What Is the HESI Nursing Exam?

Most nursing students will experience the HESI firsthand.
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HESI exams are owned by Elsevier, which acquired Health Education Systems Incorporated, a Houston-based test designer, in 2006. The HESI, named after its creator, is a range of tests that nursing programs and instructors use to predict the success of their students. The tests are used for admissions purposes, program progression and as an exit exam. HESI is best known for its ability to predict success on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing's licensing test, the NCLEX.

HESI Entrance Exam

    The HESI admissions test, also known as the HESI A2, is designed to screen students interested in nursing programs. Students can be tested in English, math and science. In addition, the HESI also assesses the student's personality and learning style. Nursing programs can use the results of HESI A2 to make informed admission decisions and admit those students most likely to benefit from a nursing education program. The computer-based test is administered online or at one of 350 nationwide testing centers.

HESI Specialty Exams

    HESI exams are available in 20 specific content areas such as gerontology, maternity nursing, nutrition, mental health and dosage calculation. Exams are offered in 10 practical nursing specialty areas. Each exam is made up of 50 scored questions and five pilot questions. The exams are designed to work as final exams in the content areas.


    Instructors who like the idea of a HESI exam but can't find a suitable specialty test can order a customized HESI exam based off the course or program syllabus. These exams can range between 50 and 100 questions. Test questions can be reviewed before they're adopted to make sure the test accurately assesses the course or program's content. Some nursing programs design a mid-curricular exam that can be used to test their students' progress mid-way in the nursing program.

HESI Exit Exam

    The HESI Exit exam is a big deal for instructors, students and nursing programs alike. For both registered nursing and practical nursing students, the exit exam is a highly reliable predictor for success on the NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN licensing tests. Elsevier notes that the HESI has a 97.9 to 100 percent prediction rate for practical nurses and 98.3 for registered nurses. The exit exam tells whether a student is ready to take the NCLEX and also identifies the student's weaknesses so she knows what areas to improve before taking the NCLEX, according to Elsevier.

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