I am a product of the NYS regents program.  30+ years ago and my daughters are too.
Every college prep course has a regent's exam attached to it-prepared by the state.  More knowledge based if I remember correctly.   They are not easy!  Some years teachers would protest the difficulty.

Even today there are lively discussions because some districts "teach to the test."  A regents program is similar to a liberal arts program because everyone must have so many units (credits) in subjects.  No one can graduate without 4 years of English, ....   .foreign language... .  I can't remember all of it.  If you do not pass the regents exam, you do not pass the course. 

My daughter went into the hospital the night before her AP English and calculus exam.  She could only take them later with special permission from the state.  All exams are kept under lock and key.

Most college bound students are in college prep programs and graduate with a Regents diploma which has more value than a school diploma.

Yes, they are important to the Universitysystem of NYS.  Good students with high SAT's and good grades can graduate as a Regents Scholar.  Year's past this included money for tuition.  Since NY ran out of money, one receives a letter saying congradulations. 

Hope this helps.  I am sure there have been changes.

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