HESI A2 Test Review

Everything you need to know to ace the test.

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Are you hoping to enroll in a nursing school? If so, you may very well be required to take the HESI A2 exam as part of the application process.

If you’ve just recently heard about this test, and would like to know more about it, you’re in the right place. On this page, we’ll explain everything you need to know about this important exam.

If you’re already familiar with the test, and you’re looking for HESI test prep help, you’re also in the right place. Just below, you’ll find links to a wide variety of free review videos and practice questions that can help you get a great score on the HESI A2 test.

What is the HESI?

What’s the test all about? Well, let’s start with the name. HESI stands for Health Education Systems, Inc., and A2 stands for Admission Assessment. The test is also known by a wide variety of other names, such as the Evolve Reach, the Evolve Reach A2, and the Evolve Reach HESI. However, most people just call it the HESI test. It’s not the name that’s so important about this exam, but what it does.

As part of their application process, many nursing schools across North America use the HESI A2 as an entrance examination. It’s a diagnostic tool, but it’s also a screening tool. Nursing schools have always received far more applications every year than they can possibly approve, and the problem has been getting increasingly worse for the past few decades. Because of the steadily rising population in the United States, the demand for healthcare workers in all fields is growing, including nursing.

The other factor is the HESI exam. A set of great HESI scores, in combination with an excellent academic record in high school, gives a person an excellent shot at getting into nursing school. In fact, excellent scores can help make up for a less than stellar high school GPA. That’s because the test is specifically designed to predict which test takers have what it takes to succeed in a nursing education program.

So when you sit down and finally take the HESI, you want to make sure you’re absolutely prepared to do well, because your results truly can make or break your chances of being accepted.

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HESI Exam Outline

The HESI is different from many standardized admissions exams in its format. With most college admission exams, such as the SAT or ACT, every person takes the same basic test. There are different versions, to prevent cheating and for research purposes, but with most standardized exams each test taker will see the same kinds of questions, and will have the same time constraints.

With the HESI, though, colleges and universities have a lot more flexibility. There are eight main components that make up the full exam, and schools can choose which ones they want their applicants to take. Depending on your program, you may only need to take the Mathematics, Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary, and Grammar subtests. Some schools may ask you to take the Biology and Anatomy & Physiology subtests as well, but the Chemistry and Physics subtests are rarely ever required.

The schools can also set their own time limits for each part of the test, although many nursing schools use the time limits recommended by Elsevier, the company that develops the HESI.

These are the eight HESI A2 tests:

  • Mathematics
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Physics

On each of these sections, there will be five questions that don’t count toward your score. Elsevier uses these five experimental questions for research purposes, with the goal of improving future versions of the HESI. However, you should do your best to answer each question correctly, as you will have no way of knowing which ones are experimental and which ones aren’t.

Many nursing programs require applicants to take all eight HESI sub-tests, but not all do. You’ll want to check with the nursing school you’re applying to in order to find out which tests you’ll need to prepare for. In addition, to the academic subject tests, there are two additional components of the HESI A2 that most applicants will have to take: Learning Style and Personality Profile. These last two aren’t tests of your knowledge; they measure your aptitudes in certain areas deemed important for success in nursing school. (These two are almost always required.)

Finally, although it’s not a part of the HESI A2 itself, there is a companion test that more and more nursing programs are using in addition to the HESI. It’s called the HESI Critical Thinking Exam. You’ll want to check with the schools you’re applying to in order to find out if you’ll need to take this test.

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Outline of the HESI A2 exam with mathematics having 55 questions, reading comprehension having 50 questions, vocabulary having 50 questions, grammar having 50 questions, biology having 30 questions, chemistry having 30 questions, anatomy and physiology having 30 questions, and physics having 25 questions

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HESI Exam Registration

In most cases, the nursing school or program you’re applying to will handle the actual administration of the HESI exam. It will be up to them to determine which of the various sub-tests you’ll take, what the time limits for the various tests are, and where you’ll take the exam. They’ll also determine the fees you’ll pay to take the HESI A2. In many cases, you’ll take the test right on the college campus.

All of this information should be available on the nursing program’s website. If it isn’t, call or email the nursing department of the school to get the information.

Retaking the HESI Exam

This is another matter that is up to each school to decide for itself. Most schools allow at least one re-take if a person isn’t satisfied with their score. However, there is often a waiting period that must be satisfied before attempting the exam again. Some schools allow more than one retake, but only so many within a calendar period. Ideally, you’ll do your very best on your first attempt and won’t need to worry about retaking the HESI.

HESI Scores

There are no official passing scores or failing scores on the HESI exam. Each nursing school or program sets its own standards for ranking scores on each subtest. Generally speaking, though, any score below 75% is considered to be an indication that the applicant is not academically ready for the challenges of nursing school in that area.

A score in the range of 75% to 79% is considered to be in the bottom range of acceptable, but an applicant whose score falls in this range will probably need quite a bit of help to succeed in nursing school. Scores from 80% to 89% indicate that the applicant should be able to graduate from nursing school with only minimal academic assistance. A score of 90% or higher is a sign that the test taker is very likely to do well in nursing school without any academic assistance.

HESI A2 Online Prep Course

If you want to be fully prepared, Mometrix offers a comprehensive online HESI A2 prep course. This course is designed to provide you with any and every resource you may need while studying. The HESI A2 course includes:

  • Review Lessons Covering all the Topics
  • Over 3,250 HESI A2 Practice Questions
  • 150+ Video Tutorials
  • More than 550 Electronic Flashcards
  • Money-back Guarantee
  • Free Mobile Access
  • and More!

The HESI A2 prep course is designed to help any learner get everything they need to prepare for their HESI A2 exam. Click below to check it out!

The Importance of a HESI Practice Test

Making great scores on the HESI A2 can make a huge difference in helping you secure admission into a nursing school program. Conversely, a poor or even so-so showing can ruin your chances of being accepted into a program. While it’s true that in most cases you’ll be able to retake the exam at least once if you do poorly, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do any better the second or third time.

Generally, people who retake the HESI will have an entirely different version of the test on their retakes, and won’t see any questions that they’ve seen before. So trying to go home and review specific questions you’ve failed won’t work. So you’ll need to put in some serious study before taking it again, which can mean missing the start of a semester and being forced to delay the start of your nursing education by several months, or even longer.

The best plan is to review regularly and thoroughly, starting well before your HESI A2 test date, and then, with a few weeks left to go, take a practice test to find out where you stand. This way you’ll be able to discover which areas you need to brush up on while you still have time to make serious improvements. By doing so, you’ll be in excellent shape to make an outstanding score when you take the actual HESI A2.

By Kate Nockunas

Kate has been Mometrix’s Nursing and Medical Editor for over four years. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Vanderbilt University, a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Marymount University, and a master’s degree in Education from Johns Hopkins. Kate is a critical care registered nurse who still works occasionally in the ICU and PACU.


*HESI is a registered trademark of the Health Education Systems Inc., which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.


by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: June 28, 2024