The HESI A2 is a standardized entrance exam provided and managed by the company Elsevier. There are 8 different subjects that you can be tested on but each school has its own required sections.
It is one of the exams commonly used in the admission process for nursing school. The ATI TEAS is another popular alternative.
For today, I wanted to discuss the HESI A2 for Baton Rouge Community College’s Associate Degree of Science in Nursing program and my testing experience. Here are the requirements as outlined in their nursing program handbook:
- Achieve a score of 75 or better on each section of the nursing admission exam, with a composite score of 75 or higher.
- Take the specific sections of: Reading Comprehension, Grammar, Vocabulary Math, and Biology
I’ve never taken the HESI A2; this was my first attempt. The last time I took a standardized test was.. 8 years ago for the ACT. So, this is probably relevant information for a lot of nontraditional students like me.
The breakdown first, my scores were:
READING COMP: 88
During my test, we were also asked to take the Critical Thinking portion if we had enough time, but it was not required for the application itself. And, the school does not release the critical thinking results to the students. Secondly, you’re able to see your results as soon as the last person is done taking the test. So I found out what my results were within a hour of finishing the test.
To prepare for my HESI, I started studying 2 weeks in advance. I purchased both the Admission Assessment Exam Review 4th Edition published by Elsevier (ISBN: 0323353789) available through Amazon or the BRCC bookstore and an iOS app called HESI A2 Pocket Prep by Pocket Prep, Inc.
What I found most effective was seeing what information was present on the HESI by looking through the prep book first. The book does an excellent job of detailing the topics and information you’ll be tested on by presenting almost a cliff notes version of the information. There’s also 5 pages of straight vocabulary. I really only found the grammar and biology section to be useful because it clearly outlined what information I needed to know and would be tested on.
The bulk of my studying was done through the Pocket Prep app. I made custom exams with my sections and answered approximate 200-350 questions a day based on how much time I had. I made 4-5 passes on the question bank to make sure I understood the format of the questions and grammar concepts.
Now then, to the breakdown of the actual sections. The sections are listed in the actual order I took them in.
MATH: 55 questions.
This was the most tedious section I remember doing. I did this section first because I thought I could finish it the fastest but it definitely ended up taking the longest. The questions were: adding, multiplying, dividing and simplifying fractions, ratio to percentage conversions, finding missing ratios, conversions between metric units, conversions between US measurements of pints, cups, quarts and gallons, converting to military time and solving for x in simple algebraic equations. While you are not allowed to bring your own calculator, there is an on screen calculator. The biggest thing I would say about that calculator is that it was a piece of junk and slowed me down in the math section. If the on screen buttons were pressed too fast, the calculator would not catch the input and there was a lot of double checking ot make sure there were no careless mistakes. There was one question that I didn’t know how to approach at all, and that’s probably the one that I missed. I did not study for this section at all, I only needed to memorize the English conversion tables.
BIOLOGY: 30 questions.
UGH. The biology section really had me feeling like I failed. The last time I took a real biology course was over 5 years ago, all the information I had going into the test was what I remembered from the prep book and information I had managed to retained. There were surprisingly 3 or 4 anatomy and physiology related questions that I ran into and I was very grateful. There were very specific questions about mitosis and meiosis that I wasn’t able to answer very confidently, along with a couple relating to mRNA and transcription. While the prep book did a great job of outlining general concepts and important terminology, the actual exam went in much more indepth than expected and even the pocket prep app questions were much easier than the ones on the exam. A much more effective studying format would be watching Khan Academy videos and learning the details. Taking this section made me believe I absolutely bombed the HESI biology portion.
VOCABULARY: 55 questions.
Very easy. I have a pretty extensive vocabulary already from reading a lot as a child. I did not need to learn or memorize anything for this portion of the test. There were some medical terms that came up on the exam but they were also covered in the pocket prep app. I think the pocket prep app was very useful for this. I did a fair number of questions because I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t run into a word I didn’t actually know. I think this section took me 15 minutes? If that? I did this this before grammar to build up some confidence.
GRAMMAR: 55 questions.
Again, very easy. The prep book and pocket prep app test questions were so much harder than the ones I actually encoutered during the test. This was by far my worst section when studying, but the actual test was very basic and very easy. I was surprised that more than half the test questions could be answered by just looking at the answers options provided. If 3 sentences are structured EXACTLY the same and only 1 is different, go ahead and select the one.
READING COMPREHENSION: 55 questions.
Some words of advice, don’t take this section last. By the time I got to reading comprehension, my brain was so fatigued that I couldn’t make heads or tails of the questions and answer options. I definitely could’ve done much better if I had taken this before vocabulary or something. If you’re weak in reading comprehension you want to focus on learning to identify the conclusion. Really, conclusions were the only thing that made me want to rip my hair out.
CRITICAL THINKING: 30 questions.
This was the optional section for us. I had no idea we would even be told to take this, so I had not studied for this at all. It was a lot of… nursing rationale and I probably did not do well on it. The questions were about prioritizing which patients should be prioritized over others and what kind of patient care to administer next after the given information. I am told that there’s a great nursing fundamentals book to use if you do want to study for it.
My total test time was 174 minutes and 29 seconds. I thought I would be done after 2 hours, I was sorely mistaken. My brain was complete MUSH when I finished, I was surprised I could even drive home.
Here would be my tips for going into the test:
1. Get a solid night’s rest
2. Eat something before you take the test, don’t take coffee if you’re the type with testing anxiety
3. Don’t study the night before or day of the exam, you want to avoid testing fatigue for as long as possible
4. Wear an analogue wrist watch so you can check your time, the classroom did not have a clock at all and the testing software blocks the digital clock on the computer
Feel free to ask me any other questions you might have or if any of this was helpful to you!