Regents Examinations

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In New York State, Regents Examinations are statewide standardized examinations in core high school subjects required for a Regents Diploma. Regents diplomas are optional and typically offered for college bound and non-disabled students. Most students, with some limited exceptions, are required to take the Regents Examinations. To graduate, students are required to have earned appropriate credits in a number of specific subjects by passing year-long or half-year courses, after which they must pass Regents examinations in some of the subject areas. For higher achieving students, a Regents with Advanced designation, and an Honor designation, are also offered.


The Regents Examinations are developed and administered by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) under the authority of the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York. Regents exams are prepared by a conference of selected New York teachers of each test's specific discipline who assemble a test map that highlights the skills and knowledge required from the specific discipline's learning standards. The conferences meet and design the tests three years before the tests' issuance, which includes time for field testing and evaluating testing questions.

NYSED also sometimes refers to elementary and intermediate grade statewide standardized tests as Regents Examinations.

"At the close of each academic term, a public examination shall be held of all scholars presumed to have completed preliminary studies…To each scholar who sustains such examination, a certificate shall entitle the other person holding it to admission into the academic class in any academy subject to the visitation of the Regents, without further examination."[1][2]

The legislature’s intent in establishing the Regents Examination system is described in the ordinance. The central idea of the legislation was to create an educational control system that could be used to regulate the flow of funds to the well established academy system of schools that existed throughout the state of New York. This goal would be accomplished by:

  1. creating a Regents Examination system, which would measure student achievement through process of examination; and
  2. creating a new and privileged class of students in the secondary schools of New York.

The new class of students would be called the “academic class,” and those students who qualified for admission to it by sustaining a process of examination would be known as “academic scholars.” Academic scholars, and the institutions with which they were affiliated, would receive recognition and privilege under New York’s school funding formula.[1]

The focus of the ordinance was on assessing student achievement in the preliminary, or elementary curricula. In essence, the examinations were being positioned in the primary role of gatekeeper between the primary and secondary schools of the state of New York. The need for a gatekeeper examination system was due in part to the state’s 1864 school funding formula, which allocated public funds to private academies based on criteria that included the number of enrolled students. Typically, the academies used money distributed from the state literature fund to offset operating expenses, and any expenses in excess of funds received from the State were passed on to students and their families in the form of “rate bills.” Under this system, individual academies could realize economic advantages by lowering academic standards and enrolling less qualified students. In 1864, during a time of war, the New York legislature became concerned about this issue of who was and who was not qualified to be enrolled in the common, mostly private academies of the state and also in the rare, public high schools of the state. The timing of the legislature’s concern and actions in 1864 may have been related to two conditions that existed during the Civil War: the military’s need for young men of fighting age and a period of fiscal austerity in school funding.[1]


The first Regents Examinations were administered in November 1866. In 1878, the Regents Examination system was expanded to assess the curricula taught in the secondary schools of New York, and the Regents exams were first administered as high school end-of-course exams.[3] From the original five exams (algebra, Latin, American History, natural philosophy, natural geography), the State Education Department expanded the Regents Exams offerings to forty-two tests in 1879; tests were administered in November, February, and June. Throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s vocational education Regents Exams were approved and administered. These included, but were not limited to, agricultural science, costume draping, and salesmanship.[2] By 1970 the number and types of Regents Exams changed to reflect the changes in high school curriculum: vocational exams were discontinued, and the sheer number of exams were either dropped or consolidated as the curricular emphasis trended toward comprehensive examinations rather than the singularly focused tests of the past. This trend continued into the twenty-first century, with the cancellation of foreign language exams in 2010 and 2011.

In 1979, Regents Competency Tests were introduced for all students - in order to graduate students had to pass the RCT OR the Regents exam. Later, they were offered only to students with disabilities. They were discontinued with the class of 2015. In 2000, New York State Alternative Assessments (NYSAA) program was first administered allowing students with severe cognitive disabilities to complete a datafolio-style assessment to demonstrate their performance toward achieving the New York State learning standards.[3]

Recent and future changes

2010 changes

Due to budget cuts, in June 2010 the Board of Regents voted to cancel 7th Grade regents (Integrated Algebra, Geometry, and Living Environment) for students who were in 7th grade Honors/Accelerated Programs in Mathematics or in Science. German, Latin, and Hebrew Regents foreign language exams were also cancelled, and students studying those languages are now allowed to take a locally developed examination to demonstrate competency.[4]

