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The NYS Regents Exam: A Comprehensive Overview

Passing the NYS Regents exams is the equivalent of earning a high school diploma. The tests are rigorous, so you’ll need sufficient preparation to do your best.

Students across New York State fill exam halls each June to take the Regents exams, which assess whether the students have met the NYS Learning Standards. It’s natural to feel nervous about these tests, but gaining all the information you can beforehand can help alleviate this stress.

Regents Overview

The Regents exam system has been around since 1878, when a single set of learning standards was established for New York State. The exams aimed to assess whether students had the necessary skills and knowledge to enter college or the workforce after high school.

The Common Core Learning Standards

In 2010, NYS adopted the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS), and the Regents exams were modified to accommodate this change. To accommodate students instructed based on the old learning standards, the new CCLS-based Regents exams were introduced slowly over time. Until 2022, students will be able to pass the NYS Regents exams with a score of 65, but the minimum required score will increase after that.

Objectives of the NYS Regents Exams

Measuring Students’ Knowledge and Skills

The Regents exams are meant to assess whether a student has sufficiently met the state learning standards for a given subject. The standards have been developed in accordance with what is necessary for students to enter university or start a career.

The four main categories of Regents exams are English, math, science, and social studies. To earn a Regents diploma, students need a minimum score of 65 on at least five Regents exams, as well as at least 22 credits in required courses. Students may also opt to take certain AP exams or SAT subject tests instead of certain Regents exams.

Measuring the Quality of Schools and Teachers

Students aren’t the only ones who receive feedback from the Regents exams. The aggregate Regents results for schools and teachers are also calculated to assess how well schools and teachers are doing in teaching the learning standards. Schools then receive “report cards” that reveal their aggregate Regents test scores. Schools with low scores are provided additional resources to help ensure they can adequately prepare students for the NYS Regents tests.

Regents Diplomas

Regents diplomas come in two different forms:

The Regents Diploma

To receive the Regents Diploma, you need a score of at least 65 on the following tests:

  • Comprehensive English exam or English Language Arts exam

  • Any math exam, such as Integrated Algebra or Algebra I, Geometry, or Algebra II/Trigonometry

  • Any social studies exam, such as Global History and Geography or U.S. History and Government

  • Any science exam, such as Earth Science, Living Environment, Chemistry, or Physics

  • Any additional Regents exam

The Regents with Advanced Designation Diploma

To earn a Regents diploma with advanced designation, students need a score of at least 65 on at least nine Regents exams:

  • Comprehensive English exam or English Language Arts

  • All three math exams, including Integrated Algebra (or Algebra I Geometry) and Algebra II/Trigonometry

  • Any social studies exam, such as Global History and Geography or U.S. History and Government

  • Two science exams, such as Earth Science, Living Environment, Chemistry, or Physics

  • Any additional Regents exam

  • Any Language Other than English (LOTE) exam (There are no longer Regents exams in foreign languages, but students can fulfill this criterion by earning six credits in a foreign language and taking a LOTE exam.)

You can also earn an honors designation on either diploma by scoring 90 or more on each of the necessary Regents exams. Additionally, students who perform exceptionally well in arts, math, science, and technology can also receive specific recognition.

Format of the Regents Exams

In most cases, students are given up to three hours to complete the NYS Regents exams. The Earth Science Regents Exam is the most unique, as it also includes a laboratory part that is completed two weeks before the written tests. The tasks in the laboratory section are six minutes each.

The Regents exams are made up of the following types of questions:

  • Multiple-choice questions

  • Essay questions

  • Open-ended questions, where students must show both the numerical result and the process they took to produce the result

  • Constructed-response questions, where students must create graphs, form hypotheses, analyze experimental designs, or reach conclusions based on given evidence

  • Extended constructed-response questions, where students must use their knowledge and skills in the given subject to solve real-world problems

Need extra help preparing for your Regents exams, or have any other questions about the exams? Working with a personal tutor like the ones on our expert team can be a great way to enhance your study strategy.


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