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A Guide to the HESI A2 Biology Test: With Tips & Free Tests

A Guide to the HESI A2 Biology Test: With Tips & Free Tests

Updated November 22, 2023

By Hannah Denby
Hannah Denby

'HESI' stands for Health Education Systems Incorporated.

The HESI A2 Biology Test forms part of the overall HESI Admissions Assessment Test, which is used to check the suitability of prospective students applying for nursing programs.

Other components of the HESI Admissions Test include the HESI A2 Math Test and HESI A2 Grammar Test.

In this article, you can find out what to expect from the HESI A2 Biology component of the HESI Admissions Assessment Test, including tips on preparing for and passing the exam.

What Is the HESI A2 Biology Test?

Health Education Systems Incorporated administers the HESI A2 Biology Test.

It has been used for more than 20 years and forms part of the HESI A2 Admissions Assessment, which identifies academic strengths and weaknesses and determines whether a candidate has the relevant skills and abilities to be suitable for a nursing college.

Prospective nursing students must sit the HESI A2 Admissions Assessment (including the HESI A2 Biology Test) as part of the college application process.

The test is a standardized and proctored exam, which must be completed by anyone applying to study a Nursing & Healthcare Education program.

Prepare for Your HESI Test with TestPrep-Online

The HESI Exam Biology Format

As with any exam, understanding the test format is a major part of preparing and studying for an exam.

Knowing what to expect helps you tailor your preparation and feel more confident when sitting the exam.

The HESI A2 Biology test comprises 25 multiple-choice questions, which candidates must answer within 25 minutes.

It also includes five additional HESI biology questions, which will be used for future evaluations and will not count toward or against your overall score.

Passing scores vary between schools and colleges, but the better your score, the more likely you will be accepted into your chosen nursing program.

If you do not achieve the passing score for your preferred college, you may be permitted to resit the test.

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

Questions on the HESI Exam Biology cover the following basic biology concepts:

  • Water – Including its properties (cohesion, adhesion, heat, solvency)
  • Molecules – including reactions (catabolic and anabolic), four basic building blocks, four basic macromolecules
  • Metabolism
  • Cells – Function and structure, including chromosomes, nuclei, ribosomes, nuclear pores, cytoplasm, nucleoplasm and cell membranes
  • Cellular respiration – Including metabolic reactions within cells, Krebs cycle, glycolysis, chemiosmosis, oxidation, aerobic and anaerobic respiration and fermentation
  • Photosynthesis
  • Cellular reproduction – Including meiosis, mitosis, gametes, haploids, diploids and chromatids
  • Genetics – Including genetic principles, genes, genotype, phenotype, dominant and recessive traits, hybrid crosses, codominance and DNA mutations
  • DNA – Including protein functions, replication, antiparallel replication and base pairing

Example HESI A2 Biology Questions – HESI Biology Practice Test

Example Question

1. Metaphase during mitosis is when:

a) Chromosomes condense, and the nuclear envelope disappears
b) Chromosomes begin to separate from each other
c) Chromosomes gather on either side of the dividing cell
d) Chromosomes align along the center of the cell

Example Question

2. Choose the best way to describe the bonds between atoms within a water molecule:

a) Polar ionic
b) Nonpolar ionic
c) Polar covalent
d) Nonpolar covalent

Example Question

3. Which of these cell types is created as a result of cell division by meiosis?

a) Skin cell
b) Brain cell
c) Sperm cell
d) Kidney cell

Example Question

4. The term 'glycolysis' describes the conversion of _______ to ________.

a) Glucose, CO2
b) CO2, glucose
c) Pyruvate, glucose
d) Glucose, pyruvate

Example Question

5. Which of the following words describes a statement or explanation of particular events?

a) Conclusion
b) Observation
c) Experiment
d) Hypothesis

Example Question

6. How many different types of amino acids can be found in biological proteins?

a) 3
b) 4
c) 20
d) 64

Example Question

7. Consider the process of photosynthesis. Which of the following is a reactant of this process?

a) ATP
b) O2
c) CO2
d) Glucose

Example Question

8. Which of these activities does not result in the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate)?

a) Calvin cycle
b) Krebs cycle
c) Electron transport chain
d) Glycolysis

HESI A2 Biology: Guide/Tips/Free Tests
HESI A2 Biology: Guide/Tips/Free Tests

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HESI Biology Study Guide

You should aim to begin studying for the HESI Biology test several months before your exam date.

This will allow you sufficient time to gain a solid knowledge and understanding of the topics covered in the test and the vocabulary, concepts and terminology that you will need to be familiar with.

Setting up a clear study plan is vital. This will help you to gain a good understanding of how much time you can realistically dedicate to studying each day.

When planning your time, consider when you are most productive, building study time into your schedule to complement this. For example, if you work best in the morning, plan to get up earlier each day to allow time for studying.

If you are more focused in the evening, set aside some time after your daily routine.

You should also break down the topics and subtopics, allocating these to particular days or weeks within your study schedule.

You might want to use a study planner to add structure to your preparation.

You can make this as simple or detailed as you like, but it should offer a good visual overview of what you will be studying each day of the week.

Here are some ideas for preparing for the HESI A2 Biology assessment.

Become Familiar With the Test Format

Familiarizing yourself with the test format should be your first action point.

Knowing what to expect from the test will help you feel confident on your test day.

It will also help you to improve your time management skills.

Take Online HESI Practice Biology Test Papers

The best way to become familiar with the test format is by taking a few practice assessments or mock tests.

These are designed to mimic the real test format and give you a good idea of the type of HESI biology questions you will need to answer.

You can find a range of practice tests and resources online using websites like TestPrep-Online.

Cover Key Concepts in Each Topic

You should aim to revisit each topic early in your preparation, covering key concepts as you go along.

