Entering the nursing profession is an exciting journey as you pursue a rewarding career of caring for others, particularly during some of the most challenging moments of patients’ lives. There are numerous reasons to become a nurse, from the great demand for nurses nationwide to the wide variety of nurse specialties to choose from. While researching prospective programs, you may be looking for nursing programs that don't require HESI.
The HESI exam, an entrance exam required for many nursing programs, is designed by Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) to help nurses prepare for and pass their licensure exams. It is a rigorous exam and is not required by all nursing schools. Keep reading to learn about the HESI exam: the subjects that are included, the way it is scored, and top nursing schools that don’t require the HESI exam.
What Is the HESI Exam?
There are two main HESI exams: the HESI Admission Assessment (A2) and HESI Exit Exam.
The HESI A2 is an entrance exam required for many nursing programs. It supports schools in assessing a prospective nursing student's knowledge in specific subject areas. While HESI scores are not the only factor used to screen for nursing school—and not all schools require this exam—scoring well is essential as nursing schools can be highly competitive.
The entire test takes nearly five hours to complete; however, schools may customize the test and set their passing scores for the HESI A2. Sections of the HESI A2 may include the following:
- Reading comprehension
- Anatomy and physiology
Test takers obtain a percentile score in each of these areas and a composite percentile score based on the average of all scores. Generally speaking, scores between 90 and 100 percent are considered excellent, and scores between 80 and 89 are considered very good. The acceptability of scores below 80 percent depends on the type of program a candidate is applying to. For example, scores between 75 and 79 percent may be acceptable for bachelor’s degree programs, whereas scores as low as 70 percent may be satisfactory for practical nursing programs.
The cost of the HESI A2 also varies by school and modality—virtual or in person.
The HESI Exit Exam is used by nursing programs to test students' readiness for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN) and for practical nurses (NCLEX-PN). Some nursing schools use the HESI Exit Exam to determine if students will be permitted to graduate. Once a student passes the HESI Exit Exam and graduates, they can begin to prepare for licensure and for finding their first nursing job.
Is There a HESI A2 Practice Exam?
Preparing for the HESI exam can be overwhelming, but there are numerous options to help you prepare, including online courses, study guides, practice tests, flashcards, and other study tools. Forming study groups with other prospective nursing students and seeking assistance from online nursing forums can also help you prepare for the exam.
HESI practice exams are available to help students prepare for the HESI A2 exam. These practice exams mimic the actual HESI exam and allow students to assess their knowledge and identify areas for improvement. Both free and paid HESI practice tests are available online and cover various subjects, including math, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, vocabulary, biology, reading, and grammar.
The practice questions on these tests are accompanied by answer explanations to help students understand correct answers and learn from their mistakes to better prepare for the HESI exam. Students can also purchase flashcards that aid in memorization and learning, especially for the vocabulary section. Numerous HESI preparation courses offer additional tools, such as study guides and access to full-length practice exams.
Are HESI Exams Necessary to Apply for Nursing School?
The HESI A2 exam is not always necessary to apply for nursing schools. As an applicant, you need to review the specific application requirements of the colleges and universities you are considering. While some programs require applicants to submit their HESI A2 exam scores, other nursing programs do not require this as part of the application process, so prospective students need not sit for the exam.
Before applying to nursing schools, it’s important to ensure you are briefed on everything there is to know about RN nursing programs, from the difference between an associate's degree and a bachelor's degree to the licensure required to work as a registered nurse.
When it comes to the HESI Exit Exam, most nursing schools require students to take this exam before graduation to ensure they are prepared for the NCLEX, which is required for nurses to obtain licensure, regardless of their academic background and performance. Many nursing programs require students who score less than 850 on the HESI Exit Exam to retake it, as this indicates the student will likely not pass the NCLEX.
Nursing Schools That Don't Require HESI
If you’re a prospective nursing student looking to avoid taking the HESI A2 exam, you can apply to the below list of nursing schools. These eight schools without entrance exams still require a number of academic and non-academic qualifications listed on their websites.
- Binghamton University’s Decker School of Nursing in Binghamton, NY (See website here)
- Boston College’s William F. Connell School of Nursing in Chestnut Hill, MA (See website here)
- Cedarville University School of Nursing in Cedarville, OH (See website here)
- Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing in Atlanta, GA (See website here)
- Florida Gulf Coast University School of Nursing in Fort Myers, FL (See website here)
- Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and School of Health in Washington, DC (See website here)
- Loma Linda University School of Nursing in Loma Linda, CA (See website here)
- Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing in Chicago, IL (See website here)
If you’re a prospective student applying for nursing schools, all the best as you pursue this exciting journey and rewarding career.