The HESI A2 Study Guide

Preface: This is a study guide going over the topics that I saw and studied for the BRCC Spring 2018 HESI A2, and these subject categories and topics may change for future exams. I cannot guarantee the long-term efficacy of this study guide.

This guide will outline basic concepts and ideas that must be known, I will not be explaining or providing examples or explanations of concepts unless requested. 

Lastly, the Elsevier HESI Admission Assessment Exam Review Book (ISBN: 978-0323353786has wonderful chapters explaining and covering some of the information covered below. I have included topics in my study guide that were not touched in this workbook that showed up on my exam. 

While this study guide can be used to study for any school’s HESI A2, I will only include the categories relevant to my school (Baton Rouge Community College, BRCC).


I. Math
II. Biology
III. Grammar
IV. Reading Comprehension
V. Vocabulary

Use CMD + F or CTRL + F to search for a section


  • Simple Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division
    • Exponents
    • Order of Operations (PEMDAS)
  • Ratios/Proportions
    • Understating ratios and proportions, and the different ways they can be written or presented to you
    • Solving for a certain ratio or proportion
  • Fractions
    • Simplifying improper fractions
    • Addition, subtraction, division and  multiplication of fractions
  • Percentages
    • Percentage to fraction conversions
    • How to calculate percentages from a given number (i.e. 6% of 31)
  • Unit Conversions
    • Converting between kilo, deci, centi, and milli
    • Converting between tablespoon, teaspoon, fluid ounce, cup, pint, quart and gallons
    • Converting between ounces and pounds
  • Standard and Military Time Conversions
  • Roman Numerals
    • Know the Roman numerals: I, V, X, L, C, D, and M
    • Know how to read Roman numerals
  • Simple Algebra
    • Setting up solve for x problems


  1. Write down all of your conversion rates and Roman numerals on a scratch piece of paper before you begin, it’s less for you to remember and will help when you need to reference or start second guessing yourself
  2. Always solve your math equations from left to right, and follow the rules of PEMDAS if you’re not sure where to start
  3. Don’t try to calculate things by hand or mentally, use the calculator on screen to reduce your chance of mistakes
  4. Read word problems carefully to make sure you’re solving for the correct variable and not a distractor
  5. Double check your math and calculator inputs
  6. If all else fails, at least remember how to set up and work ratios. 70% of my Math section was ratios and proportions.

II. Biology

  • Molecules
    • Macromolecules
      • Carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids
    •  Monomers
      • Monosaccharide, amino acids, fatty acids, and nucleotides
      • Saturated vs unsaturated fats
  • Molecular Properties and Chemical bond
    • Covalent, hydrogen and ionic bonds
    • Single, double, triple bonds
    • Hydrogen bond properties
      • cohesion
      • adhesion
      • melting and boiling point
  • Classification
    • Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genius and Species
  •  Cells
    • Parts of a cell
      • Nucleus, cytoplasm, cell membrane, mitochondria, ribosomes, golgi apparatus, vacuoles, lysosomes, rough endoplasmic reticulum, and smooth endoplasmic reticulum
      • Functions of the parts of a cell
      • Eukaryotic vs prokaryotic cell differences
      • animals and plant cells differences
  •  Reproduction
    • Asexual and sexual reproduction
      • Binary fission , mitosis and meiosis
    •  Mitosis/Meiosis
      • haploid and diploid
      • Steps of mitosis and meiosis
        • prophase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase, cytokinesis, and interphase
        • M1, M2 and S phase
      • Differences between mitosis and meiosis
        • Which cells undergo mitosis
        • Which cells undergo meiosis
        • How many chromosomes are in a cell after each type of division
  • RNA and DNA
    • Differences between RNA and DNA
      • DNA bases
      • RNA bases
      • base pairings
      • Single strand vs double stranded helix
    • Transcription and translation
      • mRA, tRA
    • Sexual reproduction
      • Mendel (father of genetics)
      • Punnett square
      • Dominant and recessive genes
      • genotype and phenotype
      • homozygous and heterozygous
      • pleiotropy
  • Cellular Respiration
    • ATP
      • Overall ATP production and per step production
    • Glycolysis, Citric Cycle (Kreb’s cycle) and Electron Transport Chain
      • Steps of each process
      •  reactants and products in each step
  • Photosynthesis
    • chemical formula
    • reactants and products
    • light reactions (light dependent) and calvin cycle (light independent)
  • Steps of the Scientific Process
    • Observe, Hypothesize, Experiment and Conclude
  • Basic Anatomy
    • organ systems and functions
    • basic anatomy knowledge


  1. Write down as much information that you can recall so you can always reference it for other questions without doubting yourself (i.e. steps of mitosis/meiosis, order of transcription and translation, reactants and products for cycles, and net molecules for reactions)
  2. Use mnemonics to remember difficult concepts or lengthy ideas. (i.e. the classification system can be easily remembered by saying Dear King Philip Came Over For Good Soup).
  3. Learn the vocabulary, learning the definition of a word can help you solve a concept based question by removing options you know are completely unrelated
  4. The biology section is the most detailed section, and the details can change the context of the question. Read the question all the way through! Do not skim, but actually read.

