The next Earth Science Regents exam will be held on Friday, June 16, 2023, at 9:15 AM. Will you be prepared?
In this guide, we explain everything you need to know about the Earth Science Regents exam, from what format the test will follow to which topics it'll cover. We also include official sample questions of every question type you'll see on this exam and break down exactly what your answers to each of them should include.
What's the Format of the Earth Science Regents Exam?
The Earth Science exam consists of two main components: a lab performance test and a written test. The lab performance test is about 15% to 20% of your total Earth Science Regents score. It'll be administered at your school, on a date your school decides. It'll consist of three lab stations and will be worth a total of 16 points. The second section is the written portion of the exam (which we'll refer to as just "the exam"). This guide focuses on the written portion of the exam.
The written portion of the Earth Science Regents Exam is three hours long and divided into four parts. During parts A and B-1, you'll answer a total of 50 multiple-choice questions. For parts B-2 and C, you'll answer a total of 35 short answer questions. You're allowed a calculator, and you'll also have access to a handy set of reference tables.
Here's what the format of the exam looks like.
|# of Questions
|Points per Question
The multiple-choice questions in parts A and B-1 all have four answer choices, and many will be based on tables, images, graphs, etc. included in the test.
The short answer questions in parts B-2 and C will all be based on charts, maps, tables, images, etc. These truly are short answer questions, and most of your answers will only be a few words, at most a few sentences. There are no essay questions on the Earth Science Regents exam.
What Topics Does Earth Science Regents Cover?
The main topics the Regents Earth Science Exam will test you on are:
- Climate Change
- Earth's Interior and Plate Tectonics
- Earth-Sun-Moon Relationship
- Evolution of Life
- Geologic History
- Human Impacts on Climate and Geography
- Mapping Skills
- Origins of the Universe
- Rocks and Minerals
- Solar System
As you can see, pretty much any topic related to Earth science is fair game for the test, including human impacts on the Earth, and you should be sure to study each of these topics during your Earth Science Regents review.
Earth Science Regents Sample Questions + Answer Explanations
In this section we include sample questions of both multiple-choice and short-answer questions, along with answer explanations. These questions all come from old Earth Science Regents exams.
Multiple-Choice Sample Questions
For this question, you have a graph as well as some accompanying information. You always want to read this information on the exam! The graph shows the water level at Kings Point, New York at different times over a three-day period.
The question wants to know when the first low tide on December 26 occurred, so you'll need to be able to read and interpret graphs in order to get the question right.
But December 26 isn't on the graph! That's OK because the tides appear to follow a pretty regular pattern, so you can estimate the first low tide of the 26 by using the information that is in the graph. First, look at the graph and see how long it takes to go from high tide (the highest points on the graph) to low tide (the lowest points on the graph). There are five complete high-to-low tide changes shown. Since each line on the horizontal axis represents 2 hours (which you can tell from the numbers on the axis), you can count the lines to see how long it takes to get from high tide to low tide.
For example, on December 23, there's a high tide at about 10 p.m., and the next low tide is at about 4 a.m. That's about a six-hour difference between the two. If you calculate the distance between all the high and low tides, you'll see there are about six to eight hours between each. Let's say seven hours is the average.
The graph cuts off at midnight on December 26, and we can see that the water level has just begun to decrease after reaching the high tide level. We can estimate that high tide was at 11 p.m. Seven hours after 11 p.m. is 6 a.m., which is option 1. That's the correct answer!
This question wants to know about the composition of the Earth's crust, specifically, the percentage by mass of elements. There are four pie charts, and you have to choose which one is the most accurate.
But what if you can't remember anything about the Earth's crust? Whenever you come to a question that requires information you don't know, your first step should be to check your reference tables.
And, how about that, the information you need is right on the first page, in the chart labeled "Average Chemical Composition of Earth's Crust, Hydrosphere, and Troposphere." It includes both the percentage by mass and the percentage by volume of elements, but the question specifically asks for mass, so that's the column you want to look at. You can see 46.1% of mass is oxygen and 28.2% is silicone, which means option 1 is the correct answer.
