When applying to nursing programs, students will need to pass an entrance exam to be admitted into the program. Some schools may choose to use the HESI (Health Education Systems Incorporated) exam, while others require the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) exam.

The difference between HESI and TEAS is not drastic as the two exams are similar in nature and purpose, but there are some key differences students should know.

Whether you will take the HESI vs. TEAS exams is determined by your institution. If you are applying to multiple programs with different requirements, you may have to take both exams, so it is important to know the basics of each when you are applying.

Both tests are graded section-by-section, so it’s a good idea to prep for each topic one by one. You can use one of the following courses to prepare:

HESI Subjects vs. TEAS Subjects

The HESI exam is designed to test students on program-specific topics and contains seven academic sections. By contrast, the TEAS exam contains only four, general knowledge-based sections.

Below is a summary of the sections you will find in each exam:

TEAS Sections Number of Questions Time Limit (Minutes)
Science 50 60
Math 38 57
Reading 45 55
English and Language 37 37
HESI Sections Number of Questions Time Limit (Minutes)
Anatomy & Physiology 30 25
Biology 30 25
Chemistry 30 25
Grammar 55 50
Math 55 50
Reading 55 60
Vocab 55 50
Physics 25 50
Personality Profile 15 15
Learning Style 14 15

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*Please note that the TEAS exam contains 20 unscored questions that are spread out throughout the 4 sections. There are 170 total questions, but only 150 count towards your score.

As you can see, the HESI sections are far more specific than the TEAS. While most TEAS subjects appear on the HESI, not everything on the HESI appears on the TEAS.

You could consider the HESI an expanded version of the TEAS.

Is TEAS or HESI harder?

The TEAS and HESI are both rigourous exams designed to prepare you for what you’ll encounter in nursing school. Many students find that the TEAS exam is easier because there are fewer sections to study for, as it is geared toward as assessment of more general knowledge.

The HESI, on the other hand, poses targeted questions that are specific to the program you’re applying for. However, because there are more questions on the HESI, missing a question can be less detrimental to your score than missing a question on the TEAS. The short answer is, it depends who you ask.

Regardless of difficulty, if you know you’ll have to take the HESI or TEAS at some point, it’s important to arrive having prepared with study materials and practice tests. Use our HESI prep or TEAS prep to prepare.

Length of Exams

The TEAS exam contains 170 questions (150 scored) and takes 209 minutes. The HESI has roughly 350 questions and takes four hours to complete – it also depends on how many HESI sections you are taking.

The biggest difference between HESI and TEAS is that the TEAS exam consists of 4 “set-in-stone” sections while the HESI exam has different sections and schools/programs decide which sections to give to their students.

Cost of Exams

The TEAS exam generally costs around $70, and the HESI can range from $40-$100.

Students can retake the HESI once every sixty days, and only up to three times in a 12-month period. Students can retake the TEAS up to three times in a 12-month period.

HESI Scoring Vs. TEAS Scoring

One of the main differences between HESI vs. TEAS is how the exams are scored. Each section of the HESI is scored separately on a percentage basis, and the student is also given a cumulative score (similar to exams such as the SAT). The cumulative score is the average of all section scores.

Most programs require students to meet a certain cumulative threshold to pass, and others may have specific section requirements. For example, some schools have a minimum threshold of 75% for each section to pass, and others set it at 85%. It’s important to check with your institution to see the criterion needed to pass.

The TEAS exam is scored differently. Out of the 170 total questions on the exam, only 150 are graded. 20 random questions are not graded, but students do not know which 20 they are. Unlike the HESI, the total score of the exam is not an average of the four sections, but a weighted score.

Although each program has different requirements, most schools start the admissions bar at a minimum cumulative score of 65-70% for the TEAS.

Here’s a breakdown of HESI vs. TEAS scoring threshholds:

TEAS Score % Classification
0% to 40.7% Developmental
41.4% to 58.0% Basic
58.7% to 77.3% Proficient
78.0% to 90.0% Advanced
90.7% to 100.0% Exemplary
HESI Score % Classification
Below 75% Needs Improvement
75% to 79% Satisfactory
80% to 89% Very Good
90% to 100% Excellent

You can read more about TEAS scores or HESI scores.

To pass the HESI, students must score at least above 75%. To pass the TEAS, you must fall within the “proficient” category at the very least.

How to Study

Preparing for one or more exams can be an overwhelming challenge. How does one start, and where?

Practice Exams

The best and most reliable way to study for both the HESI and TEAS is through practice exams.

If you become comfortable and familiar with the style and difficulty of questions you may be asked, you’ll walk into the exam with confidence.

Timing yourself and keeping track of your scores is important to see how you’re improving.

You can take a free HESI practice test or free TEAS practice test to prepare.


Flashcards are a great way to test your knowledge of terminology and main ideas quickly and efficiently.

Online flashcard services are convenient, but writing out the terms on paper may help you remember them better.

Section by Section

Don’t try to study everything all at once. Not only is it overwhelming, but it’s inefficient.

Build study guides for each academic section on the exam, and study them on a weekly basis—i.e. English in week one, anatomy & physiology in week two, and so on.

Make a Plan

Writing out a study plan on a calendar or in a notebook can help keep you on track and ensure you study all the relevant materials. The important thing is to stay focused!

Test Prep

Using a test prep service can greatly increase your chances of success on both the HESI and TEAS exams.

BoostPrep provides all of the above services to give you the materials and preparation you’ll need for the exam—from flashcards and study guides to timed practice exams to mimic the real thing.

We offer a 100% pass guarantee for both the TEAS and HESI prep courses.

You can learn more by clicking the following links:

  1. HESI Prep Course
  2. TEAS Prep Course


What is the best way to prepare for these exams?

The best way to prepare for either the HESI or the TEAS test is by taking advantage of test prep materials to prepare you with similar questions you may see on the real exams.

We provide full-length practice exams that mimic the actual exams.

What is the biggest difference between the HESI and TEAS exam?

The biggest difference between the HESI vs TEAS is the spread of information that is covered. The TEAS contains broad, general-knowledge sections, while the HESI contains specific, targeted sections.

Are HESI and TEAS exam both used for nursing school?

Yes, both the HESI and TEAS exams are used as entrance exams for nursing programs. Whether you will take the HESI or the TEAS exam is determined by your institution.

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Authored By: Denise Lessow

Denise has been helping students study for 25+ years.

Denise has a wealth of knowledge and has helped students reach scores in the top 10% across all subject areas for the HESI, TEAS, and NLN PAX exams.

Learn more about Denise Lessow.

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