The Med Surg HESI Exam: How I Scored A 1217 With This One Success Tool

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Is the Med Surg HESI hard?

If you are soon going to take your Med Surg HESI, I know exactly how you feel. Confused, stressed, and possibly panicking a little bit… I feel you.

If you asked your professors how to prepare for this exam and they said, “I don’t know, nobody knows what’s going to be on it”… You are not alone. They truly don’t. Nobody really knows what will be on it.

So is the Med Surg HESI hard? Yes, it is hard, but it is absolutely doable. However, the test will be ten times harder if you still do not grasp the importance of ABCs and Maslows Hierarchy of needs. Let’s go over those and three specific resources that greatly helped me score in the 98th percentile in the whole country.

I scored a 1217 which converted to a 99.94% and guaranteed me passing Med Surg 1 with flying colors.

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First, know your ABCs for the Med Surg HESI Exam

I know you are probably SICK of hearing this. But mastering your ABCs is absolutely essential to not only passing nursing school, but the NCLEX too. So FIRST, we need to talk about this above before anything else.

Airway, breathing, circulation, and Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

Remember, the RN’s number one job is to assess the patient. Almost every single question on nursing exams involves first knowing critical signs and symptoms, then applying what you need to do. That is the “trick” in a nutshell. So what takes priority? You got it… ABC’s.


First, what are the key words in the question? What is the diagnosis?:

1. Does the patient have an airway obstruction that needs addressing? ex: choking, epiglottitis, surgery in the airway that has now swollen the airway shut, anaphylactic shock, etc.

2. Does the patient have a diseased respiratory system preventing them from effectively breathing oxygen into their lungs? ex: COPD, Asthma, left-sided heart failure, etc.

3. Does the patient have a circulation problem? ex: right-sided heart failure, MI, atherosclerosis, etc.

Sleeping on the ABCs results in many wrong answer choices on the Med Surg HESI

Master canceling out multiple-choice answers using your ABCs. Never take the “I either know it or I don’t” approach. Nursing school questions are created to think through and to make a critical thinking decision.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for HESI

So you have looked at your question and thought about your ABCs, but they just don’t seem to perfectly apply. So this is when we double-check with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

1. Physiological Needs

This includes a human’s needs for food, warmth, water, and rest. The most basic needs for the physical body.

So when applying this to nursing questions, are we dealing with a patient who:

  • Can’t eat?
  • Is hyper or hypothermic?
  • Can’t drink water or fluids?
  • Can’t sleep?

If any of the following are present, answers that include those will take priority over the following level in Maslows.

2. Safety Needs

This includes a human’s need for security and safety.

Let’s apply this to some common Med Surg nursing question types.

  • Is the patient being abused by their caretaker or family member?
  • Is the patient homeless?
  • Does the patient have a deficit in hearing or smell? (Can’t smell smoke, can’t hear a fire alarm, etc.)
  • Does the patient have neuropathy and can’t feel the temperature of their bath or shower water?
  • Are they bed-bound which could predispose them to a pulmonary embolism, or pressure ulcer?
  • Are they a fall risk?
  • Do we need to isolate the patient to protect other patients?

3. Psychological Needs

These are usually related to the communication questions.

  • Is your patient feeling heard?
  • Are they saying things that raise red flags for depression?
  • Do they need a support group for grief or addiction?

Levels 4 and 5

Level 4 is esteem needs and 5 is self-actualization.

I am not going to go into these in much depth because in my experience, I don’t really find them very relevant to Med Surg questions, but you never know. So be at least familiar.

Three resources I used to score a 1217 on the Med Surg HESI:

Once you feel super confident in knowing how to prioritize ABCs and using Maslows as your backup, you are on your way to earning a high score on your Med Surg HESI. However, the following can really help you get a top score in your class. Practice makes perfect!


When I started school, I spent so much money on things that promised to help me do well. So many nursing bundles, and study guides. Sadly, I found them all so busy and crammed with too much information that they just overwhelmed me, and I never used them.

I heard the senior nursing students at my school talking a lot about to pass the HESI exams.

I did not want to buy another membership, or “nursing thing” to be honest. However, once my specialty HESI exams were coming up I started to panic. I had NO idea how to focus and study for this test. My professors taught me all they could, but there was no consolidated, specialized place to study for this thing. Or so I thought.

So I took the leap. I purchased a one-year membership to and I just got to work. In two weeks time, I took as many practice tests on there as possible.

Since this was my first big HESI, I was terrified. I had no idea if this was going to work because I had no prior experience. I had never studied this way before.

Well, when I pressed submit after taking my Med Surg HESI, and saw my score, I fought tears of joy. My teacher even came up to me to ask me if I was okay lol. Then she saw my score… And I got a big hug and congratulations from her.

NEVER could I have imagined I could get a score that high on an exam like this. I truly, honestly believe the majority of my success was because of your best grade. If I ever had to do nursing school over again, it would be the first study resource I use every single time.

The test banks are very challenging, and the rationales are just pure gold. They over prepare you to where the HESI almost seems kind of easy! Just keep taking the tests and keep reading the rationales. You will learn so much.

3. Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RNĀ® Examination

If you have not heard of Saunders created by Evolve yet, this could really change a lot for you. However, make sure you buy the book NEW, do not buy it used or rent it.

The book will come with an access code that you can register on Evolve, and has a HUGE practice test bank for every single thing you will learn in nursing school. Saunders questions are VERY similar to HESI and the NCLEX.

Rest assured, if you are struggling in nursing school and you focus on this resource, you will bring your grades up dramatically. Once I started really focusing on my Saunders content to summarize all the information I was learning, it helped streamline my study sessions dramatically.

The test bank is not only great for your nursing school exams but is also very challenging and will help you prepare for your HESI and NCLEX exams. Again, over-preparation is better than being underprepared.

3. Level Up RN

If you manage your time well, definitely watch Level Up RN’s Med Surg playlist before you take your HESI. I would listen to her playlists’ while doing the dishes, while eating, and while cleaning.

She makes short videos on YouTube covering the most important points to know, for FREE.

So is the Med Surg HESI hard?

In Conclusion:

Yes, it is a difficult test. However, I strongly believe if you follow the advice I have laid out in this post, that you can and will do extremely well.

If you have trouble focusing, and finding the time, and energy to study efficiently, you can read an article I wrote right here to give you tips on how I have remained a 4.0 GPA nursing student throughout all of nursing school.

Please feel free to comment below and share how you studied and prepared for your Med Surg HESI exam and how did it go?

Jackie Jimenez BSN, RN
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