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A Guide to HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology Test: Tips/Free Tests

A Guide to HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology Test: Tips/Free Tests

Updated November 22, 2023

By Nikki Dale
Nikki Dale

If you are applying to a nursing college, you are likely to need to complete the Health Education Systems Incorporated Admissions Assessment (HESI A2).

This exam is designed to evaluate potential students for their suitability for a nursing school program, in terms of their ability to learn and their baseline knowledge and skills.

In this article, you will learn more about the structure and content of the HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology exam and get some helpful tips on how to prepare so that you can get the best score possible and achieve your place on the nursing course of your choice.

To find out more about HESI scores, visit our dedicated article.

What Is the HESI A2 Exam?

When you apply to colleges to study nursing, you are not necessarily expected to have done relevant education beforehand.

But the colleges will want to know that you are capable of learning what is needed. They also want to know that you will be able to cope with the academic workload of the nursing course.

The HESI A2 is an assessment that has been specifically designed to give admissions teams the knowledge they need to decide if a candidate is ready and prepared for the rigors of a nursing qualification. The content of the HESI A2 refers mainly to the knowledge you would have gained in high school, particularly in the areas of science and math, for example.

The HESI A2 consists of up to eight subtests; the combination of tests that you will take depends on the college you have applied to.

The subtests are:

  • Reading
  • Vocabulary and General Knowledge
  • Grammar
  • Basic Math Skills
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Physics

The HESI A2 is a computerized test that is taken online, and, when completed in its entirety, is an exam that lasts 315 minutes. There are 310 questions in total on the HESI A2.

The HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology subtest asks questions about the structure of the body, and how the body, organs, and cells work. As a nurse, you will need to have a deep understanding of how the body works to be able to deliver the best care and give a patient the best outcome.

In this section of the test, you will need to answer 30 multiple-choice questions and will have 25 minutes to do so. In some cases, the time limit may differ (depending on the specific requirements of the nursing program you have applied for).

Prepare for Your HESI Test with TestPrep-Online

HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology Test Format

The HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology subtest is relatively short, with only 30 questions and usually a 25-minute time limit.

The questions on the test are relatively straightforward too, based on specific areas such as different systems in the body and how they work and interact, as well as basic knowledge of terminology.

The specific areas covered by the HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology test include:

General Terminology

You’ll need to know words used to describe orientation, such as:

  • Sagittal plane: Divides body into right and left portions
  • Coronal plane: Divides body into to front (anterior) and back (posterior) planes
  • Transverse plane: Divides body into top (superior) and bottom (inferior) portions

You’ll also need to know the following terminology:

  • Medial
  • Lateral
  • Proximal
  • Distal

Mitosis and Meiosis

Mitosis and meiosis are both types of cell reproduction, and they happen in the human body in different ways.

You’ll need to know the difference between them, what the stages of cell division are, and how DNA and chromosomes are shared.


We all know that the skin is the largest organ in the body, but you will need to be able to talk about the different layers of the skin, and how things like the hair and nails are structured.

You’ll also need to be able to talk about eccrine, apocrine, and sebaceous glands and what they are responsible for.

Skeletal System

The skeletal system is not just our bones, but the supportive tissue that connects them to each other and to other parts of the body. This includes tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.

You’ll need to know about the five different types of bones (long/short/flat/sesamoid/irregular) and the structure of the bone.

Muscular System

The muscular system works with the skeletal system, and that is how we are able to move.

There are over 700 muscles in the body, and you will need to know and be able to describe the three main types:

  • Cardiac muscle
  • Smooth muscle
  • Skeletal muscle

You will need to demonstrate that you understand the way the muscle is structured, and how chains of proteins (sarcomeres) work to make muscles move.

Nervous System

The nervous system is made of two connecting systems – the central nervous system, which is the brain and the spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which is made up of the nerves themselves and the sensory organs.

You will need to be able to describe the structure of nervous tissue, as well as describe the difference between afferent and efferent neurons, and the different types of synapses.

Endocrine System

The endocrine system contains all the glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream, regulating certain bodily functions like growth, metabolism, and reproduction.

You’ll need to know about different glands, such as:

  • Pituitary
  • Thyroid
  • Adrenal
  • Testes/ovaries
  • Pancreas
  • Hypothalamus

You’ll also need to have a good basic knowledge of the problems that can occur when these glands are not functioning correctly.

Circulatory System

Consisting of the heart, the blood vessels, and blood itself, the circulatory system is one of the most complicated in the body.

