Nurse Holding an injection

What Is HESI A2 Test And How to Prepare for It?

When you are preparing all the documents for your nursing school application, the term HESI A2 keeps coming up. It is a popular entrance exam for nursing schools. Candidates must pass the test to be eligible.

There are multiple aspects to the HESI A2 test, which can be daunting for new students. Preparation is vital, along with finding the best practice tests out there. To get you started, this article covers all the basics and hacks to tackling this exam.

What Is The HESI A2 Test?

The HESI A2 (Health Education Systems, Inc Admission Assessment) test is a common test used by nursing schools to filter out candidates.

There are eight subjects included in the test. They are:

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

Depending on the program you apply to, you may only need to take some of the subjects and not all. It is rare for schools to ask for the entire set to be tested.

After passing the HESI A2 test, you are eligible to apply to the nursing program if your score meets the prerequisite. Nursing schools will list out the corresponding score needed for each program. Even if your score is not high enough for certain programs, you can still apply to the ones with a lower required mark.

Candidates will go to a physical location arranged by the school. Candidates will receive notifications about the specifics when they sign up.

Is The HESI A2 Test Difficult?

A Medical Doctor Working Behind a Desk

Although the level of difficulty is quite subjective, the HESI A2 test is not usually regarded as an unreasonably challenging exam. It may be hard in the way it deals with the question structure but the content should not be foreign for candidates.

All the subjects in the HESI A2 test are included in students’ high school education. Sometimes, the topics may deviate slightly but they should not pose many difficulties for students to learn. If you have previously passed your SAT or equivalent exams with satisfactory results, you will find the HESI A2 similar in some ways.

That said, there is no need to be discouraged if your previous results were disappointing. In general, the HESI A2 test is highly trainable. As long as students memorize the answer tactics, they will find scoring full marks simple. With enough preparation, anyone can take on the test.

What Is The Format Of The HESI A2 Test?

There are a total of 335 questions in the HESI A2 test. The time limit is 335 minutes. On average, students do not have too much time to spare with the tight time frame. Questions are designed so students have just enough time to submit everything in the end. It does push candidates’ concentration skills to the limit.

What Is Included In The HESI A2 Test?

Here’s what’s covered in the test:

1. Math (55 questions, 50 minutes)

In the Math section, the candidate’s basic understanding of numbers and numerical reasoning are tested. The 55 questions focus on simple calculations and the use of decimals and fractions. All the topics would have been covered in one’s high school syllabus.

The Math test is considered one of the less difficult subjects in the HESI A2. A well-performing high school student should be able to tackle it at ease. There are a few advanced algebra questions in which students have to find the right formula for them.

2. Reading (55 questions, 60 minutes)

From the passage given, students have to identify the core message, hidden meaning, and purpose. Analysis of facts and opinions will also be part of the test to see how well students can distinguish between tones and vocabulary usage.

Students need to have an eye for details to spot supporting evidence to substantiate their claims. The main purpose of the Reading test is to measure a candidate’s investigation and comprehension skills.

3. Vocabulury (55 questions, 50 minutes)

Upon the first glimpse, this section may seem like an uncanny twin to the Reading test. The two are actually drastically different in nature. The Vocabulary test assesses a candidate’s language skills. You have to select the correct meaning, identify the origins (Latin/Arabic/Sanskirt, etc.), and find the synonym.

Having a wide range of vocabulary is essential for nurses to explain a situation to patients and doctors. It avoids regrettable accidents due to miscommunication. Nurses are often given training sessions to strengthen their language skills.

4. Grammar (55 questions, 50 minutes)

The Grammar test evaluates your ability to construct meaningful paragraphs using the correct tenses and terms. In a professional setting, nurses are required to write loads of emails and medical notes. Using the wrong tenses can shift the event upside down.

Whether the nurse is in charge of internal or external communication, Grammar skills are always vital. It is not unusual for candidates to take all the language-related subjects together.

5. Biology (30 questions, 25 minutes)

Naturally, to enroll yourself in a nursing program, you need relevant biology knowledge. Candidates with a strong science background tend to find the HESI A2 test slightly easier.

