girl, haven’t done my A&P2. I had 76 in A&P, there were so questions from A&P2 ( which i didn’t know), a few also from “MUSCLE” ( a topic i dnt even understand, lol)…and that’s what explains my low score. Math was okay. I had 80. (I am scared of math too), but it was mostly fractions (1/3 +7/8) and ratio… all you need to do is be fast cos there is a calculator but it really eats into your time. I had 87 in Grammar. learn every single topic on HESI text book because this subject can be tricky. Take reading comprehension first, or at least not when you are tired because the Essays are exhausting to read, some are even long and boring. U will need full concentration for that. Vocab was really easy. learn with the text and check for HESI VOCAB on Quizlet.
    I wish you the best. U too can make it.

    1. Priscilla Moler

      Did you get into nursing school? Or did you have to retake it?

  2. Erica

    I’ve taken the ATI teas (new version) can anyone let me know if it is similar to the teas format? When I took the Teas I had to take all 4 subjects, and know I found out two schools I want to apply for are requiring the HESI A2. I’m so stressed out.

  3. Drekka

    So I just took the HESI today and it was not as bad as I thought it would be. Before I took the exam, I was literally panicking weeks ahead of time. However, I studied with a HESI A2 study guide booklet and brushed up on what I needed to know for the exam. My school only requires Reading and Math, so wtbs I will discuss those selections below:

    Reading Comprehension (88%): I decided to do reading first since I wanted to go ahead and get it out of the way. The passages were very short with about 5-10 questions to go along with each passage. You have to be very careful, because sometimes they may reword the question but it ends up being the same answer, just worded differently. They ask questions such as “What’s the best summary for the passage?”, Main ideas, “What does … word mean in the passage” and so forth. Very simple, don’t put alot of thought into it because you’ll end up second guessing yourself. SO go with your first mind. It took me about 50 mins on this section.

    Math(94%): This section was very basic math, there were simple metric conversions, I had one military time problem, there were about 7 word problems (very simple), heavy on ratios, fractions, mixed fractions and percentages. So make sure you try and review that. Other than that, it is very simple. A calculator was there to use on each problem. To be honest, I did work out a few but I checked and did almost every problem with the calculator. This section did not take me long at all.

    Last but not least, it was very simple, not difficult at all. I went in thinking it would be so much harder. Just take your time, do not over think, and be confident. I hope this helped, oh and overall I received a 91 cumulative score! Pretty good being that I had to have at least a 75 on both sections.

    1. Alex

      Drekka, did the built in calculator have the % button and the decimal point (.)?

    2. Kayla

      Can you use the calculator for fractions or is it just a basic calculator

  4. Gaby

    What’s the difference between the Hesi and
    Hesi A2???

  5. Brianna

    Thank you so much for the information on the HESI regarding a calculator. When I took it in March not only was I not allowed to used a calculator (nothing showed up on the computer) but the Chemistry portion of the test any question that had subscripts, the subscript didn’t show up. I had to start and restart the exam 4 times. Each time showing them the problem and it not being fixed. In the end I finally gave up and took the test as is (knowing that my school doesn’t even “look” at the chemistry portion).

    The test was horrible! The questions were insanely difficult to do without a calculator (in the math portion) and when I complained I was told I couldn’t do 5th grade math! I was so pissed because I teach 7th grade special education! I know what 5th grade math looks like and a 5-6 step word problem involving decimals with all four operations is not something 5 graders can do!

    1. Priscilla Moler

      I too had a hard time with the math. Definitely not 5th grade level! I took algebra in college but I was lost alot. I couldn’t find the divide button on the calculator function!

  6. Nicole Simmons

    I am studying for the HESI A2 exam and I wanted to know if I should memorize formulas and the conversion table in the Hesi study guide book for the math portion of the test? Or are they provided for you? I am really nervous because it has been a while since I’ve had to take an entrance exam and need all the pointers I can get as to what prepare for. Thanks!

    1. Brianna

      The exam doesn’t give you any formulas. Just be sure that you have a calculator on the math portion. Mine wasn’t available and I bombed the math. That is the only reason I have to take the test again.

  7. Nnenna ezeoke

    what is difference between hesi test and hesi A2 test,

    1. ALi

      Hello, so the Hesi A2 is the entrance exam for any nursing program. The Hesi is the exit exam for that nursing program.

  8. Tiffany

    Hi, I’m taking mine tomorrow and I’m just curious because they told me to study the first 4 chapters which is math and English , im worried there will be science on the test but they told me not to study it, should I be studying it just in case?

    1. Priscilla Moler

      Im in Texas and we have to do the science portion too. There’s chemistry and physics on it too as well as anatomy and physiology

  9. Ariene

    well i took the hesi exam two days ago and i almost passed my reading comprehension i got a 64% where i needed 75% so close. I just passed my math though so in the next couple of weeeks i have to retake the reading. I am a bit nervouse because i want this pass so i don’t have to retake it over again. I only needed was math and reading to take for mine. Does anyone know if the questions will be the same again?

    1. Brianna

      I feel ya. I have to retake the whole test again just for the math portion.

