For those who are planning to go into nursing school, you will want to take a look at the different requirements to get you there. One of the requirements is generally an entrance exam. For this, most schools use the HESI or TEAS exam. But what about NCLEX? What is it? And what is it for?
We’re going to take a look at the difference between HESI and NCLEX and what you need to know about both of them. We’ll look at the purpose of each exam and the reason that you should be taking either one (or possibly both). That way, you can be fully prepared for nursing school and everything that comes with it.
What is the HESI Exam For?
The HESI exam is primarily an entrance exam used by some schools to determine if they want to let you. The score that you get on this exam will dictate which schools you’re eligible to go to and will also help prepare you for your studies. With the HESI exam, you’re going to get a percentage based score on several different areas to create a cumulative score.
This exam can also be used to prepare you for the NCLEX exam. We’ll talk about what the NCLEX is for in the next section, but for now, you should know that the HESI exam will give you a bit of an idea of how you will do on this second exam and can help you to better study and prepare to take it later in your nursing school time.
What is the NCLEX For?
The NCLEX is an exam that you take after you’ve completed your schooling. This exam is required for you to be licensed as a nurse. If you do not take the NCLEX exam, you won’t be able to get your nursing license, and you will not be able to practice. So, you need to be prepared for this exam.
This exam will test whether you have the ability to enter into the field of nursing as an entry-level nurse and whether you know how to take care of patients properly. Once you graduate from nursing school, you must complete this exam, and then you will be able to get a license and begin to practice.
How Do You Prepare for the HESI vs. the NCLEX Exam?
When you’re looking to take either or both of these exams, it’s essential to prepare properly. Keep in mind that both of these tests are similar in nature, in that they will test you on similar things, including your critical thinking.
The idea behind the HESI exam is to prepare you for the NCLEX, and that can only happen if you’re actually testing the same general areas and fields. So, if you’re looking to prepare for one, just keep studying the things that you studied for the other.
You will need to add areas that are related to more specific aspects of nursing, such as client needs and nursing care practice knowledge. These are essential areas that you will not know before you begin your education but will need to know before you start to practice in the field.
1. Review the topics/sections of the exam. Make sure that you know what areas are on the exam. This is especially important if you’re taking the HESI exam for the first time or if you didn’t have to take the HESI to get into your school and now need to take the NCLEX.
2. Make flashcards. Flashcards are a great way to study because they are easy to take along with you. You can especially use them for questions related to patient care and general practices and policies to make sure you remember, and you can study more frequently.
3. Take a practice test. You should be taking a practice test aside from just the HESI. Remember, if you take the HESI as an entrance exam, it will be quite a while before you take the NCLEX. That means you may need to brush up on the material. You also want a way that you can study the additional material from the NCLEX.
4. Study hard. With the HESI, you are getting an idea of how you’re going to do with the NCLEX, or you’re getting into the school you want to attend. This is important, but it’s not as important as being able to get your nursing license. That means you definitely want to study more for the NCLEX rather than the HESI.
5. Make a plan. You want to make sure that you have a plan in place to study from and to take the exam. So, create a study schedule that’s going to help you prepare and go over all of the material you need to know. Then, create a time budget for when you sit down to take the exam, so you don’t run out of time before it’s over.
6. Be prepared for the format. Remember that the NCLEX is going to use computer adaptive testing. That means you will eventually get to questions that you don’t know. It’s designed to do that. In fact, it’s designed so that you will ultimately be able to answer only half of the questions. Don’t be discouraged by this.
7. Answer by the book. If you’ve ever worked in the medical field, you may have specific experience with some of the situations you’ll be asked about on the exam. Do not answer based on your experience. Answer specifically from what you’ve learned in your classes and in the textbooks. This is the answer the test is looking for.
8. Know the basics. There are some basic things you should always keep in mind, such as assessing the patient comes before calling the doctor. The airway-breathing-circulation approach and deductive reasoning. This will help you create a baseline for your answers.
9. Just relax. It’s essential to take a little time to relax and breathe before you begin your exam. Not only that, but you want to make sure that you are taking some time to relax during your study periods as well. If you’re not well-rested and stress-free (or at least low stress) when you sit down for your test, you’re going to struggle even on things you know.
What HESI Score is Equivalent to Passing the NCLEX?
If you take the HESI exit exam and score a 900 or higher, you have a very strong chance of also passing the NCLEX. While there is no guarantee that you will, you should feel relatively confident in this.
In general, most of the students that do well on the HESI exit exam will do well on the NCLEX. In fact, there’s research to suggest that there’s a 96-99% prediction of success between the HESI exit exam and the NCLEX.
Keep in mind that this is based on you continuing to study and prepare for the NCLEX even after you’ve completed the HESI exit exam. You don’t want to assume that you’re going to do just fine on the NCLEX because you did well on the HESI and then ignore everything that you’ve done previously.
Make sure that even if you do well on your exit exam, you are still taking a little bit of time to review the material and that you are especially reviewing the concepts and areas of study that aren’t covered on the HESI. You want to make sure you keep a close eye on the main ideas of patient care and nursing specifics.
Is the HESI Harder than the NCLEX?
The truth is that there’s no one way to answer this question. Both of these exams are going to be difficult but in entirely different ways. That means you’re going to have some people that do really well in the HESI and struggle with the NCLEX and some people who struggle with the HESI and do really well in the NCLEX.
The HESI is a static exam, which means that the questions are preset (though they are randomized so you won’t get the exact same questions each time you take it). The questions are already determined at the time you sit down to take the exam, which can be easier for some. Also, everyone who takes the exam at the same time will have the same questions.
With the NCLEX, you’re getting a computer adaptive test. What this means is that you will answer a few preset questions that everyone will have, but then you will get progressively more difficult questions based on the way that you answer your questions. If you get more questions right then, you will get even more challenging questions, which will be different from anyone else taking the test at the same time.
The idea behind the NCLEX is to figure out how difficult the questions can get before you are able to answer only 50% of them correctly. So, the test will continue to get harder and harder and is designed for you to ultimately fail the questions. But you will pass the exam depending on how far you actually get.
What this all means is that the HESI is going to be harder than what it takes to pass the NCLEX at the bare minimum. That’s the only way that you could use it to predict if you were going to pass the NCLEX, after all. So, if you barely pass the HESI exam, you’ll probably find that the NCLEX feels easier to you. On the other hand, if you pass the HESI with a high score, you’ll probably feel like the NCLEX is harder.
Wrapping Things Up: HESI vs. NCLEX: What’s the Difference? Which is Harder?
Overall, the most essential thing that you can do is study for both exams. Don’t assume that just because you did well on the HESI, you’re going to do great on the NCLEX. And don’t assume you know everything you need to know just because you took the HESI. Instead, you want to look at the additional information for the NCLEX.
Make sure you’re spending some time on the client portions of the NCLEX, as well as the nursing fundamentals and more. These are all things that you won’t get just studying for the HESI, but they’re things you need to know.
If you want to know the difference between HESI and TEAS, we have also written an article on that here.