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A Guide to the HESI A2 Reading Comprehension Test: With Tips

A Guide to the HESI A2 Reading Comprehension Test: With Tips

Updated November 22, 2023

By Tayler Finnegan
Tayler Finnegan

Nurses undoubtedly play one of the most important roles in society—saving lives and supporting people during the hardest times of their lives.

A career in nursing is extremely rewarding, as it enables you to make a huge difference in people’s lives.

Working in healthcare also offers impressive development personal and professional opportunities.

As it is such a respected and renowned career, the path to nursing is difficult to ensure the health professionals of tomorrow are the very best.

If being a nurse is your dream, you must be prepared for a tough period of studying and exams.

In addition to soft skills such as kindness, compassion, levelheadedness and organization, you will also need to meet academic requirements.

One of the most common routes into nursing is through a healthcare degree taken at college or university.

As part of the admissions process, some colleges in the US administer a test to prospective nursing students.

This test is the Health Education Systems, Inc Admissions A2 exam.

There are eight subject test areas in the assessment, divided into the three main academic areas of language, math and science.

This guide will focus on how you can succeed in the English language section of Reading Comprehension. Included are helpful test tips and HESI A2 exam Reading Comprehension practice questions to help you succeed in the assessment.

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What Is the HESI A2 Exam?

Health Education Systems Incorporated, or HESI, is a US-based company that provides examinations and study materials to help student nurses prepare to qualify as healthcare professionals.

As an entrance exam for nursing schools and health-related university courses, the HESI A2 Test is an important exam for prospective nurses.

The admission assessment exam is designed to assess whether candidates have the capabilities required to succeed in a nursing degree and go on to work in the health sector.

This standardized test is respected in the sector, having been used in education for more than 20 years.

You may also hear the test referred to as HESI A2, HESI Evolve, Evolve Reach HESI or Evolve Reach Admission Assessment.

One of the two main assessments delivered by Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) is the HESI Admissions A2 exam.

It is taken when applying to a nursing university program, while the HESI Exit Exam is taken just before candidates prepare to graduate.

Note that not all colleges and universities use the HESI exams, but they are becoming more common.

It is likely that your healthcare course entrance assessment will be the HESI A2.

You must register for the test by creating an Evolve account on the Elsevier website.

You will receive instructions from your college admissions department, along with a code to sign up for an exam sitting.

The test fee varies between institutions, so be sure to check the cost with your college or university.

You can take the HESI exam more than once, but only once every 60 days and no more than three times in a 12-month period.

To ensure you have enough time for a retake if needed, you should aim to take the test early in the testing window.

There are 326 questions across the whole test, which takes four hours to complete.

This guide will focus on the Reading Comprehension section of the exam.

HESI A2 Reading Comprehension Test Format

Understanding the format of the test is crucial for preparing and succeeding in the exam.

If you are familiar with the layout of the assessment prior to seeing the paper, you can waste no time and jump straight into answering questions.

In the Reading Comprehension section of the HESI, there are 50 questions.

These are multiple-choice, so if you are unsure about a question, it is a good idea to attempt an answer as you have a one-in-four chance of being correct.

As one of the longest sections on the HESI A2 test, the Reading Comprehension section of the exam will take 60 minutes to complete.

The Reading Comprehension test consists of the following topics:

Identifying the Main Idea

To find the main idea, do a quick analysis of the story.

Ask yourself, 'What is the text about? What does the author want you to learn from this story?'

Identifying Supporting Details

Once you have established the main idea of the story, you can identify the supporting details. They provide evidence for the main idea.

Types of supporting details include facts and evidence such as statistics, reasons and explanations and definitions and vocabulary.

Finding the Meaning of Words

You can find the meaning of a word by reading the whole sentence and understanding its context. Which of the words or meanings best fit the sentence?

Identifying Purpose and Tone

The purpose is the reason a writer composes a story and their point of view. Is the text designed to inform, persuade, or entertain?

The tone of a story is also important. Is it serious, friendly, humorous, sarcastic or instructional? Does it come across as formal or informal?

Fact Versus Opinion

Being able to differentiate between fact and opinion is a crucial skill to have.

Put simply, facts can be supported by evidence, whereas opinions are based on thoughts and feelings.

Making Logical Inferences

To make an inference is to draw conclusions from a portion of text.

An inference is not explicitly stated, so you are required to search for clues in the text and make a list of the relevant details.

By narrowing down your choices, you can eliminate any unlikely answer choices and make an informed inference.


Summarizing a text means giving a concise overview of a text’s main points in your own words.

HESI Reading Comprehension Test Examples

One of the best ways to prepare for the HESI A2 Reading section is to practice answering sample questions and using the answer explanations given at the end to revise if you aren’t sure of the correct answer.