You’ll need to understand what blood is made from, as well as the functions of white and red blood cells, what plasma is, and why thrombocytes are important.

You will also need to know about the heart, how the four chambers work and interact with each other, and how blood moves through the body. You’ll need to understand the difference between arteries, veins, and capillaries.

You will also need to know how to measure things like heart rate and blood pressure, and what normal ranges are for both.

Respiratory System

The respiratory system controls the intake and delivery of oxygen throughout the body and the expulsion of carbon dioxide.

You will need to be able to describe how we breathe and the functions of the lungs, trachea, bronchi, and diaphragm in ensuring adequate blood oxygenation.

You’ll also need to understand how oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between the air and the blood through diffusion in the alveoli.

Immune System

The immune system is based on different types of lymphocyte cells that have different roles – the T cells and the B cells.

You’ll need to know where the thymus is and what it does, as well as the different types of white blood cells.

Digestive System

Another complicated system with a number of parts working together, the digestive system is made up of:

  • Mouth
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach
  • Small intestine
  • Large intestine
  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Gallbladder
  • Rectum
  • Anus

You’ll need to understand how food moves through this system through involuntary contractions (peristalsis) as well as the specific functions of each organ in digestion.

Urinary System

The urinary (or renal) system removes waste from the body and is also responsible for regulating blood pressure. You’ll need to understand the function of the kidneys in filtering waste and how urine is transported to and from the bladder.

You will also need to know about what else the kidneys are responsible for, such as balancing pH and electrolytes, as well as the production of certain hormones.

Reproductive System

The reproductive system is different in males and females, and you will need to be able to recognize the different parts of the systems on both, as well as understanding how they work.

This ties in with hormone production and the endocrine system, with the testes producing testosterone, and the ovaries producing estrogen and progesterone.

HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology: Guide/Tips/Free Tests
HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology: Guide/Tips/Free Tests

If you want 12-month access to all the practice resources for this test, our partner offers a Family Membership.

Family Membership gives you access to all the TestPrep-Online resources for the next 12 months. You will also get two separate accounts, which can be very helpful if you have two children preparing for their tests.

Get a Family Membership with 12-Month Access

HESI Anatomy and Physiology Practice Test Free Examples

The Endocrine System

Example Question

How do you best describe the endocrine system?

a) It is a defense through the use of antibodies
b) It is a movement by contraction upon nervous stimulation
c) It is a blood flow through the use of the heart muscle
d) It is communication through the use of hormones

General Knowledge

Example Question

What is the largest organ in the human body?

a) Small intestine
b) Stomach
c) Skin
d) Femur

Circulatory System

Example Question

Oxygenated blood enters the heart via the ______.

a) Left atrium
b) Left ventricle
c) Right atrium
d) Right ventricle

Skeletal System

Example Question

How many bones does an adult human typically have?

a) 210
b) 206
c) 300
d) 204

How to Prepare for the HESI Anatomy and Physiology Test: Study Guide Tips

Step 1. Review Main Content for Each Topic

The systems of the body are inherently important to the study of nursing – and this means that your preparation should ensure that you know the basics of how the body works before the test. Take the time to study each topic in the test.

Write down all the main terminology used to describe the functions of each system, and how it works. You’ll also need to have a good grasp of how the systems are interlinked and work together, like the respiratory and circulatory system, or the skeletal and muscular system.

You’ll need to be confident in the location of various organs, too – a body map might help.

Step 2. Create a Study Schedule

Studying and revision is the only sure way to improve your chances, but you need to be realistic about what you can achieve.

We all know that cramming isn’t exactly conducive to good scores in tests like these, so set out a realistic schedule that gives you enough time to study without impacting on other areas of your life.

Try to choose one subject or area a day, and leave time for other things like socializing, working, and exercising.

Step 3. Focus on Strengths and Weaknesses

It is perfectly normal to have a specific area that you feel less confident about, but you might be surprised to find where your strengths and weaknesses are.

The best way to work out what you are best at, and what needs the most work, is to take some free HESI Anatomy and Physiology practice tests (you can also buy HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology practice tests).

These will help introduce you to the structure and format of the test, and your results should be used to create a study schedule that emphasizes revision on the parts you found more challenging.

You should still make time to brush up on the bits you are more confident with, too – you don’t want to risk your overall score by missing easy points.

