Posted by: Ingrid | March 8, 2016

What to Know: Taking the Kaplan Nursing Entrance Exam

I wouldn’t normally write something like this, except for the fact that trying to study for the Kaplan left me so frustrated that I wanted other people to know what to expect.  I am a good test taker and do my research and studying and it irks me when tests are required but then everything surrounding them is nebulous.  Have taken the HESI two years ago I knew nothing about this particular standardized test and, despite the fact that it has been in use long enough to have a 6th Edition study guide, there are not many specifics as to what to study and how helpful the study guide is.  From what I have seen online, average scores fall between 60-80%, which seems fairly low for the standard pre-nursing student whose application will generally be weighted on GPA and test performance.

What is it: The Kaplan is a computerized and timed four section exam used by some schools as part of the requirements for the nursing program.  It uses 91 questions to test reading, math skills, writing, and science and lasts 3 hours if you take all of the allocated time.  Each section has a set amount of time and you must take the sections in the order given.  You can take breaks in between (I took one before the science section and highly recommend getting up and stretching!).

Is the study guide worth it? While you can buy the guide online or in stores, you will be better off checking it out of the library.  I looked at the 3rd-6th editions and they all had the same sample tests!  The newer guides have a section on adult learners and also a breakdown of the various nursing exams but most of the information has remained the same.  Here’s the thing, the guide will only help you on two of the four sections (and it will confuse you on one of them) so it’s not worth the money.  Definitely worth going through the standardized test format and samples questions if it’s been a while, but not if you have to pay for it (unless you are taking various nursing entrance exams).  This guide can be used for multiple entrance exams, but they don’t specify what information is on the TEAS or the HESI or the Kaplan, leaving you feeling unprepared and wondering if you studied the right things.  This is not my favorite way to go into a test.

I finished the Kaplan in 1 hour and 45 minutes with a collective score of 93%.  One thing I found interesting on the breakdown that they give is that they tell you how many questions you changed and if the answers were changed from the right to wrong answer, wrong to right, or from one wrong answer to another.  Perhaps the most annoying thing to me (other than the fact that they are selling a book that doesn’t actually help you study comprehensively for an exam that you are paying for) was that while taking the exam I found 5 typos.  Not errors that were supposed to be caught in one of the exam questions but errors that had never been fixed in the years it has been used.  Seriously?

Here is a breakdown of the test and how the book prepares you for what you will see.

Reading Section – Questions: 22 Score: 100% Favorite typo: “evaluation” of the lakes rather than “evolution”.

This is the most straightforward section and the study guide prepares you for what you will see on the exam.  You will have readings on one side of the screen and questions to answer on the other side.  Think basic reading comprehension: word meanings in context, inference, and identifying the purpose of the passage.  The passages are several paragraphs long and are not difficult.

Math Section – Questions: 28 Score: 96%

The study guide will give you lots of math information, but it will also confuse you by making you think that you need to remember all your geometry and algebra and how to find the area of every single type of triangle when this is not the case.  You have the use of a calculator that appears on the screen and if you know your fractions, decimals, percents, and basic algebra you will be fine.  This is the part I stressed about most and discovered that it was far easier than most of the problems in the book and on the practice tests.  This is very basic math.

Writing Section – Questions: 21 Score: 90%

The guide does not prepare you for this section at all.  In the book, they make this out to be spelling and analogies.  In reality, you are presented with badly written samples and asked questions about where commas belong and where additional paragraphs should be added.  I love and appreciate good writing and these samples were terrible.  I think part of the reason my score was lower here is because in my mind, there were no good places to add the new sentences.  The whole sample needed to be trashed and re-written.  If you generally have an eye for how things should be written you will be fine (albeit frustrated).  There is nothing in the book that even talks about what is on this section.

Science Section – Questions: 20 Score: 85% Favorite typos: “Sections” instead of “secretions” and “bronchial tress” instead of “bronchial trees”.

This is the other frustrating section that the book will not prepare you for.  While some of the other entrance tests cover chemistry, genetics, and anatomy and physiology, the Kaplan only covers physiology (not so much anatomy).  There is a very bare overview of systems in the book, but when you look at the sample exam questions at least a quarter of them involve genetics, which I found worrisome. (No genetics on the test.)  With only 20 questions, either you know the information or you don’t.  You have 30 minutes to answer 20 questions and I was able to answer the questions and go through each one again and still have more than 10 minutes left.  In the end, I skimmed my notes from the second half of anatomy and physiology.  I was surprised at how many questions on my test were on the brain (about a quarter) and you should understand the function of basic systems (renal, pulmonary, cardiovascular, reproductive, etc.).  The questions seemed very arbitrary.  At best, you hope you remember what is being asked in the few questions you get.

