What Are the NYS Regents Exams?

The Regents exams date back to 1865 and were first used for high school students in 1876—for context, that is almost a century before the ACT was created in 1959 and a half-century before the SAT in 1926.

 

If you are unfamiliar with this historic set of exams, then you’re likely not from New York State. In New York, the Regents Exams are used to determine whether a student has met the educational standards required to receive a diploma. Here’s a complete overview of these exams.

 

Overview of the NYS Regents Exams

 

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) Regents exams are subject-based tests covering four academic fields and ten individual subject areas within them. To receive an NYS Regents Diploma (what the State of New York calls a high school diploma), a student needs to score a 65 or higher on at least five Regents exams. 

 

Students who just fall short of passing a Regents exam (a score of between 60 and 64) are able to petition their district to allow them to receive an NYS Regents Diploma, but those scoring below a 65 on multiple exams will need to retake and pass another Regents exam to graduate. 

 

The academic areas and individual subjects of the Regents exams are: 

 

Academic Areas

Individual Subjects

English Language Arts

  • English Language Arts

Math 

  • Algebra 1
  • Algebra 2
  • Geometry

Science 

  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science
  • Living Environment
  • Physics

Social studies 

  • Global History & Geography
  • US History

 

Regents exams are generally taken by students in grades 9 through 12, but in some cases, eighth-graders or students out of high school may take the exam. Regents are only mandatory for attendees of New York State public school students; they are not required of students attending private school, although many private schools also use the exam. 

 

NYS Regents Diploma Requirements

 

The majority of students in New York graduate with one of two categories of diplomas: a regular Regents diploma or a Regents with Advanced Designation diploma. The primary difference between the two classifications is the number of tests a student must pass. 

 

To earn a traditional Regents diploma, you must pass five exams; to earn a Regents with Advanced Designation, you must pass eight exams. Earning a Regents with Advanced Designation is not very beneficial unless the student plans on applying to a SUNY (State University of New York) or CUNY (City University of New York) school. 

 

Type of Diploma 

Regents exams needed to pass

Regents 

  • English Language Arts
  • One math 
  • One science
  • One social studies 
  • One additional math, science, or social studies assessment

Regents with Advanced Designation

  • English Language Arts
  • Three Math
  • Two science: Living Environment and one additional science assessment 
  • One social studies
  • One additional science or social studies assessment

 

Students have limited options outside of the Regents exams to earn a diploma, but there are a few alternative pathways to the additional fifth (Regents) and eighth (Regents with Advanced Designation) exam requirement in which the student can choose the field of assessment. Those pathways are: 

 

Pathway

Requirements 

Arts Pathway 

Pass a department-approved assessment in the arts 

Languages other than English (LOTE) Pathway

Pass a department-approved LOTE assessment

Career and Technical Education (CTE) Pathway

Complete a CTE program and pass a three-part technical assessment 

Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Pathway

Complete the CDOS credential requirements 

Humanities Pathway

Pass a department-approved assessment in the Humanities 

STEM Pathway

Pass a department-approved STEM assessment

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Students with Special Circumstances 

 

There is a third category of Regents Diplomas for students with special circumstances—like those with an Individual Education Program (IEP), on a 504 plan, or an English language learner—called a Local Diploma. The Local Diploma requirements closely resemble those of a traditional Regents Diploma, except that students must score 55 or better on the five required exams. 

 

NYS Regents Diploma with Honors 

 

High-achieving students looking for a challenge—and possibly a leg up when applying to a SUNY or CUNY school—can aim to earn a Regents with Honors Diploma. To do this, they need to have an average score of 90 or better on their Regents exams. 

 

Other Distinctions 

 

New York students can also earn two other Regents distinctions: a Mastery in Math and a Mastery in Science. To earn a Mastery in Math, a student must average an 85 or above on the three Regents math exams. To earn a Mastery in Science, a student must average an 85 or better on three of the Regents science exams. 

 

Much like graduating with a Regents with Advanced Designation diploma or NYS Regents Diploma with Honors, these distinctions are primarily beneficial to students applying to SUNY and CUNY schools. 

 

What is the NYS Regents Schedule?

 

All of the Regents exams are traditionally given in January and June, and some of the exams are also offered in August. The state of New York has released a tentative schedule for 2021’s Regents exams and is working to stay current on any updated guidance, policies, and regulatory changes due to COVID-19. These dates are only tentative and subject to change if it’s deemed that the state cannot administer these tests safely. 

 

The 2021 NYS Regents schedule is: 

 

Month 

Regents Examination Period 

January 

1/26/21 through 1/29/21 

June 

6/2/21* (first administration of the new US History and Government Regents exam)

6/15/21 through 6/25/21** (6/25/21 is a Rating Day—no examinations will be held)

August

8/12/21 and 8/13/21

 

*Administration of this exam takes place on the second day of the month to allow time for score collection and standard setting in order to post the conversion chart by June 25

 

**No State examinations will be administered on Friday, June 18 to allow for the weekday observance of the Juneteenth holiday

 

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Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.

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