HESI vs. HESI A2: What’s the Difference?

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If you are striving to become a nurse or a professional in another healthcare field, you might already be familiar with HESI. HESI stands for Health Education Systems, Inc. It includes a few exams designed by Elsevier Student Life to better prepare students for board examinations and licensing procedures.

Now, the HESI exam tests test-takers on various subjects and knowledge. However, a significant difference to understand is the one between the HESI Exit Exam and the HESI A2 Test. Below is a comprehensive guide that explains the considerable diversities between the two and an overview of both.

What is the HESI Exam?What is the HESI Exam?

As mentioned above, the HESI Exam allows students to test their knowledge of various subjects. Such evaluation is used to evaluate students’ preparedness to become healthcare professionals. It is utilized to predict the likelihood of someone succeeding in other tests, such as the NCLEX exam.

That said, various tests are offered according to the field you are enrolled in or the one you want to study. Below is a list that will give you a general idea of what types of tests are available.

HESI Nursing Exams

Exams for nursing are offered for three different roles, which are:

  • Licensed Practical Nurse / Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN / LVN)
  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)

HESI Healthcare Exams

As for other healthcare professions, additional exams are offered for distinct fields, including:

  • Dental Hygiene
  • Dental Assisting
  • EMT
  • Massage Therapy
  • Medical Assisting
  • Medical Insurance Billing & Coding
  • Paramedicine
  • Radiography
  • Respiratory Care
  • Veterinary Technology

Let us dive a little deeper into the exam. Let us start with the following: how long is the HESI exam? You have 310 questions to answer in a maximum of 6 hours. This time is given to complete all the modules present in the examination. These modules comprise eight different ones: anatomy & physiology, biology, chemistry, basic math, grammar, reading, physics, and vocabulary.

When do people sit for the HESI exam? Many healthcare schools require you to submit your results during the application process.

Does the HESI test change every year? Of course, it does. The questions differ, and the board will actively try adding fifteen more questions each year to test their validity. Hence, expect different versions each time you sit for the exam.

HESI Exit Exam Overview

As opposed to the HESI Exam discussed above, often taken before enrolling in a school, the HESI Exit Exam is often taken in the last semester of a nursing program. The reason for this exam is to predict whether one will succeed in other post-graduation exams, such as the NCLEX. Below is a general breakdown of what the exam consists of:

  • Focused on critical thinking-required problems
  • Multiple choice examination
  • There are two main types of HESI Exit Exams: RN and LPN
  • Both tests are often 150 questions

But what does the HESI Exit Exam test you on? It focuses on the below core areas:

  • Client Needs: Safety & Infection Control, Health Promotion & Maintenance, Psychological Integrity, Reduction of Risk Potential, Physio Adaption, Basic Care & Comfort, and more.
  • Nursing Process: Analysis, Assessment, Implementation, Evaluation, and Planning.
  • Specialty Area: Critical Care, Pediatrics, Professional Issues, Mental Health, Community Health, Geriatrics, Maternity, Fundamentals, Pathophysiology, Medical Surgical.

According to the HESI Exam website, the HESI Exit Exam score reflects the success expected on the NCLEX test. Below are what each score range reflects in correlation with the predicted passing NCLEX outcome:

  • >950: outstanding chances
  • 900-940: Excellent
  • 850-899: Average
  • 800-849: below average
  • 750-799: Extra preparation required
  • 700-749: An incredible amount of preparation required
  • 650-699: A very high chance of failing
  • <649: Poor performance prediction

What Does HESI A2 Test For?

What Does HESI A2 Test For?

As mentioned above, HESI is the Health Education Systems, Incorporated. As for A2, it stands for Admission Assessment. There are many other names used to refer to the same examination. Those include Evolve Reach A2, Evolve Reach HESI, and Evolve Reach.

The purpose of the HESI A2 test is to be administered to candidates applying to a nursing program. In other words, it is used as a screening tool to filter through the candidates. That is mainly due to the increasing number of healthcare candidates applying to programs, especially after the pandemic.