2011 changes

On May 16, 2011, in the face of an $8 million budget gap, the Board of Regents voted to reduce the number of tests administered. The remaining foreign language exams (French, Italian, and Spanish) were eliminated, although districts may administer locally developed foreign language exams to let students attain a Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation. Tests administered during the month of January were to be canceled. In August 2011, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and five private donors contributed funds to ensure that the Regents was administered in January 2012, although the foreign language exams remained cancelled.[5]

Students that need 3 or less points to pass and came from schools that are viewed as struggling schools, regent scores are invalid and can move on to next course without regent score.

2012 changes

Students graduating in 2012 (who were 9th grade students in 2008) are the first cohort of students required to take all five Regents Exams with a passing score of 65 and obtain a Regents Diploma to graduate.[6] Previously, school districts had been permitted to offer a Local Diploma, with less stringent requirements than the Regents Diploma. Requirements have gradually been increased in recent years.

Test security procedures were heightened in response to the Stuyvesant High School cheating scandal.[7] Effective August 2012, test proctors must collect and hold electronic devices for the duration of the exams; students are no longer permitted to have these devices on or near them.[8] Previously, possession of electronic devices was allowed as long as they were not in use.

2014 changes

The Regents exams in ELA, and Algebra I were changed to incorporate the Common Core Standards starting in June 2014.[9] Starting in June 2015, the Geometry regents will incorporate the Common Core, and in June 2016, the Algebra II regents will as well. High school students will be allowed to continue graduating with minimum scores of 65 on state exams until 2022.[10] At that point, required scores would rise to 75 on English exams and 80 in algebra—levels deemed evidence of readiness for college.[10]

Future changes

  • In April 2012 the Board of Regents decided to formally consider a proposal that would eliminate Regents Examination in Global History and Geography as a graduation requirement for some students beginning September 2013.[11][12] Global History and Geography is the most frequently failed examination. Under the proposal, students would be able to substitute a second Regents Exam in math or science or a vocational exam for this requirement. Another proposal under consideration would keep the Global History and Geography requirement, but split the test into two separate tests, one on Global History and another on Global Geography. NYSED accepts public comment and will provide a formal proposal to the Board of Regents. That proposal must be approved by the Board of Regents before the exam requirements can be changed. The proposal had since been denied.
  • In June 2014, Regents Exams in Comprehensive English, Algebra 1, and NYSAA will be aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).[13] In June 2015, the Regents Exam in "Geometry" will be aligned with CCLS. In June 2016, the Regents Exam in "Algebra II" will be aligned with CCLS as well. These standards are a result of New York State's participation in the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
  • In 2015, New York will begin administering computer-based standardized tests.[3][dead link]

Most Regents exams are three hours long. The exception is the Earth Science exam, which consists of a 41-minute (approximate) laboratory component usually given up to two weeks prior to the three-hour written exam. Most Regents exams are structured in the following format:

  • A multiple-choice section (Part I) of usually between 30 to 50 questions
  • A long-answer/essay section (Part II) consisting of either a selection of detailed questions for which the work must be shown (for math and physical sciences), or a set of essay topics, of which one or two must be written about in detail (for the social sciences)

In 2005, the Board of Regents began modifying the mathematics curriculum. An integrated approach that taught topics in geometry and algebra during each of three years, with exams normally taken after a year and a half and again after three years, was replaced by a curriculum that divides topics into Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II/Trigonometry. Each of these take the form of a one-year course with a Regents Examination at the end of the year. The "Math A" and "Math B" exams have been eliminated and are replaced by "Integrated Algebra", "Geometry", and "Algebra II and Trigonometry".

Beginning in January 2011, the English Language Arts exam was reduced from a six-hour exam to a three-hour exam. The exam still contains essay components, but has greater emphasis on reading comprehension and less on writing.[14]

The format of the laboratory practical for Earth Science was changed in 2008. Currently, it consists of three sections, each with a time limit of nine minutes. While administering the test, there are multiple stations for each section. Each station uses different data, but the same task. For example, each section 1 station may have different rocks and minerals, though the task is the same.