Try these HESI Reading practice test multiple-choice questions for starters.

Example Question

This question includes a text about the human brain. You will need to read it carefully and answer the reading comprehension question at the end.

‘The human brain, a complex and remarkable organ, serves as the command center of the nervous system. Composed of billions of neurons, it facilitates essential cognitive functions, emotions, and behaviors that shape our identity. Let’s explore the brain’s features and functions in a concise manner.

'The brain is divided into distinct regions, each with specific roles. The cerebral cortex, the outermost layer, handles cognitive processes such as thinking, memory, language, and decision-making. The frontal lobe governs executive functions, while the temporal lobe is involved in auditory processing and memory. The parietal lobe integrates sensory information, and the occipital lobe handles visual processing. Deep within the brain lies the limbic system, which plays a crucial role in emotions, motivation, and memory formation. Components such as the amygdala process emotions, and the hippocampus aid in memory formation.

'The brainstem, connecting the brain to the spinal cord, regulates vital functions, including breathing, heart rate and digestion. It also serves as a conduit for sensory and motor signals. The brain exhibits plasticity, allowing it to adapt throughout life. It can reorganize neural connections in response to learning, experiences and injuries. This ability is particularly pronounced in children, whose brains demonstrate high adaptability and rapid development. Researchers employ techniques like fMRI, EEG, and PET scans to study the brain. These tools provide insights into brain activity patterns and the coordination of different regions for specific functions.

'Maintaining brain health is crucial for overall well-being. Engaging in activities like reading, puzzles and learning new skills stimulates the brain, improving cognitive function and memory.

'Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep also contribute to brain health.

'Brain disorders and injuries have significant impacts. Conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke can affect memory, movement, and cognitive abilities. Ongoing research aims to understand these disorders better and develop effective treatments.

'In conclusion, the human brain is a complex and remarkable organ governing our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Understanding its functions allows us to preserve its health, unlock its potential, and improve the lives of those affected by brain-related conditions.’

What are the roles of the cerebral cortex and the limbic system in the human brain?

Hesi A2 Reading Comprehension: Guide/Tips/Free Tests
Hesi A2 Reading Comprehension: Guide/Tips/Free Tests

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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.

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Example Question

This question includes a text about the rainforest. You will need to read it carefully and answer the reading comprehension question at the end.

‘The rainforest is a biodiverse ecosystem found in tropical regions characterized by dense vegetation, towering trees, and abundant wildlife. Its remarkable features and ecological significance make it both fascinating and concerning. Notably, the rainforest boasts incredible biodiversity, housing over half of the world’s plant and animal species despite covering a small portion of the Earth’s surface. The multi-layered canopy created by towering trees provides a habitat for various animals.

'The rainforest plays a crucial role in mitigating climate change as a carbon sink, absorbing substantial amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The dense vegetation and organic matter store carbon, helping regulate global climate patterns. However, the rainforest faces threats, primarily deforestation. Clearing land for agriculture, logging, and infrastructure disrupts the delicate balance of the ecosystem, leading to habitat loss and increased carbon dioxide emissions.

'To safeguard the rainforest, conservation efforts are essential. These include promoting sustainable land management, supporting indigenous communities, establishing protected areas, and raising awareness about its importance.

'In conclusion, the rainforest is a biodiverse ecosystem of immense ecological value. Its rich biodiversity, carbon storage capacity, and cultural significance make it a vital part of our planet’s natural heritage. Conservation efforts are crucial to ensure its survival for future generations.’

Which of the following words could replace 'mitigating' as it is used in the third paragraph?

a) Increasing
b) Accelerating
c) Reducing
d) Aggravating

Example Question

After reading the passage on meditation, answer the reading comprehension question at the end.

‘Meditation, a practice with a rich history spanning thousands of years, is renowned for its numerous physical, mental and emotional benefits.

‘Let’s explore the advantages of meditation and its impact on overall well-being.

‘Research has shown that meditation effectively reduces stress levels. Through focused breathing and mindfulness techniques, meditation calms the mind and relaxes the body, leading to a decrease in stress. Many practitioners believe that meditation promotes a deep sense of inner peace and spiritual connection. By quieting the mind and turning inward, individuals can experience a profound sense of tranquillity and a connection to something greater than themselves. Additionally, meditation has been found to enhance concentration and improve cognitive function. Regular practice sharpens attention and increases mental clarity, leading to better focus and improved productivity. Moreover, meditation has a positive impact on emotional well-being. It cultivates inner peace, promotes self-awareness, and aids in managing difficult emotions. This can foster emotional stability, resilience and a more positive outlook on life.