My advice is to check the study guide out of your local library and to skim the information in the book (except for the writing section).  Brush up on the basics if you need to.  I also found that instead of taking the sample tests in their entirety (65 questions a section), it made more sense to only do the number of questions I would find in that section on the test (the first 28 of the 65 math questions, for example).  This will give you a gauge on whether you are working quickly enough and will keep you from getting bogged down by too many additional questions.

I am hoping that this helps someone before they take the test. 🙂 Good luck!







  1. Ingrid. did you have questions on IV flow rates? I did when I took mine. Hopefully on this go-around I will do much better

    • There was a basic question under the math section, but it seemed like one of those “trick” questions where it was really all about the math but you were supposed to worry that you don’t know about IV’s yet. That was the only one I remember.

  2. I pass my writing test but no math I have another chance this week. any suggestion will help!!

    • I would make sure that you understand basic fractions, decimals, percentages, and how to figure them out when given a word problem. If you have a study guide, looking specifically at those things will help. Good luck!

  3. Hey, you did great by the way! Thank you for that. I just wanted to know if you had any dosage calculation math problems? Where can I find examples on how to work those out? I’m pretty stressed out about that part the most.

    • There were a could of word problems that “looked” like dosage calculations, but it you look close they are just supposed to trip you up. They were basic math. Just make sure you read carefully. 🙂

      • Okay thank you! I feel much better 👍🏾😊

  4. Hey do you have any suggestion on what can help with the reading comprehension

    • The nice thing about comprehension is that most of the test books should have problems that will let you practice (even non-nursing test books will have this). If you are feeling really weak in this area I would suggest doing as many problems as you can and then reading the paragraph that explains the answer so you can see what to look for.

  5. This was incredibly reassuring. Thank you.

    • Glad I could help!

  6. How long did you study for the entire sections for reading and math and writing and science.I have an month and three weeks

    • If I remember right, I had the book for about a month. If you know your strengths and weaknesses as a test taker and with the material you have adequate time to focus in on what will make you feel most comfortable. Good luck!

  7. This was some awesome information! I am pretty bad in the math department and that portion of the exam has me pretty nervous considering i have to pass each section with an 80%. Not knowing exactly what kind of math problems to study has been stressing me out and the kaplan study guide is super intimidating for me. So thank you so much for posting this, do you have any study tips when is comes to the math portion?

    • My best suggestion is to know how to do basic ratios, fractions, decimals, and percentages quickly. I would go through lots of that type of problem until you are very comfortable.

  8. Do you remember anything about the Science portion that may be a bit more beneficial? There are so many systems and with only 20 questions, I feel like I’ll be studying forever for nothing. Do you remember it focusing on one system more than another? Was it a broad understanding or did it really go into specifics? I just finished both of my A&P classes with A’s but I’m still worried. Lol Congrats on doing such a great job! Hope I do as well. xo

    • That is what is so tough, there are so few questions and so much stuff to know! Definitely know cardiovascular functioning. I also had more on the brain than I anticipated. I would definitely go more for the big picture functioning of the systems.

  9. I was told by a college councellor that the student could only take this Kaplan test once. From the posts above it sounds like you can retake sections that you don’t pass. Can you clear this up for me? Do the rules vary from school to school? Any idea?

    • It may vary from school to school. I know that at my school the test can be taken once a year and you take all of the sections. Definitely check with the schools that you are looking at to confirm their policies!

  10. Thank you for your post. I just took the test last Friday, The science portion I only score 50. I am planing to retake it again do you have any suggestions for me on how to study to improve my score. There were questions on Chronic high B/P. and Gout. I had no idea where to find the answers. please advise. Thanks

    • do you remember, specifically, any of the questions that were asked on the science portion?

      • the gout question a practice question… and the area will be inflamed and red, especially around the big toe!

    • I would do an overview of the systems and how they function. Unfortunately with that few questions part of it is total luck. I know there were a few questions on the nervous system that I guessed on.

    • When you retook the Kaplan exam, were the questions the same the second time around as the first?