List of exams

The New York State Regents Exams are the following:

  • United States History and Government
  • Global History and Geography
  • English Language Arts: Comprehensive English
  • English Language Arts: RE in English Language Arts (Common Core)
  • Mathematics
    • Integrated Algebra
    • RE in Algebra 1 (Common Core)
    • Geometry
    • RE in Geometry (Common Core)
    • Algebra 2 and Trigonometry
  • Science
    • Earth Science/The Physical Setting
    • Biology/The Living Environment
    • Chemistry/The Physical Setting
    • Physics/The Physical Setting

For the 2010-11 school year, Latin, German, Greek, and Hebrew language exams were cancelled. For the 2011-12 school year the remaining language exams (Italian, Spanish, and French) were also canceled. Previously, a Regents foreign language exam was an option that would allow for Regents Exam with Advanced Designation. Currently, local school districts can develop their own exams to assess foreign language competency and allow for students to meet the Advanced Designation requirement.

Exam requirements

Local Diplomas are offered by New York State school districts for students who did not pass the Regents Diploma requirements. For students entering 9th grade in September 2008 and thereafter, the Local Diploma is only offered to disabled students, and the rest of the students must attain at least a Regents Diploma. Advanced and Honors designations are available for exemplary students. In addition to the Regents exam requirements, there are additional requirements for attaining a Regents or Regents with Advanced Designation Diploma, which are described in a NYSED handout titled "General Education & Diploma Requirements",[6] and are codified in Section 100.5 of the Part 100 Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.[15]

Most students are required to achieve a score of 65 or higher on Regents Exams to pass. Students with disabilities are required to achieve a score of 45 through 54 out of a possible 100 on a state Regents exam.[16] However this only qualifies for a local diploma as long as they compensate with a score of 65 or higher on another Regents exam.[16] Students with disabilities still must earn minimum 55 scores on Regents exams in Comprehensive English and math.[16] NYSED considers a score of 75 to 80 to indicate college readiness,[17] with a score of 75 to 85 being a cutoff for admission for some selective colleges and universities and a score below 75 being a threshold for placement in remediation for some schools, including CUNY schools.[18]

Regents Diploma exam requirements

Passing the following Regents exams with a score of 65 or better is required for a Regents Diploma:

  1. Global History and Geography;
  2. U.S. History and Government;
  3. Comprehensive English;
  4. Any one math exam (usually Integrated Algebra);
  5. Any one science exam (usually Earth Science or Living Environment/Biology).

Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation exam requirements

Passing the following Regents exams with a score of 65 or better is required for a Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation:

  1. Global History and Geography;
  2. U.S History and Government;
  3. Comprehensive English;
  4. All three math exa;
  5. Two science exams (one physical and one life science);
  6. Language other than English[19]

Additional honors designations

The New York State Board of Regents offers the following honors to students with exemplary academic performance:

  • A student who earns an average score of 90 or higher (without rounding) on required exams is eligible for a Regents Diploma with Honors or a Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation with Honors.[19]
  • A student who earns scores of 85 or higher on all of the required mathematics Regents Examinations is eligible for an annotation on their diploma that states that the student has mastery in mathematics.[20]
  • A student who earns scores of 85 or higher on at least three science Regents Examinations is eligible for an annotation on their diploma that states that the student has mastery in science.[21]


Alternative public schools

During the 1990s, some alternative assessment schools, similar in character to charter schools, were founded in parts of New York in an attempt to provide a way for students to graduate from high school without taking any Regents Exams. Usually, the substitute graduation assessement involved would consist of the review and grading, by a panel of teachers, of an academic portfolio — a collection of the student's best work from all his or her years at the school. From such a "portfolio examination" would be issued a "Regents equivalency" grade for the areas of Math, English, History, and Science, and a "Regents Equivalency" diploma would be awarded to the student at commencement.

However, by the end of the 1990s all of these self-labeled "alternative schools" had been forced to adopt some or all of the standard Regents Exam requirements, and today these schools must fully participate in the Regents testing program.

Private schools

Though all public schools are required to follow either the Regents Exam system or some form of alternative assessment, private schools may or may not follow either of these systems. The vast majority of private schools actually do use Regents exams and award Regents diplomas, but some, usually academically prestigious private schools, do not. These schools' argument is that their own diploma requirements exceed Regents standards. Schools run by the Society of Jesus, such as Canisius High School, Fordham Prep, McQuaid Jesuit, Regis, and Xavier and the Society of Mary (Marianists), such as Chaminade and Kellenberg, have not used Regents exams for decades. Additionally, some other schools like The Masters School, The Ursuline School, The Hackley School, The Harvey School, Long Island Lutheran Middle & High School, Manlius Pebble Hill School, and Nichols School not associated with those groups do not use the Regents system.

