HESI results in well-prepared students, higher pass rates at Purdue University Calumet

Nurse actively listening in class

At-A-Glance Facts

The School of Nursing at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Indiana offers BSN, accelerated BSN for second-degree students, LPN to BSN, and RN to BSN undergraduate programs and clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioners, nurse executive, and post-graduate certificate graduate programs.

Since implementing HESI in 2002, Purdue University Calumet has boosted its first-time NCLEX pass rates, and continued integration of HESI into the curriculum has fostered student confidence while helping to maintain high pass rates.


“We were early adopters of HESI, and the experience has been excellent,” says Janice Tazbir, MS, RN, CCRN, CS, Professor in the School of Nursing at Purdue University Calumet (PUC), which began integrating HESI into its curriculum in 2002. “After we started using HESI, our NCLEX passing rate went from an abysmal 77-81 percent to rates in the 90s and as high as 100 percent.”

Revising Nursing Curriculum

When Tazbir started at PUC, the school of nursing knew it needed to improve its pass rates — Indiana requires nursing schools to meet national average pass rates to avoid probation and potential closure. “We started to use all of the HESI products, including the HESI Specialty Exams, to benchmark our strengths and weaknesses,” she says. These exams are available in 20 specialties. The exams provided the data needed to revamp the school’s curriculum. “We looked at the aggregate data to identify content areas where students did not do well and changed the curriculum based on that,” she says.

HESI continues to help faculty fine-tune the school’s curriculum. Tazbir shares content areas where PUC students’ scores are lower than the national average so adjustments can be made. For instance, if students performed below average on pharmacokinetics, the content would be revised.

Providing Feedback Throughout the Program

Tazbir advocates full integration of HESI into a nursing school’s program. “We use it at the beginning, middle, and end, and we intervene when we see weaknesses,” she says.

After completing their Foundational course, students take a Specialty Exam that faculty members have customized by submitting their syllabi for development of a custom exam. Students who don’t earn the passing score of 850 must complete a HESI testing remediation program. Remediation is based on each student’s specific knowledge deficits identified on his or her HESI Individual Scoring Report. Students also use HESI Case Studies and Practice Test for remediation. Faculty members work with students to further individualize remediation and use HESI’s online reporting capabilities to monitor their progress.

HESI’s extensive RN Case Studies are introduced in the Foundational course and also used in other specialty courses. The Case Studies help students apply key concepts and develop their clinical judgment.

After students complete their first medical/surgical course, which falls in the middle of the curriculum, they take a Specialty Exam again. They must score 850 or complete remediation if below 850.

PUC has continued to raise the bar to improve student performance. For example, “through the years, we have put more and more teeth into the HESI Exit Score,” says Tazbir. In 2002, the minimum score was 850, but 900 is now required before the school will issue a certificate of completion so the student can take the NCLEX.

Students first take the HESI Exit Exam during Week 11 of their senior semester. Those who fail to score 900 must complete a remediation program. Students then take another Exit Exam during Week 16. If they still fail to score 900, they must submit proof of further remediation — such as a HESI Live Review Course — before receiving a certificate of completion.

Parallel versions of the HESI Exit Exam are available so students do not retest with the same questions.

Appreciating Quality and Research Validation

Tazbir, who has written NCLEX review questions, appreciates the quality of HESI questions. “The questions are excellent,” she says. HESI relies on a rigorous, formal process for item development and analysis. Nurse educators who have expertise in the field in which they are writing develop the questions, which an expert panel reviews. Each question is psychometrically evaluated for consistency and readability.

In addition to providing individual feedback, Tazbir shares research data with students showing that HESI predicts pass rates — students who score 900 or higher have a 98.3% chance of passing NCLEX. “That’s such a confidence booster, especially when they score in the 1,000 range,” she says. Feedback also helps students with lower scores. “If they get a 650, they know they’re in trouble and have a higher chance of failing the NCLEX exam unless they do something about it,” Tazbir says. “It’s like gambling. You want to be as close to 100 percent as possible to increase your chances of success.”

Graduates often tell Tazbir that HESI prepared them well for NCLEX, saying, “If you can pass HESI, NCLEX is no problem.”