Developed and administered by the New York State Education Department under the authority of the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, Regents requirements and exams dictate what students in New York State must study in order to graduate from high school with a Regents Diploma. Prior to 2008, students in New York had the option of graduating with either a Local Diploma or a Regents Diploma. The state did away with the Local Diploma in 2008, making a Regents Diploma mandatory.

Units of Credit

In order to graduate with a Regents Diploma, New York State high school students must complete twenty-two units of credit, as they are laid out by the Board of Regents. These units of credit are the same for virtually all students, regardless of special needs or disabilities. In general, one year-long class is considered one unit and a semester-long class is a half unit. Over the course of their high school career, students must complete four units of English, four units of social studies, three units of mathematics, three units of science, a half a unit of health, one unit in the arts, one unit in a language other than English, two units of physical education and three and a half units of electives.

Regents Examinations

In addition to completing twenty-two units of credit, students must also pass, with a score of 65 or higher, a minimum of five Regents examinations. For a Regents Diploma, all students must pass the following exams: Comprehensive English; Global History and Geography; and U.S. History and Government. In addition to these, students must pass one Regents exam in mathematics and one in science.

As of the 2012/2013 school year, Regents exams were offered in Global History and Geography; United States History and Government; English Language Arts; Comprehensive English; Integrated Algebra; Geometry; Algebra 2 and Trigonometry; Earth Science/The Physical Setting; Biology/The Living Environment; Chemistry/The Physical Setting; and Physics/The Physical Setting.

Types of Diplomas

New York State students earn a Regents Diploma when they complete twenty-two units of credit and pass five regents exams with a score of 65 or higher. Students are also able to earn a Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation. In order to receive this diploma, students must pass, with a score of 65 or higher, the five exams listed above plus two additional Mathematics exams and one additional Science exam, for a total of eight Regents exams.

Students who receive a Regents Diploma or a Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation may also receive an additional Honors designation for outstanding academic performance. In order to qualify for an Honors designation, a student must earn an average score of 90 or higher, without rounding, on all exams required for his particular diploma. Similarly, a student who earns an average of 85 or higher on all required mathematics or science exams may receive an annotation on her diploma signifying a mastery of mathematics or science.

Students with Disabilities

The New York State Board of Regents makes some accommodations for students with disabilities. In individual cases, a Safety Net Regents Examination Score of 55 to 64 or a Compensatory Safety Net Regents Examination Score of 45 to 54 may be substituted for a passing score of 65. In a very small number of cases, students with disabilities may still be granted a Local Diploma. Exact requirements for graduation may depend on a student's Individualized Education Plan or 504 Plan.