What is the HESI Exam?

Nurses are some of the most sought-after professionals today. If you’re a nursing student, you’ve most likely heard of—or perhaps already taken—the HESI exam. But what is the HESI exam, and why is it so important?

The HESI exam is aimed at both identifying qualified candidates for nursing programs, and helping to prepare current nursing students for pivotal nursing exams such as the NCLEX-RN.

There are different types of HESI exams depending on your profession and stage in your program, but we will be focusing on the two main exams nursing students will come across: the HESI Admissions Assessment (A2), and the HESI exit exam.

What Does HESI Stand For?

HESI stands for Health Education Systems Incorporated, and is a company that produces various tests and study materials that are meant to imitate real questions students may encounter in their classes and on official exams.

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What is on the HESI Exam?

On the HESI A2, there are seven academic sections and two personal sections. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to see in each section:


  • Decimals, fractions, algebra problems
  • Measurements

HESI Grammar

  • Basic English grammar such as adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, and parts of speech
  • Independent and dependant clauses
  • Subject/verb agreement

HESI Vocabulary

  • Program-specific vocabulary knowledge and terminology

HESI Reading Comprehension

  • Case studies from which students must make logical inferences
  • Summarization
  • Identifying writer’s purpose, supporting details, and main ideas

HESI Anatomy and Physiology

  • Body systems such as:
    • Nervous
    • Circulatory
    • Muscular
    • Reproductive
    • Endocrine
    • Respiratory
    • Skeletal

HESI Biology

  • Metabolism
  • Bacterial infections
  • Cellular genetics
  • Meiosis vs. mitosis

HESI Chemsitry

  • Periodic table
  • Chemical equations
  • Solutions, solvents, and solutes

HESI Physics

  • Newton’s Laws of Motion
  • Ohm’s Law
  • Kinetic vs. Potential Energy
  • Acceleration
  • Mass
  • Currents & voltage

HESI A2 Personal Sections

These sections are used on the HESI nursing exam to help schools and programs learn more about you as a person. There are no right or wrong answers on these sections.

HESI Learning Style

This section will try to gauge whether you are a visual, auditory, analytical, or kinesthetic learner. It is not graded and will not affect your overall score.

HESI Personality Style

This section will try to gauge your personality style, and whether you are calm, creative, a leader, or a “people” person. Like the previous section, it is not graded and will not affect your total score.

Who Takes the HESI Exam?

Here’s a breakdown of who is taking the HESI exams and how they’re used:

Exam Who is Taking It? How Is It Used?
HESI A2 Students applying to nursing school. It is used by colleges and universities to determine if the applicant is qualified for the program.
HESI Exit Exam Students who are graduating from nursing school. It is used for the benefit of the test-taker to predict how they will perform on the NCLEX exam.

There are two main HESI nursing exams: the HESI A2 and the HESI Exit exam. The HESI A-2 is the test that is given to prospective nursing students looking to enter a program. Some schools use this to determine whether or not to admit a student into their program. 

The A2 isn’t required for all programs, so be sure to check with your institution.

The HESI Exit exam is given to all nursing students to help them asses how they will perform on the NCLEX exam. HESI states that the exam will predict with 98% accuracy how the student will perform on the real exam.

How Long is the HESI Exam?

The HESI exam takes four hours to complete. You will be given short breaks in between sections.

How Many Questions are on the HESI?

There are 326 multiple-choice questions on the HESI A2 exam. The number of questions in each section can vary, but here is a breakdown of what you can expect if you’re taking the HESI A-2.

Section 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

On the HESI RN exit exam, there are 150 questions. It mimics the NCLEX exam that graduates must pass in order to become certified and practice as a nurse. HESI exit exam topics include three main sections:

The Nursing Process

  • Diagnosis
  • Planning and implementation of care
  • Evaluation of patients and conditions

Client Needs

  • Care management and safety
  • Infection control
  • Basic care and comfort
  • Health promotion


  • Geriatrics
  • Pediatrics
  • Surgical
  • Critical care
  • Mental health

How Can I Register for the HESI Exam?

You can register for the HESI online at the Elsevier website. Here, you will redeem an access code or course ID to get started.

How Can I Prepare for the HESI Exam?

It can be daunting to begin studying for such a large and important exam. We have created an all-in-one HESI prep course to help students prepare for this exam. Our course includes study materials, full-length practice exams, and a 100% pass guarantee.

Using a study guide will give you exposure to real questions that are written in the style of the exam, with complete explanations for each one. Students can review each academic topic, utilize study guides and flashcards, and complete 15 full-length timed practice exams.

Coming prepared for the HESI exam is pivotal to your nursing career. By using the right study materials, you can show up to the test with confidence.

What is the HESI Exam FAQs

What do I need to know for the HESI?

You will need to be comfortable with seven academic subjects that are always asked on the exam: anatomy & physiology, basic math, chemistry, biology, grammar, reading comprehension, and vocabulary.

Is the HESI exam hard?

The HESI exam is designed to be rigorous, but with the right HESI prep course, you can stress less and focus more knowing you came prepared.

How many times can you take the HESI?

You can take the HESI once every sixty days, but no more than three times in a 12-month period. Each time you take the exam, you’ll have to pay the exam fee.

Is HESI multiple-choice?

The HESI is multiple choice, with the exception of some fill-in questions in the math section.

Authored By: Denise Lessow
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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