Allowable substitute examinations

Some Advanced Placement exams and SAT subject tests are allowable by NYSED as substitutes for the Regents Examination for that subject (e.g., AP American History in place of the U.S. History and Government Regents). NYSED has approved a limited number of allowable substitute exams and has published required scores for the exams.[22]

Regents Competency Test (RCT)

Regents Competency High School tests, or simply RCT's,[23] are exit exams given to identified special education students with Individualized Education Programs or students with a 504 plan seeking a high school diploma but cannot pass the standard Regents exams. Like the Regents Examinations, the RCT is provided and overseen by NYSED, and is designed and administered under the authority of the Board of Regents.

Most RCT's can be taken before a student takes the corresponding Regents exam. The RCT's are available for students until they graduate or when they turn 21. If the student still cannot pass all of the RCT exams, an Individualized Education Program Diploma (IEP Diploma) is awarded instead. The IEP Diploma is not the equivalent to a high school diploma, and rather is a certificate given to students who complete the twelfth grade but do not pass the standards based testing. The IEP Diploma is intended only for students with severe cognitive disabilities.[24]

  • Ninth grade
    • Students take the Math and Science RCT in June. This is done in case the students fail the Math and Living Environment Regents or Earth Science Regents which can be taken in 9th or 10th grade. Some students, however, can take Regents in 8th grade.
  • Tenth grade
    • Students take the Math and the Living Environment Regents or the Earth Science Regents in June. Students also take the Global History and Geography exam. Students can take the Global RCT if they failed the Global Regents.
  • Eleventh grade
    • Students take the Reading RCT in January. In June, students take the English and U.S. History Regents. Students can take the U.S. History RCT if they failed the U.S. History Regents.
  • Twelfth grade
    • Students take the Writing RCT in January if they have failed the English Regents.

There are six RCTs that are administered. They can be taken in January, June, and August. The Global and U.S. History Regents Exam is the only exception that does not allow students to take the RCT tests before student fails the corresponding Regents Exam.

Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, in public schools, only students with disabilities who first enter ninth grade prior to September 2011 are eligible to take the RCTs. Additional information on eligibility for the RCT safety net option has been provided by NYSED.[25][26]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Watson, Robert S (2010), Stability and Change in New York State Regents Mathematics Examinations, 1866-2009: a Socio-Historical Analysis, Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Dissertation Publishing, pp. 1–3, UMI 3433796<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 NYSED (1987). "History of Regents Examinations: 1865 to 1987". Retrieved 12 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 NYSED (2012). "Timeline & History of New York State Assessments" (PDF). Retrieved 13 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Otterman, Sharon (3 August 2011). "Private Donors, Including Mayor, Save January Regents". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 NYSED (November 2011). "General Education & Diploma Requirements" (PDF). Retrieved 12 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Chapman , Monahan, Ben, Rachel (June 25, 2012). "Stuyvesant High School caught in cheating scandal on Regents exams". New York: NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. Retrieved 18 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "When the Common Core tests will be given". New York Post. 7 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Regents retreat on some testing, evaluation requirements; URL accessed May 4, 2014.
  11. Reide, Paul (1 May 2012). "State considers dropping Regents exam for global history for some students, to Central New York teachers' dismay". The Syracuse Post Standard. Syracuse. Retrieved 13 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Gonen, Yoav (24 April 2012). "State considers making too-hard Regents test optional". The New York Post. New York City. Retrieved 13 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. NYSED (12 March 2012). "Common Core Implementation Timeline". Retrieved 13 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Regents rule change aids special education; URL accessed November 13, 2012.
  17. "Grade 3-8 Math and English Test Results Released: Cut Scores Set to New College-Ready Proficiency Standards" (Press release). NYSED. 28 July 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "July 28 Slide Presentation: A New Standard For Proficiency: College Readiness" (PDF) (Press release). NYSED. 28 July 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 19.0 19.1
  23. RCT exams, accessed May 15, 2009

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