  11. Thank you so much for this! 🙂 Congrats on your awesome score!

  12. hi ingrid your post is awesome 🙂 i have been googling and youtube info on this exam but barely any info and i stumbled upon your post.You posted lots of great info!:) My school does not let you retake the exam. Basically if you don’t pass you have to reapply to the program and redo the entire test. quick question so math is my weakness and I’m very nervous for that part of the exam. Especially since i read many post saying the Kaplan book is not helpful. Anyway i was just wondering is there any conversion questions? if so do they give you the conservsion ex: 1ft=12 in

    • Cristy, I am glad this was helpful! I had the same problem finding info on the test. I honestly do not remember if conversions were given so just be sure you know basic ones, inches, feet, kiligrams, etc. The math really is pretty basic. Know your fractions, decimals, percentages, and how to convert in between and don’t get hung up on geometry and difficult algebra. I hope you do great!

  13. Your blog post is such a blessing. It is almost 1:30am right now and I take the Kaplan at 9am. I have been killing myself studying because the stupid practice tests had so many genetics and physics questions on them… I have never taken physics and have been in a complete panic!! I’m so glad to know that it is mainly A&P based on the science section. Same thing with the math… I have been cramming to try and relearn all the geometry formulas (my algebra is on point). So so glad that it isn’t a big factor on the test. I feel like from what your posts says, that the practice tests are actually very misleading and cause us to study the wrong material. Thank you again!!

    • I hope it goes well for you, Elizabeth. Let me know if you get the chance!

    • how did yours go..especially the science part?

  14. Hi there… Thanks for sharing your achievement!!! Just wondering which book will be great to work on the Math section, this will be my second time taking the exam and I get stuck on the math section, I do know fractions and decimals and percentages however there were a few nursing word problems which I was stuck on those. Any recommendations?

    • Hanna, I would just recommend the basic Kaplan book for math. I am not sure where you can find more word problems, but they usually trick you by hiding basic functions in a lot of wording. Then you get terrified because you don’t feel like you know anything about nursing and mess up basic math. That was my experience, anyway. I hope the second time goes well!

  15. This helped me so much!!!!

    • I’m so glad it helped you, Sarah!

  16. Do you by chance remember what kinds of questions were on the science section? This will be my second time taking it and I am no where confident like the first time. Do you have any suggestions for me? Thank you in advance!

  17. Thank you so much because I have been a ltitle stressed about the math. I only need to pass with a 55% on both reating and math but I am praying to get an 85% or better because of the point system. Now I know what I really need to focus on. Thank you sooooo much!!

  18. You are an absolute gem for posting this information! Thank you so much for providing this post for test where any helpful information is elusive and secretive. You have saved me so much time and stress!

  19. Hi thank you for the information, I have about a month to study. I keep getting upper 60’s- low 70’s on the practice kaplan reading section. Did you think that the practice test were much harder than the actual? Also, for the math was the fractions, decimals, etc. basic questions or were they incorporated into a word problems?

    • I did think that the practice tests were more difficult, Lisa. And yes, the math problems were in word problems. Don’t get side tracked by the medical terms – just pick out the basic things you need to do to solve the math problems.

  20. What is the highest score possible on KAPLAN nursing entrance exam? And what is a good score?

    • A 100 percent is the highest, and the scores depend on the school…. one school I applied at said you had to make at least a 65, and another school had a scale… like 65 and below was poor, 65-75 was fair, 75-85 was good, and 85- higher was best

  21. I am scoring myself on thr Kaplan practice test as we speak and I am so grateful to read too the great information you’ve shared! Thank you!

    • I am glad I could help! Good luck!

  22. Hey Ingrid,

    l have taken the Kaplan before, I dont Know you remember the math Word problem about something like there was two-third women and one-fourth old as well as one-fifth men, etc how many were old and men? I don’t remember the question exactly, but how were you able to solve it? That was the only math question I got wrong.

    • I am not remembering that question! I think I would try to change them all to the same common denominator and solve once everything was on an even playing field.

  23. Hi, how are you? Thank you for sharing this information. It is helpful. I am going to take the Kaplan test at the end of this year in December and I am studying for the exam now to enter the Nursing program. If you don’t mind answering, did you get accepted to the Nursing program at your college with the grade you received? Also, is your college’s Nursing program competitive? I am asking because my college’s Nursing program is competitive so I’m just curious to see how I will do.

    • I did get accepted. Because we are in a rural area I do not believe that the program is as competitive as the programs I looked into when we lived in Michigan. I know that it varies depending on the area. Good luck!

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