‘Studies also suggest that meditation can have physical health benefits. It is associated with lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation, improved sleep quality and enhanced immune function. While meditation often has spiritual connotations, it can be approached in a secular and non-religious manner, adapting to individual preferences and beliefs.

‘In conclusion, meditation offers a multitude of benefits for individuals seeking to improve their overall well-being. Its proven effectiveness in stress reduction, concentration enhancement, emotional well-being and potential physical health benefits makes it a valuable tool for promoting a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Whether viewed as a means of spiritual connection or a practical self-improvement tool, meditation has gained widespread recognition for its positive effects on the mind, body, and spirit.’

Can you identify what is fact and what is opinion in the above passage?

Preparing for HESI Reading Comprehension Exam

The best way to prepare for success in the HESI A2 Reading section is to do plenty of studying in the lead-up to the test.

Remember that you will also have to answer HESI A2 test questions on the rest of the language modules, as well as science and math.

You will be taking in a lot of content, and trying to study it all in-depth will leave you overwhelmed and exhausted.

To help you gain a good understanding of all test topics, try creating a list of the most important facts for each subject.

In addition to helping you learn lingual terminology, taking a HESI exam Reading Comprehension practice test can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses: which topics are you comfortable with, and which need some more revision?

Focusing on your weaknesses can help improve your overall knowledge.

When it comes to tackling Reading questions, it is important to understand why the answer is what it is.

Learning the logic behind linguistic questions will help you immensely in the exam. Knowing the logic can help. If you are unsure of an answer, you may be able to use your knowledge to eliminate some of the multiple-choice options.

When taking a HESI Reading Comprehension practice test, ensure you set a timer to check how you perform against the clock.

You will have 60 minutes to answer 50 questions, so try to complete the exam in this time during practice so you know what to expect in the real assessment.

In this guide, you can find a HESI Reading Comprehension practice test free of charge.

Studying can become monotonous and boring, so be sure to keep it engaging and even exciting. You can make use of different revision sources to increase your knowledge.

Some great ways to study are through using a HESI Reading Comprehension study guide, watching YouTube videos, playing games, and listening to podcasts.

You should also try and read a wide variety of texts to increase your vocabulary, such as blogs, newspapers, magazine articles and scientific texts.

A great way of revising is to practice revision tips such as summarising and analyzing what you read.

If you are unsure what some words mean, look them up and make a note. This kind of study will help you to build a wide vocabulary and a great understanding of reading comprehension.

Studying for the test is hard work, but your concentration and dedication will all be worth it when you land your dream career.

Before the HESI A2 Reading Test

As well as doing enough revision, you also need to look after your well-being if you are to do well on the test.

You should create a study schedule that includes regular breaks to help your brain consolidate all of the knowledge you are gaining.

Getting enough rest is crucial, and you should also prioritize sleep in the period before the exam.

Late nights studying may seem productive, but you are less likely to remember key information if you are sleep deprived.

It is important to eat a balanced diet to ensure you have enough energy for studying. You should eat from all food groups, getting enough fruit and vegetables to keep you alert during study time.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

The HESI A2 Test is an entrance exam for nursing schools and health-related university courses.

The test is designed to assess whether candidates have the capabilities required to succeed in a nursing degree and go on to work in the health sector.

The best way to succeed is to regularly take a HESI reading comprehension practice exam, like the ones on TestPrep-Online.

The Reading Comprehension section consists of 50 multiple-choice questions.

The test covers topics such as identifying the main idea and supporting details, finding the meaning of words and differentiating between fact and opinion.

The best way to prepare to pass is to do plenty of revision on all of the Reading Comprehension topics.

You should also take a HESI A2 Reading practice test several times to answer a wide range of example questions.

TestPrep-Online has a great HESI A2 study guide to help you with your revision for every section of the test.

Ahead of the Reading Comprehension exam, you should have a good knowledge of the topics covered: identifying the main idea, identifying supporting details, finding the meaning of words, identifying purpose and tone, fact versus opinion, making logical inferences and summarizing.

The reading passages on the test are likely to be a few paragraphs long.

There are 50 questions on the HESI Reading Comprehension exam.

You can find sample questions for the HESI Reading Comprehension test in this guide and at TestPrep-Online.

The Reading Comprehension section is timed, and you will have 60 minutes to complete it.

You can find the best HESI A2 practice tests online at TestPrep-Online.

Final Thoughts

While daunting, passing the HESI A2 test is a key milestone in the journey to your dream career as a nurse.

The most effective way to prepare for the test is to understand its purpose and format. In doing this, you can be confident that you know the types of questions to expect.

Taking practice tests against the clock will show you the test layout as well as allow you to have a go answering reading comprehension questions.

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