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The Ultimate Guide to Acing the Nursing Entrance Exams


A nursing career continues to be an ideal profession that offers growth opportunities even in an economy that is still suffering. There is an ongoing need for nurses in a variety of disciplines in spite of the economic downturn. After all, people continue to have children, require surgeries and become ill, recession or no.

Nursing not only offers an excellent career path but gives you the flexibility to juggle family, school and other pursuits while still doing your job! Not many careers offer such a rewarding and satisfying profession while giving you that opportunity.

There are a huge number of specialties a nurse can pursue, but all nursing careers require basic training and all start with nursing entrance examinations.

Nursing Entrance Exams

AHPAT or Allied Health Professions Admission Test – This exam will test your academic ability and scientific knowledge and aids in identifying qualified applicants to be admitted to schools of allied health for baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate programs.

Registration deadline is six to eight weeks prior to the test. It is usually conducted at four different times each year: January, April, September and December. However, some locations may differ and not offer all 4 sittings per year so be sure to check well in advance.

The exam lasts three hours and thirty minutes and is a multiple choice format with approximately 300 questions in five different categories.

The number in each category can vary but the following gives you an estimate of questions for each subject:
  • Biology – 60 Questions
  • Chemistry – 60 Questions
  • Quantitative Ability – 60 Questions
  • Reading Comprehension – 60 Questions
  • Verbal Ability – 60 Questions

DET or Diagnostic Entrance Test – This test is designed to assess high school students’ basic knowledge before entering college. The test is designed to determine both your strong areas as well as areas you need to focus on.

You must be a high school graduate to take this exam.
It is comprised of 148 questions in four different areas of expertise: Critical Thinking, English, Math and Reading and Comprehension. A fifth category of Science is optional but would be required for nursing students.

For those pursuing a career in nursing, they must also take the optional section of 60 questions in the category of Science.

The test is given in computer-based format (CBE) or pencil and paper format and students are given up to seventy-five minutes to two hours to complete the exam. Tips for Taking a Computerized test.


HESI or Health Education Systems Inc. – This is a standardized test designed for nursing schools and is a requirement for those pursuing a nursing license. This test is administered at three stages during a student nursing education and is designed to determine the student’s weak areas.

The first time it is taken is during the second semester of the sophomore year and is required for entry to the nursing college. It will test knowledge in comprehension, grammar, math, reading and vocabulary and they must have a score of 80% or higher to pass.

The second time it is taken is the second semester of the junior year and it is a clinical course called FCNU 3051 and will cover all concepts that have been taught until that point. This requires a probability score of at least 850. If they fail the test, it can be taken up to three times to attain a passing score.

The last time it is taken is prior to graduation and the clinical course is called PMNU 4061.
In general the HESI examination will cover seven areas: Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, Chemistry, General Knowledge, Grammar, Math and Reading Comprehension.


HOBET or Health Occupations Basic Entrance Test – This exam will test your abilities that will be needed in a higher education academic environment.

This is a multiple choice examination.

It is designed to identify your weaknesses in skills that are necessary for college and provide you with areas that need to be improved to succeed in college.

It consists of seven critical areas that include: Basic Math, Critical Reading, Effective Learning Approach, Reading Rate & Comprehension, Reading Speed of College Level Material, Social Interaction, Stress Levels, and Test Taking Skills.

NET or Nursing Entrance Test – This test is required by most nursing schools to ensure that prospective students can meet the highly specialized requirements of the program.

The test lasts approximately three hours and is a multiple choice test.

There are seven areas of the exam that include the following: Essential Math Skills, Learning Styles Inventory, Reading Comprehension Skills, Reading Rate, Skill Level Profile, Social Interactions Profile and Test Taking Skills.

The most important parts are the Essential Math Skills and the Reading Comprehension Skills sections and these areas require at least a score of 50 in each.


NLN or National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Exam – This is an entrance exam that is designed for potential nursing students who want to enroll in nursing school.

The NLN PAX RN and PN is a multiple choice exam.

It consists of these categories:

  • Mathematics that includes algebra, applied mathematics, basic calculations, conversions, geometry, graphs and word problems.
  • Science that includes chemistry, earth science, general biology and physics.
  • Verbal skills that includes reading comprehension and word knowledge.
  • There is also a section on first aid and health.
PNEE or Practical Nurse Entrance Exam – This is an aptitude test that assesses your ability to learn in the areas of English, mathematics and reading comprehension rather than what you already know.

It is a multiple choice examination and covers the following:
  • English – This section includes grammar, punctuation and sentence structure.
  • Mathematics – This section includes decimals, equations, fractions, metric conversions, percentages and ratios.
  • Reading – This section includes comprehension, conclusions and inferences.
It is normally held four times a year in January, May, July and August but can vary depending on the nursing school.

To be eligible to take this exam you must have passed the NET or Nursing Entrance Exam and have not taken it more than three times.

It can be taken two different ways: a computer based or CBE or the standard pencil and paper exam. No calculators are allowed in the testing center, only scratch paper. Tips for Taking a Computerized test
If you fail the exam you are eligible to retest again in six months.


