Last week, I had to take the Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) exam. This was part of the admissions process for the BSIT program I’m applying to. I had a lot of anxiety about it despite having studied for two weeks leading up to it. I don’t know about you, but standardized tests — specifically ones that have a significant impact on my future — make me panic. This is especially true of anything involving math.
In the past, I found that sometimes singing to myself before starting an exam helped calm my nerves. It was a simple way to trick my brain into thinking that the end of the world wouldn’t be prompted by turning my exam over. But unlike your run-of-the-mill exam, the HESI covers more than just one subject. It includes algebra, anatomy & physiology, biology, chemistry, grammar, physics, reading comprehension, and vocabulary.
The majority of my recent classes have been biology-based, so I felt very overwhelmed when I began preparing for my exam. As it turns out, all that panicking was pointless because I ended up scoring very well on it — I got a 94%. So I thought I’d share some of my study tips to help out anyone else who might be stressing over their upcoming exam.
Tip #1: Purchase a prep book
The Admission Assessment Exam Review, 3rd Edition was recommended to me by the woman proctoring the HESI at my school. I foolishly ignored her suggestion and instead found a cheaper option on Amazon. I ended up buying this book and I was really disappointed. Not only were there formatting errors, but there were significant typos and errors in the grammar, algebra, and biology sections.
So yes, you might spend $10 more than you’d care to, but the quality of information you’ll receive will be infinitely better. I know this because a classmate bought the first book and was much happier with it than I was with my budget-friendly purchase.
Tip #2: Download a prep app
The HESI A2 Exam Prep iPhone app really came in handy when I was on the go. Rather that lug my prep book on the train with me, I was able to continue studying on my phone. While the app itself is free, it’s really limited. You’ll want to spend the $10 on the in-app purchases to unlock all of the subjects. From there you’ll have access to more than 1,000 practice questions and built-in study reminders.
Another reason the app is helpful is that it’s similar to how the actual test will be given. The HESI is a computerized exam, so studying from a paper prep book can sometimes throw you off. Don’t worry — you’ll be given plenty of scrap paper.
Tip #3: Find out which sections you’ll be tested on
Eight subjects seems like a lot, but you might not be required to study all of them. For my exam, I was tested only on algebra, biology, grammar, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. Knowing this ahead of time, I was able to tailor my studying habits so I could focus on only the most important sections. Save yourself some grief and ask questions early. Don’t waste time trying to teach yourself physics if you don’t need it.
Tip #4: Study with multiple people
I found that it was really helpful to study with two different people: one who understood what it was that I was studying and one who didn’t.
This allowed me to review and practice the material in different ways. Studying with someone who understood the material came in handy when I didn’t fully grasp concepts. I could ask him questions and get detailed explanations. The latter came in handy later on when I wanted to make sure that I understood what I had learned.
If you don’t believe me, try explaining the stages of mitosis to someone who’s never studied it before. If they understand what you’ve described, then you have a really good handle on the mechanism. Of course this won’t work for every section, but I found it particularly useful for biology and vocabulary.
Tip #5: Don’t fill out practice tests in the book
To be clear, I’m not recommending that you ignore the practice tests. My advice is that you don’t fill in the answers to the practice questions in your book. Doing so will make it difficult to re-take the test since your answers will be visible. Erasing won’t help either. You won’t be able gauge how well you’re understanding the material if hints are clearly marked.
Furthermore, if you’re feeling really good about most of the questions, don’t keep repeating them. Save yourself some time and instead of repeating the entire test over and over again, just focus on the ones you got wrong. Then, once you’ve mastered those questions, retake the entire test one more time.
Tip #6: Time yourself
Although taking the practice test at home is much different from the actual test, it’s in your best interest to time yourself. The HESI exam has a four-hour time limit. That probably seems like a lot of time now, but it flies by — especially if you’re being tested on all eight of the subjects. Time your practice tests so you go into your real exam with an idea of where to start and how much time each section will eat up.
During my test, we couldn’t go back to previous questions. We had to answer each one and submit each answer. You’ll need to spend a bit of extra time on some of the questions since you can’t come back to it later. Timing yourself ahead of time will ensure that you’re able to give yourself some wiggle room during the exam.
If you’ve studied, the only thing left to do is relax and trust that you’ll do well. You know this stuff. Take a deep breath and begin. Good luck!