But what if the information hadn't been in the reference tables? You can still use some common sense to eliminate obviously incorrect answers. For example, choice 2 can't be correct because, if the Earth's crust was almost all oxygen, it'd hardly be solid, right? Choice 4 also doesn't seem right because that'd be an awful lot of silicon in the crust. You'd probably remember if that was the case. That leaves answer choices 1 and 2. It's pretty hard to choose between the two if you can't remember anything about the crust, but maybe you choose option 1 because you still think a crust of nearly half silicone doesn't sound right.
As you can see, you can use common sense to narrow down your options, but having a solid knowledge of both earth science topics and what's included in the reference tables will definitely make the exam easier.
Short-Answer Sample Questions
Here's some useful advice: the reference tables you're given will help you on every set of short-answer questions on the Earth Science exam. For some questions they'll basically give you the answer, for others they won't help as much, but you should be prepared to refer to the reference tables for every set of questions.
This question set is asking about plate tectonics. Flipping through your reference tables, you can see that the section on plate tectonics is on page 5. Giving it a glance, you can see it has a nice world map of tectonic plates, and at the bottom there are diagrams of different tectonic plate boundaries.
Onto the questions. As these are short-answer questions, there are no answer choices, and you'll need to come up with answers on your own. Some answers will be written in an accompanying answer booklet; it will always say when you need to do this. The number in brackets following each question is the number of points it is worth.
Question 53 wants to know the names of tectonic plates A and B. From the diagrams and the accompanying text, we know that these tectonic plates meet at the Mariana Trench. Looking at the map in the reference table, we see that the Mariana Trench is marked on there. The two tectonic plates on either side of it are the Philippine Plate and the Pacific Plate. The Philippine Plate is on the western side (as is Plate A in the diagram), and the Pacific Plate is on the eastern side (as is Plate B).
Therefore, Plate A is the Philippine Plate, and Plate B is the Pacific Plate. You need to get both of those correct in order to get the point.
Question 54 asks you to identify the plate tectonic boundary shown in the cross-section (the diagram on the left). In the diagram, it looks like Plate B is being forced under Plate A. Again, look at your reference table. Based on the key at the bottom of the page, it is a convergent plate boundary occurring at the Mariana Trench. There's your answer! Graders will actually accept any of the following answers: convergent boundary, convergence, subduction, or plate collision.
Question 55 asks you to identify one other geologic surface feature in the area shown in the cross section. This one the reference guide won't help you with, but it's pretty easy to answer. Just by looking at the cross-section, you can see mountains and a smoking volcano. Both are acceptable answers. Other possible answers include: faults, seamounts, islands, and island arcs.
Tips for Your Earth Science Regents Review
Here are three final tips to help you during your Earth Science Regents review.
#1: Be Familiar With the Reference Tables
We've said it before, but it's worth repeating: the reference tables you can look at during the exam will be massively helpful. They include a lot of information, and you'll be looking at them at least every few questions.
However, searching through all 16 pages of the reference tables can cause you to lose a lot of time, and if you don't have enough time to finish the test, it'll be difficult to score high enough to pass. Therefore, you want to have a good idea of what information the reference tables include and how they're organized before test day.
Throughout the year, and especially as the exam approaches, look through the reference tables and become familiar with them. You don't need to memorize the information they include (that'd actually be a waste of your time), but you should know, for example, that the information on the solar system is near the back of the tables and includes information on stars and data about the planets.
#2: Take Official Practice Tests
Practice tests are one of the best resources to use during your Earth Science exam review. They give you an excellent idea of how well you'd score on exam day, and they can help you figure out where your weaknesses are with content and time management, so you can drill these weaknesses down as much as you can.
Official practice tests are the best to take, and fortunately, the NYSED has many available to you for free! You can access several dozen old exams, including answer keys. When you take the practice tests, we recommend taking each one in one sitting, and using the same timing as you will be for exam day.
#3: Answer Every Question
There's no guessing penalty on Earth Science Regents, so you should put down an answer for every question on the exam, even if you have no clue what the correct answer is.
For multiple-choice questions, try to identify obviously wrong answers to narrow down your answer choices if you're unsure. Your odds of answering a question correctly are much higher if you only have two choices to choose between, rather than four.
You might also want to come up with a guessing number (1-4), which you will choose whenever you don't know which answer choice is correct. For example, if your guessing number is 3, you'd always choose answer choice 3 for any multiple-choice questions you didn't know how to answer.
Not sure which other science classes you should be taking? Check out our complete guide to the science classes you should take in high school.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.