PSB Health Occupations Aptitude Test – This test assesses a student’s ability to complete the nursing education program successfully. It tests five different areas to determine the skills and knowledge that are necessary to achieve this. These areas are:

  • Academic Aptitude – This includes the ability to reason, comprehend and draw conclusions. There are vocabulary related questions along with arithmetic questions that test the speed at which problems are solved and are at the eighth grade level. Nonverbal questions relate to the ability to visualize differences in pictured objects and other mental exercises.
  • Spelling – This tests basic abilities in this area and measures ability to communicate.
  • Reading Comprehension – This tests understanding of statements and the ability to organize ideas in written form.
  • Information in the Natural Sciences – This tests fundamental knowledge in natural sciences such as biology, chemistry, health and safety.
  • Vocational Adjustment Index – These questions relate to behavioral traits and situational questions along with personality characteristics that might affect a healthcare professional.

RNEE or Registered Nurse Entrance Exam – This is the most popular entrance examination used by nursing schools. It requires you to be a high school graduate with basic computer skills and one who has not taken the exam in the prior admission year. Tips for Taking a Computerized test

It is held twice a year in the spring and the fall but each school will have its own schedule.
It is a multiple choice format examination that takes approximately four hours to complete.
The exam is either a computer based or CBE exam or standard pencil and paper exam depending on the nursing school.

It covers five key categories as follows:
  • Chemical Science – This includes chemistry, molecules and compounds and organic chemistry.
  • Life Science – This includes digestive system, genetics, human anatomy, molecular biology and physiology.
  • Math – This includes decimals, equations, fractions, geometry, metric conversion, percentages and ratios.
  • Physical Science – This includes fluids and sound waves, motion, weight and mass.
  • Reading – This includes conclusions, critical thinking, data interpretation, inferences, quantitative comparisons, reading rate and table reading.

TEAS or Test of Essential Academic Skills
– This test measures your fundamental academic knowledge prior to enrollment in nursing school.

It is a multiple choice format test with 170 questions.
The questions are at a grade level of tenth to twelfth grade in American high schools.
It is taken in a computer based format or CBE and no calculators are allowed only scratch paper and pencils.
The time allowed is three hours and twenty-nine minutes to complete the exam.Tips for Taking a Computerized test

The test covers four areas as follows:

  • English – This covers contextual words, grammar, sentence structure and spelling.
  • Math – This covers algebraic equations, fractions and decimals, metric conversion, percentages and ratio or proportions and whole numbers.
  • Reading – This covers inferences and conclusions, paragraph comprehension and passage comprehension.
  • Science – This covers anatomy and physiology, basic physical principles, biology, chemistry, general science, science knowledge and science reasoning.

Basic Study Tips for All Exams

Since all the entrance examinations that are required for nursing have known testing areas with many similarities between them, it is important to concentrate on these and focus on any known areas of concern. The following tips will help you achieve top results and breeze through your exams to become a nurse.

  • Identify all the material that you will be tested on.
  • Focus on your weakest areas or those where you are concerned about.
  • Use study guides whenever possible that have examples of the types of questions that will be asked.
  • Take notes, use flashcards, sticky notes or use whatever tools necessary to highlight key areas that are important.
  • Organize all your study materials so that they are all gathered together.
  • Find a quiet place to study where you will not be disturbed like a library or the park but definitely NOT where you will be disturbed.
  • Take online tests if available so that you can see how you do thus giving you a guideline of what to expect.
  • Set aside time to study so that it doesn’t interfere with other activities. If you need to schedule it into your day and ensure others know it – then do it!
  • Keep a positive attitude that you will pass the test with no difficulty. Eating healthy meals and getting plenty of rest will ensure you are well prepared the day of the exam.

 Tips for Taking Multiple Choice Exams

  • Listen carefully to the instructor for the timing of the exam or last minute instructions.
  • Read the directions on each section carefully.
  • Strategize on the timing for each section so that you allow yourself enough time to answer each question. Find out if you are penalized if you don’t answer a question.
  • If you get stuck on a question then leave it for later and go back to it.
  • Eliminate answers that you know are incorrect thus lessening your choices.
  • Read carefully any questions that have negative or absolute words and see if you can substitute a term such as frequently and change it to always. This might eliminate it.
  • When there is an “All of the above” answer, check to see if two of the other three answers seem to be correct meaning that the answer is probably All of the Above.
  • Question those answers that don’t grammatically fit with the question.
  • When you have an answer with double negatives, try switching the words around to make a positive statement and see if it fits.

Prepare Yourself Mentally for an exam

  • Stay Positive - Negativity isn’t going to help you so don’t give into it. Study thoroughly and you will be confident and relaxed.
  • Visualize Success - Imagine yourself confidently and correctly answering all the questions and finishing the exam on time!

Overall Strategy for Acing the Nursing Entrance Exams

Maintain a positive attitude and give yourself plenty of time to study using all tools that are available to you thus giving you ample resources. These simple strategies will give you the leading edge on ensuring that you pass your nursing entrance exams and start you on a career path that will be rewarding and fulfilling.