Step 4. Use Different Study Materials

Revision and studying don’t always mean heavy textbooks and writing notes. There are plenty of resources online that you can use to boost your anatomy and physiology knowledge.

This includes YouTube videos and tutorials, online lessons, HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology practice tests, and even things like podcasts and games that can help you learn.

Immerse yourself more in the world of nursing (even if it is just playing Operation with your roommates and choosing different organs as names).

Step 5. Find a HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology Study Guide

Study guides can be invaluable resources when you are preparing for a test as important as the HESI A2.

A good HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology study guide should prepare you for all the different types of questions that you might be asked, as well as providing specific hints and tips about each section. The guide should have revision resources built in and show you what the structure of the assessment will look like.

There are lots of study guides available online for the HESI A2, so it is important that you do your research so that you can pick the one that is best suited to you and the way you learn.

Before the HESI Anatomy and Physiology Exam

Get Enough Rest

Self-care is so important when you are preparing for any assessment, and with the prospect of college tied into your performance on the HESI A2, you might be tempted to skip meals and sleep in favor of studying.

This will not help you in the long run, however. Multiple studies have shown that the wrong amount of sleep can impact your cognitive function – so aim for about 6-8 hours a night whenever you can.

Eat Healthy and Balanced Meals

Before you study – and before the assessment – make sure that you have had something nutritional and delicious to eat.

Not only will you be able to concentrate more on what you are doing because you won’t be distracted by hunger, you will also be providing your brain and body with the fuel it needs to work efficiently and effectively.

Practice Mindfulness to Stay Calm During the Exam

Time passes quickly in an exam situation, and you need to make sure that you are calm and in control so that you don’t panic and miss something.

Mindfulness is an important part of self-care, and if you are able to stay calm, you will be able to perform better in the test. What this looks like for you might differ from what someone else does, but you could try closing your eyes and taking a couple of deep, slow breaths before attempting to answer each question.

Frequently Asked Questions

The HESI Anatomy and Physiology test is a part of the admission assessment that is often used to evaluate potential candidates for a nursing program in a college. The Anatomy and Physiology subtest is one of eight possible options that you might be asked to complete as part of your entrance to the program.

There are 30 Anatomy and Physiology questions on the HESI A2 test, and you will usually only have 25 minutes to answer them.

The best way to study for the anatomy and physiology section of the HESI A2 is to revisit what you studied in school related to the human body – and look for a study guide that covers all the different sections.

You could also buy or find free HESI Anatomy practice tests to familiarize yourself with the format.

The anatomy and physiology section of the HESI is not exactly easy, but it is based on the simple principles and knowledge that you will have taken from a normal education.

You will want to prepare, however, because you will be expected to know the details of the different body systems relatively well.

You can find examples of the HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology test online, try the ones at TestPrep-Online. There is more information available on the official HESI site too.

Your study plan for the anatomy and physiology part of the HESI A2 should include:

  • Body systems – circulatory/digestive/nervous, etc
  • Terminology
  • Hormones and components of bodily fluids

To pass the HESI anatomy and physiology section, you will need to revise and study the different systems and structures that make up the human body and know how they interact to make us work.

You are not expected to have graduate-level knowledge, but you need to demonstrate competency in understanding the basic elements.

It is never too soon to start studying for the HESI, especially as the Anatomy and Physiology section of the assessment is only a part of the knowledge that you will have to demonstrate.

The earlier you get started, the better – but that isn’t to say that it is too late to start, even if you have only a few days.

You will usually be asked to take the HESI A2 exam as part of the entrance assessment when you apply for a college nursing program. Your eligibility to take it is based on whether it is used as criteria for admission in the college you have applied for.

Most schools will charge a fee for prospective students who need to take the HESI A2 – this can be between $30 and $75. There are often fee waivers and hardship funds that can cover the cost if you are eligible, however.

The resources here at Psychometric Success will help you prepare for your HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology test, as well as the other subtests that you might face when you are applying to a nursing program.

Final Thoughts

The HESI A2 is an important assessment to pass if you are looking to join a nursing program in higher education – and that means you need to know as much as possible before you take it.

It is never too early to start studying and ensure that you are ready to answer the questions in the whole assessment – and that means focusing on one test at a time.

When it comes to the HESI A2 Anatomy and Physiology test, you should make sure that you are revising all the different systems and structures in the body, and that you know where your own strengths and weaknesses lie.

Make use of all the available resources to help you study, including guides, example questions, and full-length HESI A2 Anatomy practice tests.

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