The Naturalization Test
As part of the road to citizenship, all applicants must pass a test to demonstrate ability to read, write and speak elementary English. This requirement will be waived if:
- the applicants are over 50 years of age and have lived in the U.S. for 20 years subsequent to their lawful permanent resident status; or
- the applicants are over 55 years of age and have lived in the U.S. for 15 years subsequent to lawful permanent resident status.
As part of the test, applicants are also required to take a written exam regarding U.S. government and history Applicants over the age of 65 who have been lawful permanent residents for 20 years or more may obtain special consideration. If they qualify for the consideration, they would be able to take a written examination consisting of 25 questions in their native language. Of those 25 questions, they would have to answer only 10, and answer only 6 correctly.
The New Naturalization Test
The reading and writing portions of new English test are similar to the existing test. Applicants will still have up to three chances to read and write a sentence correctly in English. The difference is that USCIS will provide applicants with study materials for the proposed test, to include a civics-based vocabulary list, and the list of sentences will focus on civics and history topics, rather than a list of sentences that cover a range of topics.
The proposed format for the new civics test will still consist of 100 civics questions and answers. Applicants must still answer six out of 10 questions correctly during the naturalization interview. For the English speaking portion of the test, it will still include the questions normally asked in the naturalization interview.
The purpose behind the changes made to the naturalization test is fairness. All test forms are at the same cognitive and language level. The English vocabulary on the new test is targeted at a language level consistent with the Department of Education reporting standards for the level. Additionally District Adjudication Officers are being trained to administer and score the naturalization tests in the same way nationwide to ensure uniform administration of the test.
The changes by the USCIS are also meant to make the test more meaningful to applicants. All applicants will now receive a study guide on the new civics and U.S. history questions so they can deepen their knowledge and understanding of our Nation as they prepare for the exam. The new items will focus less on redundant and trivial questions based on rote memorization and will focus on concepts, such as the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Some items on the current test fit those needs and required little content change, so several items from the current test will appear on the revised test. The range of acceptable answers to each question will also increase so that applicants can learn more about a topic and select from a wider range of acceptable answers. And finally, the reading and writing test will provide a tool for civic learning because the vocabulary list is civics-based.