The Importance of the HESI

May 20th, 2011


By , BSN, RN

The HESI is a standardized test students all over the country are expected to take before graduating from nursing school. Named for the company which developed it, the Health Education Systems Inc. test is used as a predictor of a nursing student’s likelihood of passing the nurse licensing examination or NCLEX-RN upon graduation.

The HESI is important because so much emphasis is placed on the performance of nursing graduates on the NCLEX. Nursing schools with too many students unable to pass the NCLEX-RN are subject to investigation, loss of accreditation and can be shut down. With that in mind most nursing schools fight hard to keep their passing percentage high and they have employed the HESI to try to ensure those numbers.

There are several phases to HESI testing and the exam itself is rigorous. The first exam, the HESI A2 is an admissions assessment. It measures subject knowledge in prerequisite courses for incoming nursing students and is scored in percentages. Many schools now require the A2 for admission to their nursing program and have certain percentages each student must meet on each tested subject.

HESI also offers specialty exams designed to evaluate clinical and curricula content. Finally, there is the HESI Exit exam, which many schools are now requiring students pass with a specific score before being allowed to graduate from the nursing program.

The Exit Exam is a comprehensive test with questions covering math, reading comprehension, general knowledge, grammar, anatomy and physiology, chemistry and biology. There are two different HESI Exit Exams, one geared towards registered nurse (RN) candidates and one for licensed practical nurse (LPN) candidates.

HESI Exit exam is a computerized, timed examination and students are given up to four hours to finish. Most students take two to three hours to complete the exam. The Exit exam is scored in points, not percentages, and each school sets its own point minimum for passing. The most common range is 825-900 points.

There is controversy surrounding the HESI. Academic research papers have addressed the usefulness of the HESI in predicting NCLEX-RN failures and found the test wanting particularly when a specific score is required to graduate from a nursing school. Students with passing grade point averages have been denied graduation because they did not pass the HESI by the standards set by the school. Many schools will allow students multiple chances to score higher on the exam which also brings into question its usefulness.

With all this said, the HESI seems to be here to stay. It is a milestone listed on nursing school admission sites as a requirement to get in and to get out. There are study guides available, discussions on nursing sites all over the web and classes offered to help students prepare for the exam.

Nursing school isn't the only place the HESI is making a stand. Taking and Passing the HESI is becoming increasingly important for job seekers as well, as more hospital employers have been asking potential nurses for their HESI exam scores.

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