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Why Regents exams start two weeks early this year

Although Regents exam week is not scheduled to begin until Jan. 25, thousands of students across the state will be sitting down to take the English Regents exam this morning.

In a nutshell, that's the end result of the state's decision to change the format of the English exam.

Test For more than a decade, the exam has been given in two separate three-hour sessions over two days, for a total of six hours. Three times, bad weather caused problems for students who were able to take one part of the exam, but not the other; they had to wait until the next time the exam was given.

New York City and other districts have asked the state repeatedly to revamp the exam to make it a single-day test.

That's what the state is trying to do.

Today's three-hour exam will compare to the old six-hour exam like this:

- 25 multiple-choice questions, vs. 26 on the old exam

- One essay question, vs. four on the old exam

- Two "constructed response" (short answer) questions, vs. none on the old exam.

Because the test is new, apparently, and because the state is trying harder to align the curriculum from elementary through college-readiness, officials want extra time to review the results. Part of the review process is also intended to ensure that the shorter exam is still just as rigorous as the old exam. Schools have to score the tests this afternoon and ship them to a state vendor by Wednesday to begin the review process.

Some schools have complained that by scheduling this exam outside of exam week, students will be at a disadvantage. Many schools don't hold class during exam week, so that students can concentrate better on the tests. Because the English exam is being given while classes will be in session, some teachers and school officials say it will be nearly impossible to provide students with a distraction-free environment -- while students are taking the test, bells will ring to signal class changes; other students will be passing through the halls; and the general commotion of a school day will be hard to contain.

State officials say this will be the only time that the English exam will be administered early, prior to the scheduled exam week.

- Mary Pasciak

E-mail me at or follow me on Follow  SchoolZoneBlog on Twitter Twitter. Check out the Buffalo News' education page at

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Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

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Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

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Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

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Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

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