Regents Exam Overview

  • The New York State Global History and Geography Regents Examination consists of four parts:

    • 50 Multiple-Choice Questions
    • Thematic Essay
    • Document-Based Scaffolding Questions
    • Document-Based Question Essay (DBQ)

    50 Multiple-Choice

    The examination itself covers world history from the beginning of man until present day.  While this may seem overwhelming there are some consistent patters that help to simplify the exam.  For example, the 50 multiple-choice questions typically begin with 3-5 historical terms, such as geography or primary source.  The next 40 or so questions usually follow a chronological pattern, the earliest historical events coming earlier and the more recent events towards the end of the exam.  Generally, the final few questions once again focus on larger historical topics (i.e. Cultural Diffusion, Non-Alignment, Containment, Imperialism).  While this is not an exact science it does help to prepare you for what to expect come test time.

    Thematic Essay

    Thematic essays require students to write in-depth about one of the themes identified in the global history and geography. In the thematic essay, students are asked to compare and contrast events, analyze issues, or evaluate solutions to problems in a comprehensive and cohesive essay that includes a clearly articulated introduction statement and a logically drawn conclusion. The essay is scored on a scale of 0–-5.  While this may sound difficult, the topics are thoroughly covered throughout the school year and during review sessions.  Generally, students run into two problems when trying to write these essays.

    1. Students fail to address the task that they are given in its entirety.
    2. Students have difficulty recalling critical information about given topics to adequately support their thesis.

    Both of these problems can typically be solved with pre-writing strategies.  Students should brainstorm and clearly outline their essay.  Brainstorming is an essential part of the writing process.  Students who brainstorm can better recall critical information.  The thought of outlining during a timed test may seem a daunting task and a waste of time, however, students who outline can write more efficiently and effectively.  An outline does not need to be complex.  It can be as simple as creating a list of facts, examples, and details for each of the bullet point mentioned in the task.  For an example of a thematic essay outline and sample thematic essays please click the Thematic Essay tab on the left menu.

    Document-Based Scaffolding Questions

    The scaffolding question portion of the exam measures the ability of students to read and interpret documents on social studies issues. Students will:

    • examine a variety of documents on a particular historic theme or issue.
    • respond to questions following each document.

    The documents can vary quite a bit.  They might include primary and secondary sources, maps, charts, graphs, poems, excerpts from literature, and political cartoons.  The questions that accompany the documents require you to demonstrate that you understand the document.  Too often students simply pick any sentence from the document and write that as their answer instead of taking the time to actually read the document entirely and then respond.  Each question is worth 1-2 points and counts the same as 1 or 2 multiple-choice questions.

    Document-Based Question Essay (DBQ)

    Document-based question essays require students to identify and explore multiple perspectives on events or issues by examining, analyzing, and evaluating textual and visual primary and secondary documents.

    For example, the essay might ask a student to analyze the positive and negative effects of the industrial revolution.  The student is then required to write the essay using the documents and their own knowledge of history.  Students typically struggle on the DBQ essay in two ways.

    1. Students simply copy the documents word for word into their essay.
    2. Students fail to use their own knowledge of history (outside information).

    To combat this students need to do three things. 

    1. Brainstorm—I encourage my students to read the DBQ essay question prior to reading the documents and then write down everything that they know about the topic from the smallest detail to largest concept.  When students read the documents first their brain tends to focus solely on the documents because they assume that all of the relevant information about a topic must be included in the documents.  Brainstorming prior to reading the documents often unlocks some information that may have been otherwise ignored.
    2. Outline—After brainstorming and reading the documents students need to outline their essay.  There is no one outlining template that works best.  However, students should make sure that they have documents and outside information that relates to each bullet point of the task. 
    3. Support—Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the DBQ essay is supporting your thesis appropriately.  Students need to understand that the documents are there simply to be used as tools to support your response to the task.  This means that students should be writing as they would for a thematic essay and using the documents and outside information together as evidence of facts, examples, and details to support their thesis statement.  

    For a sample DBQ essay outline and sample DBQ essays please click on the DBQ Essay tab on the left menu.