The Biology test asks students about the main concepts of DNA, the functionality of the human body, cell reproduction, substance reaction, and other introductory theories.

Students must demonstrate their knowledge of the human body to pass the test. Graphs may be included to see if candidates can correctly identify the professional terms and organs. Calculations are uncommon but students may be asked to determine the decomposition and reproduction rates.

6. Chemistry (30 questions, 25 minutes)

Both theoretical and calculation questions are used in the Chemistry test. It is important for students to know the corresponding formula. Chemical reactions are part of the test so students know of the possible danger in the work environment.

Some of the topics covered include temperature scales, chemistry equations, chemical elements, concentrations, oxidation, equilibrium, and biochemistry. The Chemistry test is slightly more advanced than the others in the HESI A2 test. Candidates often struggle with this part due to the huge coverage of concepts.

7. Anatomy and Physiology (30 questions, 30 minutes)

Understanding the human body is only the first criterion of being a nurse. In the Anatomy sections, systems within the human body are tested. From the respiratory system to the reproductive system, students have to name the functions of each system.

You have to answer how body parts resonate with each other, how the impact on one can affect another, and what are the possible causes for some symptoms.

History and terminology will assess students’ knowledge of how these theories are derived. It encourages students to think critically instead of blindly memorizing the textbook. Students should familiarize themselves with the general history of how nursing came to be a profession. It is a required introductory class in most nursing schools.

8. Physics (30 questions, 30 minutes)

Equations about light, speed, motion, heat, etc., are the main questions in the Physics set. Students have to utilize these equations to answer scenario-based questions as well as the properties of the elements.

Since Physics is heavily formula-based, students tend to find this section harder than average. You have to remember when to use the formulas and how to interrupt the results. Graphical analyses will be incorporated so students can derive conclusions from scientific tests. Or you have to construct a meaning chart with the data points available.

How To Prepare For The HESI A2 Test?

Young doctor in uniform with stethoscope and notebook in medical room

1. Take It First

If you are so nervous about the upcoming HESI A2 test, why don’t you try to take a mock test first? Study materials can provide a step-by-step guide to break down the chapters so it is easier to review. However, your preparation is not complete without its counterpart. Mock tests are essential studying tools.

You can familiarize yourself with the question types.

TestPrep Online has a full library of the HESI A2 test materials. They are not generic aptitude tests like most online resources. The materials are specifically prepared for this nursing exam to increase your chance of getting into your favorite nursing school. This will be the best way to prepare for the big day.

2. Read The Questions Carefully

When the time is tight, it is easy to panic and skims through keywords without paying attention to other details. This is a rookie mistake that separates the elites and the ordinary. Read the questions very carefully. The HESI A2 test comes with lots of trick questions.

There will be plenty of confusing choices to throw you off. Highlight the keywords in each question and answer. Compare the highlighted part to see if they fit. Make sure to go through all options once, even the seemingly out-of-place ones as they might be purposefully disguised to mislead you.

3. Build a Study Routine

It takes 21 days to form a routine. You will need at least double that to work on your HESI A2 test. Set a schedule to remind yourself of the daily tasks ahead.

If you choose to wake up at 9 am and start studying at 10 am, then stick to the schedule every day. A study plan should not change frequently just because you are feeling lazy.

Keeping a routine trains your brain to stay sharp. It builds morality and helps with your concentration. You should never have the mindset of studying only when you feel like it. Push yourself to focus according to the schedule.

Once you are accustomed to the routine, you can further motivate yourself by adding more tasks. But don’t forget to rest. Hard work and leisure should be balanced for a healthy workflow.

4. Give Some Buffer Room

Never pack your days with a full study schedule. Being able to stick to it is wishful thinking because there can be unforeseeable events happening. For example, there could suddenly be a leak in the building and you have to evacuate or you got sick. These things stall your progress. You may be left with inadequate time to revise.

Therefore, leaving some buffer zone in your schedule helps alleviate the consequences of these actions. Then, even when there is an emergency, you can push things around. You will always be able to squeeze time to study without sacrificing other important things.

