HESI vs TEAS – Which Is Harder? What Are The Key Differences?

Those who want to become a nurse will need to take a HESI or TEAS exam. They’re both standardized tests designed to ascertain a user’s knowledge of health care subjects, and you’re required to pass them if you want to progress in your healthcare field.

Here’s everything related to the HESI vs TEAS, including which one requires more studying and the main differences between the tests.

What Is HESI?

HESI stands for “Health Education Systems, Inc,” and Elsevier STudent life designs the tests. There are specific versions of the test for nursing, paramedicine, dentistry, and other healthcare professions.

HESI helps prepare students striving for a medical profession to prepare for licensing and board exams, as HESI gives a comprehensive assessment of their knowledge in certain health fields and allows them to chart their progress as they learn.

There are HESI exams for nursing students who strive to become a:

  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)
  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Advanced Practical Registered Nurse (APRN)

Students can also take HESI exams for:

  • EMT
  • Radiography
  • Dental Assistance and Hygiene
  • Massage Therapy
  • Respiratory Care
  • Paramedicine
  • Veterinary Technology
  • Medical Insurance, Billing, and Coding
  • Medical Assisting

Many medical schools require students to pass the HESI admissions test (HESI A2) to get into their desired program. These exams test reading, grammar, biology, math, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology.

However, there are also HESI specialty exams which include specialized knowledge areas like pharmacology and nutrition, which some medical students would require for their specific fields.

Medical schools use the HESI exam to ensure students lack knowledge that could set them back in their courses later on.

Since many programs have different segments and length requirements for the HESI, it’s difficult to say exactly how long the test will be. However, here’s a baseline of each test’s portions and how many questions it has.

ExamAllotted TimeNumber of Questions
Anatomy and Physiology25 minutes30
Basic Math Skills50 minutes55
Biology25 minutes30
Chemistry25 minutes30
Grammar50 minutes55
Learning Style15 minutes14
Personality Profile15 minutes15
Reading Comprehension60 minutes55
Vocabulary and General Knowledge50 minutes55

In all, the exam takes about four hours.

What Is TEAS?

TEAS stands for “Test of Essential Academic Skills.” Medical schools often use the TEAS as an admission exam into specific nursing programs.

The TEAS consists of 170 multiple choice questions to be answered over 209 minutes.

There’s a reading, math, science, and English portion. The first three sections take about an hour to complete, with the English portion taking about 30 minutes.

Here’s what the TEAS test will cover, according to ATI Testing — the company that makes the TEAS.


English and Language Usage
Number of Questions53365328
Time Limit (Minutes)64 min54 min63 min28 min
Specific Content CoveredKey ideas and details
Craft and structure
Integration of knowledge & ideas
Pre-Test questions
Numbers and algebra
Measurement and data
Pre-Test questions
Human anatomy & physiology
Life and physical sciences
Scientific reasoning
Pre-Test questions
Conventions of standard English
Knowledge of language
Vocabulary acquisition
Pre-Test questions

Which Is Harder — HESI or TEAS?

The HESI has nine sections, and the TEAS has only four. The TEAS also takes less time to prepare for, and requires less specialized information than the HESI. The TEAS kinda feels like taking a different version of the SAT or ACT, while the HESI is a different beast altogether.

Therefore, some people say that the HESI is harder than the TEAS.

However, the HESI simply has more questions. The questions themselves have a lower individual weight than on the TEAS. Missing a question on the HESI won’t hurt as bad as it will on the TEAS. That’s why other people say the TEAS is harder.

Difficulty doesn’t matter, though, when a medical school requires either the HESI or the TEAS. You’ll be forced to take that exam in such circumstances.

If you have the choice, though, opt for the TEAS. It requires less studying time and lends itself well to the general knowledge you already have.

Key Differences Between HESI and TEAS

From the exam length to the content and cost, here are the key differences between HESI and TEAS.

Exam Length

The TEAS requires 209 minutes — which is about three hours and 30 minutes.

The HESI takes four hours to complete.


The TEAS has four sections:

  • Reading
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • English and Language Usage

The HESI has around 10 sections, though there can be more if your program requires you to take a specialized HESI test.

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Basic Math Skills
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Grammar
  • Learning Style
  • Personality Profile
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Vocabulary and General Knowledge
  • Critical Thinking


The TEAS tends to cost around $70. Since the HESI is more individualized, taking the test can cost between $40 and $100.


The tests feel comparable in many ways. However, the HESI is a bit more difficult than the TEAS. That’s because the HESI requires more specialized knowledge, which means you can’t rely on the general information you know like you can for the TEAS.

The HESI requires you to study more so that you can gain proficiency in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, math, and more. The increased effort to do well on the HESI vs TEAS makes the HESI feel harder.

HESI vs TEAS Similarities

We’ve explained the differences between these tests, but let’s go over the main similarity — how to study and approach both these exams.

How to Study

Whether you’re taking the TEAS or the HESI, it’s best to start studying early. We recommend buying exam prep materials and hitting the books at least a month before the exam. If you can start studying before then, even better.

Here’s a studying tip: when writing down notes, always make statements into questions. Rather than writing, “The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell,” write “What is the powerhouse of the cell? Mitochondria.”

You can then create additional practice tests from your notes when you remove the answers from the questions. You can avoid rereading your notes — a passive way to study — and instead opt for the more active self-quiz approach.

This approach should be used in conjunction with other test-taking materials to further boost your score.

Taking the Test Early

Don’t take the last test available before the application deadline for your medical school program.

Take the test as early as possible. If you score low on the first try, you have plenty of time to study up and retake it.

Reviewing Fundamentals

Both the HESI and the TEAS expand upon fundamental knowledge you learned from high school. You may find it beneficial to brush up on what the parts of a sentence are, basic algebra, core biology principles, and more.

Acing fundamental questions builds your confidence through exam prep. You can then use that momentum to tackle harder, specialized subjects in the sciences.

Take as Many Practice Exams as Possible

Taking lots of practice exams for both tests will dramatically improve your performance on the real deal. You’ll get used to how the exam asks questions and learn to spot any tricky questions in a low stakes setting.

We don’t recommend taking either the TEAS or the HESI without taking at least one practice exam.


Despite which exam is actually harder, the medical schools you want to go to will dictate which tests you take. Both tests will prepare you for a career in the medical field, though each has its quirks.

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Matt Lane

Matt graduated with a BSEd in Kinesiology from University of Georgia and is now pursuing a medical degree. He enjoys sharing his experience with other ambitious young people.