III. Grammar

  • Noun
    • common noun, proper noun, and abstract noun
  • Pronoun
  • Verb
  • Adjective
  • Adverb
  • Preposition
  • Conjunction
    • neither/nor
    • either/or
  • Interjection
  • Articles
  • Clauses
    • Independent
    • Dependent
  • Object
    • Direct
    • Indirect
  • Sentence
    • Declarative, exclamatory, interrogative, and imperative
  • Subject
    • subject verb agreement
  • Vocabulary
    • Affect/Effect
      • Affect: change
      • Effect: result
    • Among/Between
      • Among: More than 2 people or things
      • Between: Only 2 people or things
    • Amount/Number
      • Amount: cannot be easily counted or is in bulk
      • Number: can be counted
    • Good/Well
      • Good: Superman does good.
      • Well: I do well.
    • Farther/Further
      • Farther: measurable distance
      • Further: cannot be measured
        Also meaning, in addition to (furthermore)
    • Lay/Lie
      • Lay: To put or place
      • Lie: to recline


  1. Don’t overanalyze the question.
  2. Check the available answer options, if 3 options look the same and 1 doesn’t, 99% of the time go with the one that’s different
  3. Adjectives should always be in order of: number, quality, size, age, shape, color, and proper adjective
  4. For what’s “wrong with this sentence” questions, eliminate sexism, the test is sensitive to vocabulary like chairMAN instead of chairPERSON.
  5. If you’re stuck, make sure BOTH subject-verb agreement and verb tense are correct.
  6. You should be able to identify parts of speech in a sentence or similar sentences.

IV. Reading Comprehension

Due to the format of the reading comprehension section, there is no real study guide I can make for you.

The best way to to succeed on this section is to practice as many reading comprehension questions as you can online or through a prep book.


  1. Read the question carefully and make sure you understand exactly what it is asking. 
  2. Apply only what you read from the section it asks and not the overall article.
  3. Read through the answers to eliminate possible options. 
  4. Tones of authors in articles are generally either neutral or opinionated/strong. 

V. Vocabulary

Another section that is very hard to provide, I really suggest that you either get or borrow the Elsevier HESI A2 Prep Book (ISBN: 978-0323353786) and study the vocabulary terms provided. There’s 3-4 pages of straight vocabulary in the book.

Here are some medical  terminologies and medical setting appropriate vocabulary that I have listed below, but the majority of the words were general vocabulary terms you might find on the SAT or ACT sections.

  • distended – swollen or bloated, enlarged
  • languid – lacking in energy, weak or faint
  • anastomosis – a connection or opening
  • diagnosis – identification of an illness
  • cystoscopy – bladder scope test
  • dichotomy – a contrast between two things; also meaning repeated branching into two equal parts
  • acute – abrupt onset
  • bifurcate – dividing into 2 forks/branches
  • occluded – obstruct
  • distal – away from the center of the body
  • turgid – swollen, distended, inflated
  • emaciated – abnormally thin or weak due to illness or malnutrition
  • panacea – a solution or remedy for all diseases
  • endogenous – from within, internal origin
  • hematologic – relating to blood
  • alimentary – relating to nourishment or sustenance
  • sublingual – under the tongue
  • transdermal – through the skin
  • paroxysmal – sudden recurrence or intensification of symptoms
  • prognosis – the likely course of a disease; expected development of a disease
  • labile – liable to change, frequently changing
  • quarantine – to place in isolation
  • dilate – make wider or more open
  • diplopia – double vision
  • pediculosis – infestation of lice
  • contraindicate – suggest that a drug not be used in the/this case
  • halitosis – bad breath
  • keloid – type of raised scar
  • virulence – severity or harmfulness of a disease or poison


  1. If you don’t know the word, attempt to break it down based on the latin roots seen. For an example, hematology can be inferred as relating to blood since the word hemoglobin is commonly associated with red blood cells.
  2. Always eliminate answers that you know are not the answer, it makes it easier to make an educated guess on what is actually correct.
  3. Don’t assume that the question is asking for the most popular/commonly used definition of the term. Read the sentence with a word of similar definitions to see if it still makes sense.

I hope that all of you guys find this helpful, and remember that the most important part of taking this exam is to stay focused and relaxed.

Don’t let your text anxiety get the best of you. Try not to second guess your answers, and don’t make simple mistakes. Just the simple act of spending an extra 2-3 seconds slower through each question can be the difference between a passing result and a failing one. 

For those of you that like paper over digital, you can download the PDF to print here:

BRCC HESI A2 Study Guide

Last Updated:

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 12:25 AM
       Resolved formatting issues

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 11:12 AM
       Revised introduction to study guide

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I think its great you are doing this while in nursing school! Nursing school is now a distant past for me, but I remember it all too well. Great job!

  2. Hello I have to take the hesi A2 with critical thinking I need to know how many hours and subjects you would cover in one day time ? I really do not know how long time wise to spends and how many catorgories you would study each day ? I have not seen some of this material in years . Also should I love at what videos on khan acedemy ? I do not see hesi A2 review . And on the screen is a calculator at the test site on Sherwood Forest in Baton Rouge ? Please let me know where to start , How many hours for one subject , how many subjects to look at each day ? Please let me know

    1. Hi Martina,

      The time spent per subject is really going to depend on how much you can recall. I did not review math, vocabulary or reading comprehension much because those weren’t skills that I needed to review. As far as biology and grammar, I didn’t do based on hours but number of practice questions. I did about 200-300 practice questions a day, and I would mark down the ones I got wrong to review those concepts afterwards. It would take me less than 3 hours per a session, because I focused more on identifying what I didn’t know and reviewing those. For Khan Academy, you should be able to look up the individual topics (roman numerals, proportions, fractions) and watch the video that come up.

      I would only do 1 subject a day, at most two, if you’re having to review a lot to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed. If you want to do more than one section, do about 20-50 questions and build up. The book by Elsevier (ISBN: 0323353789) goes over each section by topic, and you can do that instead if you want. They also include a pretest and posttest if you want a better way to gauge your preparedness for the exam.

      I believe every HESI A2 exam includes the calculator on screen.

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