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What it is, why it matters, and how to prepare for it. 

If you’re an aspiring nurse, you’ve probably heard of the HESI exam, a competency test that you’ll need to pass as part of being admitted into most nursing programs. The exam tests your basic skills in reading, vocabulary and grammar, and sciences such as math, biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy, and physiology. 

HESI stands for Health Education Systems Incorporated, which is a company that helps nursing students prepare for licensure exams. The HESI Admissions Assessment (HESI A2) has been created to calculate your academic readiness to engage in the rigors of nursing school, and to let you know what areas you need to strengthen to set you up for success in your program.

The HESI A2 covers a lot of topics you’re familiar with, but it can still seem daunting. If you’re nervous about taking it, plan ahead and take advantage of the many preparation tools available and listed below to support you in passing it. 

Things to know about the HESI A2

  • How it works: The HESI A2 is broken into four parts, and can have over 300 questions that cover nine areas of study. You’ll typically be given four hours to answer all questions and should read every one carefully as you go through it. There’s no universal pass or fail grade on the HESI; but note that each school has its own requirement. At Alliant, we require a grade of 78% in vocabulary and reading, and a 72% grade in biology and anatomy/physiology to be admitted into our nursing programs. 
  • How to prepare: Remember that most of the subject areas you’ll be tested on may be familiar, but if you want to brush up, there are lots of free resources you can take advantage of. You can start by taking a Quizlet practice exam or a free HESI sample test on You can get a free 30-day trial that includes practice exams by creating an account at or use the free practice exams at become HESI prep or the HESI A2 Practice Test. If an app is more your style, you can use either the free Apple Nursing School Pocket Prep app or the Android Nursing School Pocket Prep app. Each includes 1,475 HESI practice questions. And if you prefer a book, your community library can be a great resource as it’s likely to have HESI review books available.
  • Tips for success: You can take the sections of the exam in whatever order you prefer, so you can complete the hardest or the easiest sections first to manage your time. And since you can take the test more than once, you can consider the first round a preview or intelligence-gathering exercise and plan to ace the test the second time. However, you can only take the test three times in a 365-day period, and Alliant requires you to wait 60 days before retaking it. 

And remember: the HESI A2 is one indicator of your future success in passing the NCLEX exam, which you must pass to get your nursing license. Think of it an assessment tool rather than a test; one that can help you focus your studies and strengthen any weaknesses so that you can become the best nurse you’re capable of be.

When you’re ready to take your HESI A2, contact an Alliant admissions counselor. We’ll be behind you every step of the way. 

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