5. Make Notes On Each Topic

Making notes is an easy and effective study hack that many overlook. When you go through a topic, your brain can mistakenly tell you it is all embedded in your memory. But after a few days, the whole theory feels like an alien language to you.

The human brain can’t digest complicated new concepts quickly. Or it will be stored as short-term memories, which you will forget in a day or two. Writing down notes as you go strengthens your memories about it. It is also easy for you to catch a glimpse later when you don’t want to go through the full chapter again.

6. Time Yourself

Answering 335 questions in 335 minutes is a dreadful marathon. No matter how skilled you are in answering these questions, it gets exhausting at times. Your brain can slowly fade out. Timing yourself helps you stay alert all the time. It does not mean timing the 335 minutes together but timing each question.

Divide the questions in each test and time yourself in answering each of them. It sounds incredibly stressful but you need to get used to it. That’s how your mind can function under high pressure to keep it under the limit. Another trick is to know when to give up.

Don’t spend too much time on a difficult question. The more time you get fixated on it, the less time is available for other questions, which will jeopardize your result.

7. Eat Well, Sleep Well

You are what you eat. Your diet and sleep pattern directly influence your performance. Staying positive eases the tension. A well-rested mind is more resourceful than a drained one. Treat yourself well during the preparation period. It does not have to be a boot camp to prepare for the HESI A2 test.

Moreover, a healthy diet gives the nutrients your body needs to stay smart. You are able to think quickly. Pulling an all-nighter almost never helps as your brain will shut down by dawn. Make the journey as happy as possible so you are not repulsed by studying.

8. Read About The Subjects Required

This sounds like common sense but many candidates have made this mistake before. You don’t want to study all the subjects only to find out on the exam day that only five of them are needed. This is surely an embarrassing mistake to make.

Read through the school’s requirements carefully. The HESI A2 subjects required for different programs are not the same. Make sure you are studying for the correct subjects so you don’t waste your time on unnecessary subjects. Even for the same program, nursing schools in other states or regions could ask for different subjects. Therefore, you should not generalize the HESI A2 test.

What Is The Passing Score For The HESI A2 Test?

Doctor typing information on Laptop in Hospital office focus on Stethoscope

Technically, there is no official passing score for the HESI A2. It all depends on the school and the specific program’s recruitment standards. The average score for candidates is 50%. However, the requirement for nursing schools will be much higher than that.

Each nursing school will indicate the minimum HESI A2 test score needed for the programs. Typically, the lowest requirement will be around 70%, with some programs going as high as 90%. The more demanding the program is, the higher your HESI A2 score has to be.

Can You Use a Calculator?

Yes, but the calculator will not be your own. The test program includes a digital on-screen calculator for all candidates. This is the only one you can use for all the calculation questions.

How Much Is The Cost Of The HESI A2 Test?

Nursing schools get to set their fees for the HESI A2. Depending on the location and the reputation of the nursing school, you can expect the cost to be anywhere from $25 to $70. On some occasions, there are institutions and organizations that offer a full refund plus a scholarship for students that pass the test with flying colors. Terms and conditions vary. You will find the relevant information on the school’s website if they have this scheme.

Can You Retake The HESI A2 Test?

Yes. Don’t worry if you fail the HESI A2 test or the score is not high enough. You can indefinitely retake the HESI A2 even if you want to polish your skills. The only condition is to take it 60 days apart and no more than three times a year.

Once you reach the maximum takes, you have to wait until next year to apply again. The HESI A2 test result remains valid for two years. You can use it to apply to the program anytime.

Can You Apply To a Different Nursing School With Your HESI A2 Test Result?

The HESI A2 test is arranged by the school you are applying to but it does not limit your options. If you discover a better school for your nursing career, you can use the test result to apply to a different nursing school. There is rarely any hindrance in doing so, but you can contact the admission office to find out more.


Acing the HESI A2 test can change your career path forever. You are closer to your dream of saving people and healing souls. To reach that dream, you will first have to show what you are made of in the exam.

Hop on TestPrep Online to get your full set of practice papers and break down the HESI A2 test like no one else.