Complete Guide to Nursing Entrance Exams

Adult learner taking a nursing entrance exam

If you found your way here, you are probably interested in becoming a nurse – best of luck to you! There are many steps to take and requirements to meet before you can apply to a nursing program. Pre-licensure nursing programs, at any level, will require an entrance exam, pre-requisite courses, and a minimum GPA. Sometimes they can even require CPR or nursing assistant training. Be sure to review all required application materials. Entrance exam requirements, often referred to by acronyms, include the “HESI”, the “TEAS” or “PAX”. These are some of the most common exams, designed to help determine your readiness for a nursing program and aptitude in several different knowledge areas such as comprehension and math. There are exams focused in healthcare, some specific to nursing, and some programs require the more general SAT or ACT.  The following is an explanation of each exam and suggestions for study tools.  

Test of Essential Academic Skills Exam (TEAS)

This exam is offered by the Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) and includes 170 multiple-choice questions separated into four sections – reading, mathematics, English and language, and science. This exam is primarily used or required by nursing programs but can also be required for other healthcare programs. 

ATI recommends at least 6 weeks of preparation for this exam, and offers packages to help study and practice – there is also a free practice exam here. The cost of the exam itself is between $35 and $70 and it must be completed within 209 minutes.

Health Education Systems, Inc. Admissions Assessment (HESI)

The HESI A2 is another common requirement and is healthcare, but not necessarily nursing, specific. It has nine sections, placing more emphasis on science subjects than the TEAS, which include grammar, biology, chemistry, reading comprehension, and math. The other interesting difference with the HESI is the exam includes questions about personality and learning styles.

The cost for this exam is $40-$65 and takes about 2-3 hours to complete. There are a variety of resources to help prepare for the HESI, such as this complete study guide which includes a practice exam.

National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Exam (PAX)

This nursing-specific exam includes 160 multiple-choice questions across three subject areas: reading comprehension and word knowledge, math, and science. The exam must be completed within 125 minutes and costs $60-$100 depending on the school requiring it. Among the various options for study materials and resources available to prepare for the PAX is a free one through Mometrix.

Nursing Entrance Test (NET)

Similar to the PAX, this nursing-specific exam tests math and reading speed, but it also includes questions designed to evaluate decision-making skills, assesses learning style, and ability to handle stressful environments. There are six sections of multiple-choice questions and a 1-minute speed-reading test.

The cost of this exam varies by school and while scores of 65 and 55 on the math and reading sections are often the competitive requirement, it is up to each school to judge the other section scores. Study.com offers an option for preparation guides and materials for the NET.

Kaplan Nursing Admissions Test 

This exam offered through Kaplan is another nursing-specific one designed to assess the potential success of someone in an RN program. There are 91 multiple-choice questions spread over four sections: reading, math, writing, and science. The cost for this exam is between $25 and $45 and it takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete. Because this exam tests basic high-school level subject matter, many people utilize SAT/ACT study materials to prepare for it, but Kaplan also offers their own options.

Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) 

The PSB offers several exams – one for practical nursing programs and a separate one for RN programs. There are 360 multiple-choice questions including some unique sections such as academic aptitude. The other sections are spelling, reading comprehension, natural sciences, and a vocational adjustment index. Test-takers have 105 minutes to complete the exam and it costs $25-45. Mometrix offers a popular study guide for this test.

Next Steps

Most nursing programs will have a preferred or required exam.  Once you have a list of possible programs, be sure to determine which exam is required. In my experience, I find that schools often require a specific exam and will not take any of the others. TEAS or HESI are the most common. To learn more about the testing and application process for a specific nursing program, be sure to reach out to the school directly.

Written by: Valerie Jaquith

November 5, 2021

About the Author

Valerie Jaquith, Senior Manager, Academic Coaching

Valerie is the Director of the Academic Coaching team with Bright Horizons EdAssist, where she advises healthcare employees on how to further their education. She previously worked in undergraduate admissions and academic advising at the University of South Florida College of Nursing.