For those that don’t know, Health Education Systems Incorporated or HESI, is an American exam that projects whether or not the nursing student would be successful in the NCLEX-RN exam – which is the nursing licensure exam in the United States.

(Think of it like the SATs except it’s an exam that determines whether you graduate or not despite getting all A’s in all classes). Most schools that I know require nursing students to take the HESI exam. It may be offered almost every semester but is not usually part of passing that semester except for the last one. If it is taken during the last semester, it’s called the HESI exit exam.

Particularly in my school, HESI is only offered in the last semester that means stakes are high as most of us do not have experience with this exam.  The company, Elsevier, predicts that students who score 900 and above will pass the NCLEX-RN in one try. Obviously, that’s not set in stone but that is what their data shows. Guess what? I scored a 948! However, in my school, if a student scores 799 and below, they will have to come back next semester and their graduation will be delayed. In other words, 800 and above is passing. Do not take this to heart though as some schools require 900 and above.

HESI cumulative scores
Just look at my previous scores! The question is: how the hell did i get from 777 to 722 to 948 all of a sudden?

Because I have my last semester in December, I had the whole summer to study for HESI 1 (first HESI exam). I studied my class notes in June to July, and did the NCLEX mastery app, following their 30-day plan. The app is free up to a certain point but to get the full version, I had to buy it for USD 30.00 which wasn’t bad for 1,700+ questions. I also bought yourbestgrade.com for USD 97.00 – yeah, very expensive but didn’t yield any results for me. I think my downfall for this exam was that I did not do any practice questions on the week of; I was so tired working during night shift after another. I also ran out of time reviewing the rationales at the end of the exam!

After failing HESI 1, I still employed the same test preparation materials – I mean, I did spend a lot of money on them and I didn’t think I used them to their full potential anyways. However, I also bought the Elsevier’s comprehensive review for NCLEX-RN exam – I got a discount so I don’t remember how much it cost USD 53.56 with discount. At the time, I was doing 80 questions every few days as I still had work, school, assignments, exams, etc. I tried to cater to my other exams while studying for HESI. For example, if I were having an exam about neuro, cardiac and endocrine in a class, I would cater my HESI preparation to those topics. In the end, I still failed but with a lower score – at least I got to review the rationales this time around. My downfall here though, was concentrating too much on my school’s required HESI remediation. It was content after content after content! It was the first time they required it and most people, I’ve heard, did not pass. When they got mostly negative feedback, they did not require it for HESI 3.

After failing yet again, I spent the whole day stress eating! I called my mom about it and she told me to buy more test prep materials no matter what the cost – she really insisted on Kaplan as a doctor she met recommended it. Obviously, I still thought about saving money so I “modestly” purschased a couple. This time, I bought Kaplan’s content review ebook and 2-month Q-bank subscription for USD 99.00 and NCSBN’s NCLEX-RN review for USD 30.00 (3-week subscription). Both materials had content but I mostly read NCSBN’s (to some extent). As for Kaplan, I only read their 5-step decision tree which I thought was very helpful in knowing what to prioritize. For me, I know what to do during an emergency but what happens when the emergency is done? That decision tree really helped me out in that type of prioritization.

In studying for HESI 3, I did NCSBN for about 2 weeks then switched over to Kaplan, doing 60 questions a day (I split them up into 2 increments) about 4 times a week. I still did the Elsevier green book as it also had practice questions. During this time, I also tried to accept the fact that if I fail, I will return next semester and retake it. The catch was that I won’t be able to graduate until May or June. In the end, I did accept the fact that I was going to fail but if I were going to fail, I’d rather put up a fight.

My Kaplan Test History. Look at all those fluctuations! My highest score was 67%!

On the week of HESI 3, I slept about 8 hours almost every day except the night before (I only got 5 hours as I got distracted for no good reason). On the day of, I prayed with my aunt before doing 30 questions via NCLEX mastery app, then another 20 via Kaplan as a warm up.

Upon entering the room, I picked a spot where I’m not sitting next to anyone and that I could recite some of the questions a bit out loud. We were also allowed to have paper while taking the exam as long as we gave it back at the end (very strict on that part). Whenever I was dealing with a tough question, I would write down the situation, background, and assessment. Before reading the options, I would already think of the answer so that my actual answer won’t be biased based on the options. I also had times when I clicked “next,” I realized I picked the wrong answer. When that happens, I take a minute to convince myself to let go and move on. Dwelling on the past will just consume my previous time.

When I finished, I saw my exam score and immediately did a V-pose while sitting; the proctor looked over and smiled at me too. I looked back at my score again, and I started crying, as if a weight finally lifted itself. This test was definitely high stakes as I already paid for numerous test prep materials, my pinning, and commencement to boot. My family and I were also day dreaming of when I become a nurse too! I definitely didn’t want to disappoint them.

(On a side note, I failed an exam I took the week before HESI 3 😂 I just love living on edge!)

All in all, I’ll be swearing my life to Kaplan!


  • Kaplan is my savior
  • Accepting failure is a good thing
  • 8 hours of sleep the night before isn’t always enough so definitely be consistent with 8 hours of sleep several days before
  • Paper is my best friend
  • Reading rationales are ALWAYS good
  • Time management is ALWAYS important
  • Prayer can help in concentration (I swear, whenever I pray, things come true for me!)

Test prep materials used:

Amount spent on test materials = USD 309.56 😥

I hope this will influence anyone reading and going through this. So here’s a heads up, buy Kaplan the first time.


5 thoughts on “My HESI Journey | Ang aking Biyahe sa HESI

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