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Regents Exam Scores: The Scoring System Explained


Grading rubrics for tests are not simple. Your final score on the Regents exams is not the same as your raw score (i.e., how many points you achieve on the test). The tests are weighted based on the individual sections and the complexity of the questions, making test scoring a fairly complex matter.


The New York State Education Department uses a test-scoring system for the Regents exams that is recognized by various testing and education agencies throughout the United States. The developers of all major standardized tests adhere to this rigorous system. The system for the Regents exam may resemble a percentage score, but instead, it’s a complex system that ensures the tests are equally difficult year over year and measures a student’s achievement of the New York State Learning Standards.


1. Deciding what to measure


The most important aspect of test design is ensuring that it truly assesses what it is intended to. Test developers draft a “test map” as the first step in the design stage to lay out all the knowledge and skills the test needs to measure. These skills and knowledge are derived from the Regents standards for what students should be able to demonstrate at each grade level.


2. Designing the test questions


Referencing the test map, the developers then create test questions that assess the desired knowledge or skills. Questions are deliberately given different difficulty levels in accordance with the skills they are meant to measure. For the Regents exams, teachers from across New York State write the questions, and the department oversees them.


3. Assigning a passing score


Tests as crucial as the Regents exams must be thoroughly evaluated before they can be administered throughout New York. These reviews allow the developers to rank the questions in order of difficulty. Then, the tests undergo several more rounds of review so that teachers can determine which questions best test for the minimum amount of knowledge students must have to obtain the lowest passing Regents exam score (65). The same process is repeated to select the most suitable questions to assess the skills students need to pass with distinction (85).


4. Creating the score scale


The raw score of a New York Regents exam is the number of points a student achieves before the scores are weighted. The raw scores are converted into final Regents exam scores through a score scale differing based on the level of difficulty. The score scale for Regents exams is from 0 to 100.


5. Making sure everything is fair


Once a scale is made, all future tests are measured in accordance with it. The number of questions needed to achieve a passing grade is adjusted based on the number of difficult questions. This way, the Regents exams retain the same difficulty level each iteration and remain a valid tool to measure student achievement.


Why does New York use a scale instead of percentage scoring?


Prior to the establishment of the New York State Learning Standards, Regents exam scores didn’t directly reflect students’ achievements. Nowadays, they are used to determine how well students meet these standards, and the scale system is the most accurate way to measure this. In the past, a passing score on the Regents exam was 65%, but this indicates general competence in the subject matter and not necessarily the specific standards outlined by the New York State Learning Standards.


Furthermore, the scale system ensures that the tests are equally difficult year over year, creating an equal environment for students in relation to the Learning Standards. There is no advantage to taking the Regents exam in one year as opposed to another. This way, students know the test is an accurate assessment of their knowledge and skills, no matter which iteration of the Regents exam they are taking. The overall objective of this scale-scoring system is to ensure that a Regents diploma represents the same level of achievement from year to year in accordance with the State Learning Standards.


If a student scores 65 on a Regents exam, does that mean she answered 65% correctly?


No. Even though the scales run from 0 to 100, scores for the Regents exams are not the same as a percentage score. Rather than the percentage of correct answers, the score represents the student’s percentage of achievement of the New York State Learning Standards. Depending on the number of difficult questions on any given Regents exam, a student may have to answer more or less than 65% of the questions to earn a score of 65.


Other common standardized tests, such as the SAT, Advanced Placement tests, and the elementary and intermediate tests, use different scales that don’t resemble percentage scores. The confusion with the Regents exam scores comes only from the use of a 0–100 scale.


Your private tutor can be a great resource for helping you understand how the Regents exams are scored and how this system can inform your prep strategies.

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