    2. Priscilla Moler

      Its different every time, and everyone inbtge room has a different test.

  10. Maria

    I just have a question regarding the math portion of the test. Are you allow to use the calculator for all the questions or just certain questions? Thanks you

    1. Ariene

      I used the calcuator for all my questions though.

  11. homara

    Hi; I took the hesi a2 for 4 times and I didn’t Score 75 in comp.English,but I have 86 in maths.I am really scared to take it again. Any advice please

  12. When schools look for scores. Do they look at every single subject area or the average for that subject?
    For example do they take the reading comprehension score or every are such as conclusions, implications, understanding, ect.

  13. Stoneman1a

    I am currently preparing to take the exam and understand where many people can get frustrated. Basically, other than A&P, the entire exam is designed to ask you high school grade questions, which, if you had a high school like mine, were ACTUALLY PRETTY HARD.

    Some questions you may find on the math portion will include basic stuff, but I tested my knowledge based on the fact of what I know and what I dont know. Basic algebra and others I can do in a second, but the more complicated formulas I had to think through (though getting into pre-nursing school I was able to solve (x-4)(x+3) without a problem.

    The vocabulary section may be the hardest in my opinion because the definitions are going to be different than what you and I would describe. I would never look at the word “Abrasion” and think “injury to the integrity of the skin resulting in skin loss, I would simply thing “you got a cut”. So practicing your terms would be my best suggestion.

  14. cASEY

    I am about to take the test and had some questions about the test.
    1. How many questions are on each section? Like 20, 50, 100? Or does the number of questions vary by section?
    2. I have heard that this test takes about 7 hours! Is this true?!
    3. Is the exam timed?
    4. Do the HESI exam review books actually help?
    5. What was the worst subject? If any.

    Thank you for your time and help!

    1. Stoneman1a

      1. Each section takes different amounts of questions, usually around 50 each
      2. Yes this exam can take a while based on how many sections you have to do
      3. Yes it is timed
      4. Yes, I suggest the Hesi A2 Secrets Study Guide made by Mometrix Media LLC
      5. Still think its vocab and math

  15. Rebekah

    I took the A2 yesterday after being out of school for 10 years and passed! I found this blog and it really helped me a lot to know how to study. My school had sent a link for a practice test, which was nothing like the actual exam. The study guide is the best tool, along with the additional notes that Nicole provides in this post. Also, she is not kidding about the A & P section. It was the only section I scored less than a 75, which is the comprehensive score we had to obtain. (I scored a 72.)
    You may also want to look into some additional resources for Chemistry. The study guide did not go into near enough detail. However I know I have always struggled with Chemistry so in the 3 weeks I had to prepare I really focused on that. (Yes, you read that right, I only had 3 weeks to prepare. I had no idea this exam existed until very recently.)
    Additional sections my school required were learning and personality styles. Don’t let these scare you when they pop up on your test. They are only 15 questions each, so they don’t eat up your time which was my fear.

  16. jennylEE

    with all due respect, your tone is rather pompous

  17. Alyssa Green


    so how was the math portion of the exam? A lot of people told me it was just basic math like addition and subtraction multiplication and division and that it really wasn’t that hard? I take mines tomorrow. and super nervous

    1. kearia

      no its metric conversion and algebra involved not just the basics

  18. sasa

    I had same happened today. when i finished my Math section, they automatically went back to the first page and loading my score, after 2 second; it jumped out another pages and showed up “Thank You” but i didn’t finish my exam yet. I still have whole English part didn’t do. I asked the center, they tired to help me to log in again but it shows i need access code. We both don’t have it. So, they called to the office to ask. After 45mins, they told me, I need to reschedule my exam, based on the stupid technical issue. When I back home, i received Hesi A2 send me the Math score result. Now I am waiting for them to tell me what I should do. I feel that is unfair and the center’s people really unpoliite and unhelpful. It make me so upset and want to cry.

    1. I’m so sorry you had that experience! Try to keep a good perspective and remember to stay polite but persistent so that you can have an opportunity to take the English portion. Good luck!

  19. i tried today & didn’t pass. the vocabularies on the test were different from those in the book

    1. No, the vocabulary in the book is just a small portion of what could potentially be on the exam. The book is more for learning what kind of questions are asked and the formats they use on the exam. Sorry you didn’t pass, I hope you’ll have the opportunity to study and try again!

  20. Natalie Thorsland

    After reading about your technical glitch I am terrified to try pausing the exam. have you heard from anyone else on this matter? did theirs pause without any issues or is this a common problem?

    1. Mine wasn’t just pausing the section, but pausing then exiting the entire test (the test proctor instructed me to do this so they could fix a problem with the computer).

      I haven’t heard from anybody who tried it yet, but I will say that I started the A&P section, answered 1 or 2 questions, then the proctor instructed me to pause that section so we could go back to the main menu. Then they had me pause the entire test, and close out. After they resolved the technical problem and figured out how to reactivate my exam, I was able to get back into the math section that I had already started. So I’m pretty sure it would work…but like I said, I was definitely a little rattled after what had happened to me! 😉

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