What is Hesi?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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HESI is an acronym that stands for Health Education Systems, Inc., which is a company that produces standardized tests that many nursing students take. When discussing exams developed by this organization, many simply use the acronym. For example, a person may say, “I’m taking the HESI.” This often refers to either an exam a prospective student takes before nursing school, a test taken during school, or an exit exam. HESI provides many different types of tests, however, including custom exams that are intended to evaluate the effectiveness of specific content.

While HESI exams may not be used everywhere, many nursing school students take the exam at various points in their educational careers. For example, some aspiring nurses take them as entrance exams before they even start nursing school as well as when they are in their junior year of nursing school or after they have completed half of their nursing program. Then, they may take a HESI exam again at the end of their nursing school training. When taken as an exit exam, it is typically used as preparation for the jurisdiction-required nurse licensing exam. Used in this way, the tests can help nursing school students discover weaknesses that may prevent them from succeeding on their licensing exams or in their medical careers.


HESI exams often cover a range of subjects. For example, they often cover anatomy, biology, and chemistry topics. They may also test a nursing student on vocabulary and general knowledge as well as grammar and basic math skills. Sometimes, the test also includes such subjects as personality characteristics and decision-making ability. The manner in which these test scores are used depends on the particular school the nursing student is seeking admission to or attends.

HESI exams are commonly used to evaluate a student's readiness and ability to enter and perform well in a nurse training program. They may also be used in evaluating how effective a particular nurse school program is at training its nursing students. In some cases, these exams may even be used to evaluate a specific course rather than an overall nursing program.

The HESI exams are computerized and timed. The amount of time allowed for each test may vary, but the nursing entrance version often allows about three hours for completion. To prevent cheating, the exams' producer develops different forms of the tests. These exams are proctored, and testing locations often have rules created to prevent cheating as well. For example, test takers may have to store their belongings outside the testing room.


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