Here is an overview of the key concepts covered on the HESI A2 Biology exam:

Classification of Organisms

  • Kingdoms (animals, plants, fungi, protists, prokaryotes)
  • Further divisions (ranking living things according to phylum, class, order, family, genus and species)

The Scientific Method

This refers to the process of creating and performing scientific experiments that bring about meaningful results. It includes the following concepts:

  • Question
  • Research
  • Hypothesis
  • Experiment
  • Evaluation
  • Conclusion

Cells, Tissues and Organs

Cells are the most fundamental unit of life.

For this part of the test, you must have a comprehensive knowledge of the difference between single-cell organisms (prokaryotes) and multicellular organisms (eukaryotes, which have membrane-bound organelles and a nucleus).

Heredity and Genetics

Heredity describes the passing of genetic traits between generations.

Genetics describes the study of the principles that underlie the concept of heredity.

For this section, you will need to have a comprehensive understanding of DNA, including its composition and function.

You should also be familiar with the law of dominance, the law of segregation and the law of independent assortment (Gregor Mendel).

Meiosis and Mitosis

These processes relate to the way in which cells reproduce.

Mitosis is a type of asexual reproduction, whilst meiosis reproduction creates cells with just 50% of the chromosomes found within the parent cell.


Plants use the process of photosynthesis to transform the energy in light into chemical energy, which can be used to fuel a variety of life functions.

You should understand the cellular structures required for this process (including chloroplasts) and what is needed for the process to take place (water and carbon dioxide).

Focus on Vocabulary

As part of your preparation, consider the different terminology and vocabulary you must be familiar with.

If you find remembering words or their meanings difficult, try using flashcards to help. You can buy pre-written cards or make your own.

Once you have written these out, you can put them in different places around your home or ask a friend or family member to test you.

Apply a Range of Learning Strategies

Varying your approach to studying will help to keep you motivated during your exam preparation.

If you are a visual learner, you might prefer to learn by reading.

Try studying a wide range of different study guides and science texts from different authors or publications.

If you are an auditory learner, search for relevant lectures or videos to consolidate your knowledge.

Other learning strategies to consider might include playing biology games, answering quizzes and completing practice tests.

Remember that everyone learns differently, so it is important to prepare in a way that compliments your individual learning style.

Focus on Strengths and Weaknesses

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is vital. It can help you to identify areas where you need more practice. Just don’t be tempted to forget to review the things you think you already know!

That said, you should aim to dedicate more time to practicing the topics that you find more difficult.

Before the HESI A2 Biology Exam

In addition to formal preparation, you should also practice self-care in the days leading up to the exam. Here are some ideas on ways to approach this.

Prioritize Rest and Sleep

Ensuring you get enough sleep in the days leading up to the exam is important.

You are more likely to perform well in the exam if you feel relaxed and well-rested.

Try to limit evening social events in the days leading up to the test and set yourself an earlier than normal bedtime where possible.

Review the Main Concepts Using Flashcards.

Flashcards are a great way to revise for exams. They help to promote active recall in your brain, which makes them an effective method for retaining information.

To use them, you could draw a picture or write a word or phrase on a flashcard and use this to help prompt you to remember a wider concept or definition.

Eat a Nutritious, Balanced Meal Before the Test

Eating well is vital - if you take the test first thing in the morning, ensure you have the ingredients to make a healthy, fulfilling breakfast. You should also ensure that you are well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Use Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques to Help you Stay Calm Before and During The Test

You can consider a few different techniques, from deep breathing and meditation to mindfulness activities. Everyone is different, so experiment with a few options to find something that suits you.

Frequently Asked Questions

The HESI A2 exam forms part of the entrance process for many nursing schools and colleges. It is used to determine whether a candidate has the appropriate skills and knowledge to succeed in a nursing and healthcare education program. The HESI A2 exam is split into three sections: Science, Math and English Language.

The HESI A2 Biology test covers topics including biology basics, water, cells, metabolism, molecules, photosynthesis, genetics and DNA.

The HESI A2 biology section comprises 25 multiple-choice questions plus five additional questions that do not count toward the overall score.

If you want to pass the HESI A2 biology test, it is important that you prepare. Revisiting the relevant exam topics and allowing yourself extra time to study any areas that you find difficult is vital. You should also dedicate time to completing practice papers, reading a range of different materials and playing educational games and quizzes.

It is difficult to pinpoint the hardest part of the HESI A2 exam, as it will likely vary between candidates. However, many people need help with the time management aspect of the test. For this reason, you must practice answering questions within the given timeframe to improve your time management.

You can find sample questions for the HESI A2 biology exam online, including on the TestPrepOnline website.

Completing practice tests is one of the most effective ways to study for the biology section on the HESI A2 exam. Doing so will help you to highlight the areas that you feel confident in, as well as those that you need to study more. It also allows you to become familiar with the test format and practice answering questions against the clock.

The cost of the HESI A2 exam varies between schools and colleges. You can expect to pay between $35 and $125 to sit the HESI A2 exam.

If you fail the HESI A2 biology section, you will be allowed to resit the test once before your case is put forward for review by the Admission Committee.

Candidates are allowed 25 minutes to answer the questions within the HESI A2 biology section.

You can search online for a full guide for the HESI A2 biology section. You can find many useful resources for the HESI A2 test and similar assessments on the TestPrep-Online website.

Final Thoughts

Becoming familiar with the HESI A2 Biology test format is an important part of preparing for the test.

If you know what type of questions to expect on the exam, you will probably feel more confident on the day of your test.

Answering HESI A2 biology practice questions and reviewing your answers will help you identify any areas of knowledge you need to revisit as part of your study schedule.

Completing a few HESI biology practice exam papers will also help you to plan your time and improve your ability to work against the clock.

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