Hence, the HESI A2 is used as an entrance test to programs.

HESI A2 Overview

But what does the HESI A2 test include? It includes the below subjects, each with subsections within.

  1. English Language
  • Includes reading comprehension, general knowledge & vocabulary, and grammar.
  • The total number of questions in the English Language section is fifty-five.
  • Reading comprehension tests your general understanding of specific passages.
  • The vocabulary part asks you to circle the true meaning of a given the word. Quizlet provides some flashcards for common words asked.
  • The grammar section involves fixing common mistakes and using terms appropriately.
  1. Mathematics
  • Consists of subjects required for the healthcare profession, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, ratios, general facts, and more.
  • There are a total of fifty-five questions in the mathematics section.
  • You have the option of using a computer calculator throughout the exam.
  • You will be faced with questions on fractions, proportions, word questions, and roman numerals.
  1. Science
  • Tests you on matters from biology, chemistry, and anatomy.
  • The total amount of questions present is thirty
  • The biology section includes common problems regarding photosynthesis, cells, metabolism, and biology basics.
  • Chemistry subject test revolves around atomic structure and bonding, reactions, chemical equations, and nuclear chemistry.
  • The anatomy covers various systems, including the joints, muscles, circulatory system, endocrine system, and nervous system.

How is HESI Different from HESI A2? A Comparison

How is HESI Different from HESI A2? A Comparison

When comparing the HESI vs. HESI A2, you must realize that many use them interchangeably. The HESI covers various tests, of which the HESI A2 is one. Hence, comparing the HESI Exit and HESI A2 exams is more logical.

Below is a table demonstrating the difference between HESI and HESI A2.

HESI Exit Exam

HESI A2 Exam

When is it taken?

Typically administered to students who are at the end of their healthcare program

Required by multiple healthcare programs as part of the application process

Aim of the exam?

It portrays how likely a candidate is to pass the NCLEX licensing tests. It is often used by some programs to determine whether the test-taker graduates or not

It is a screening tool used to determine which candidates are proficient enough to enroll into the program of their choice

Which institutes use the test?

Everyone who is preparing for the NCLEX exams, often given by the school you are enrolled to

Colleges and universities with healthcare schools to determine whether you qualify for their programs

What is the average grade?


75%-79% is considered satisfactory

How to Prepare for HESI Exams?

How to Prepare for HESI Exams?

Preparing for the HESI Exit or HESI A2 exams requires the same general preparation. You must understand the exam format, practice past exams and questions, and study as much as possible to refresh your memory. Below are the best methods to prepare.

Understand the format

While you might be confident about your knowledge base, you must ensure you know the general outline and format of the examinations. How much time do you have to complete the exam? How many questions are included?

The good news is that they are both multiple-choice examinations. This eliminates the worry about writing essay questions. However, you might face questions requiring you to include all the correct answers or choose the wrong answer and a few other tricky formats.

Schedule a study plan

If you are sitting for the Exit Exam, you might already be swamped with the workload from your school. However, it is essential to allocate time for revision and solving exams. Is the HESI exam hard? It is for those who do not dedicate enough time to prepare.

Our top tip is to dedicate a month with 90 minutes a day only for the HESI preparation. This will provide you with ample time for revision and examinations.

Use the best resources

The best resources are often the HESI A2 Pocket Prep App and the Elsevier HESI Exam Review. As for a HESI A2 practice test, you will find ample information through the two links mentioned.

Wrapping Things Up: HESI vs. HESI A2: What is the Difference?

So, what is the significant difference between the HESI and HESI A2? Well, HESI is often used to refer to numerous examinations. However, the HESI A2 exam is often used as part of screening before admission into a healthcare school.

The bottom line is both examinations are difficult. They both require ample preparation and revolve around the same topics. Hence, ensure you gain access to adequate resources to provide you revised enough to achieve excellent results in the test.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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