What Should I Expect From The U.S. Citizenship Test?

The English proficiency test and the civics test are part of the naturalization process. An applicant must pass these two tests before they can finally be naturalized. In the English proficiency test, the applicant is expected to show proof of:

  • Ability to read English
  • Ability to write English
  • Ability to speak English

In the civics test, the applicant’s knowledge of U.S. history and government is tested. All applicants are expected to sit for the test; however, some may be exempted because of any of these reasons:

  • The medical condition of the applicant
  • How long the applicant has been a green card holder
  • The age of the applicant

If you are preparing for the United States citizenship tests, this article will give you detailed guidelines of what to expect from these tests, including the exemptions, to help you in your preparations.

Overview Of The U.S. Citizenship Interview

The U.S. citizenship interview is part of the naturalization process. It is also referred to as the naturalization interview. Naturalization is the process by which a permanent resident of the United States becomes a US citizen after passing the citizenship interview. The first step of this process is filing form N-400, Application for Naturalization. 

After submitting all the required documents to the USCIS, the applicant will be invited to submit their biometrics. The next step is to wait for an invitation for the naturalization interview. The applicant must make sure to attend the naturalization interview on the date and time shown on their appointment notice sent by the USCIS

During the citizenship interview, the applicant will be interviewed by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official to determine their eligibility for naturalization based on the documents they provided. The interview usually starts with the USCIS officer asking you to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth and nothing by the truth.

The English and Civics tests are usually taken on the same day as the U.S. citizenship interview. Each applicant has two chances of sitting for the exam.

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If you fail the test on the first attempt, the USCIS will schedule a second appointment. Usually, this takes between 60 to 90 days. If you fail the exam on the second attempt, your application for naturalization will not be accepted.

It is important that an applicant prepares sufficiently for the tests as part of the requirements of becoming a U.S. Citizen.

What To Expect During The English Test

The English test is an examination of the applicant’s ability to read, write, and speak and understand the English language. It consists of three parts; the reading test, speaking test, and writing test. The immigration officer conducting the test does not expect the applicant to be fluent in the English language, even though some applicants may be. The test is based on basic grammar and vocabulary; therefore, some common mistakes may be tolerated. If you do not understand some questions during the test, you may ask the USCIS officer for clarity.

The Speaking Test

The USCIS officer will ask you questions regarding your citizenship application and eligibility. These questions will help the officer evaluate your ability to communicate in English. The USCIS officer is also aware that you may make common mistakes and that you may not understand each phrase or word used in the questions. Your ability to comprehend the English Language, including proper communication, will be tested.

Before going in for the test, the best way to study for the English speaking test question is by going through your answers in your naturalization application.

The Reading Test

In the reading test, the applicant will be given a digital tablet where a sentence will pop up on the screen. The applicant is expected to read these sentences aloud to the USICS officer. To pass, you must read one sentence correctly out of the three that will pop up on your digital tablet screen.

The questions may include names of American Presidents or states in America. The sentences vary in length, verbs, and vocabulary. While reading the sentences, you must not pause for too long between your reading. You are allowed to skip some short words, mispronounce words, or use different intonations while reading the words. The USCIS officer will be interested in your ability to read and comprehend the sentence, and not your fluency in pronouncing the words.

The Writing Test

For this section of the test, the immigration officer will read three sentences to you as you write them down. To pass this test, you are expected to write down one of these sentences correctly. The USCIS officer will provide you with a digital tablet and a stylus which you will use to write the sentences.

The USCIS also provides a list of vocabulary you may expect in your writing test, and are not very different from the speaking test vocabularies. They may include names of places, American presidents, and simple words that are commonly used in English grammar.

Grammatical errors such as misspelling, punctuation errors, and capitalization errors are common and expected in this section. You are not expected to abbreviate words or write them in short forms. You may write numbers in their numerical form or their word form. The officer will proceed to the next question until you write one of the three correctly.

U.S. History And Government Test

The applicant is expected to demonstrate their knowledge of U.S. history and government by the end of the civics test. There are about 10 civics questions in this category and you are expected to answer six out of 10 questions correctly for you to pass the test. The immigration officer will read out the questions to you and wait for your response. The moment you answer six of these questions correctly, the officer will not ask any more questions. You may phrase your answers in whatever manner you like as long as the response is correct.

The USCIS provides a list of civics questions that you are expected to study in preparation for the civics test. You must study the list of 100 questions provided in the list for you to sufficiently prepare for this section of the U.S. citizenship test. For applicants above the age of 65, they are required to study only 20 of these questions on the list identified by the asterisk mark (*).

The civics questions are largely comprised of questions about the US government, and partly about US history. Some of the questions have answers in the provided manual while others may require some research.

The USCIS officer will pick the complexity of the questions depending on a few factors about the applicant:

  • The age of the applicant
  • The educational background of the applicant
  • The time the applicant has lived in the U.S.
  • The study opportunities the applicant has been exposed to
  • Other factors that test your knowledge and understanding

It is important to note that there is a recent update on the civics test. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will abandon former President Donald Trump’s revision of the civics test as of March 1st, 2021. The USCIS will use the former civics test version of 2008.

How To Prepare For The Civics Test

The USCIC provides study materials for both the English Test and the Civics Test on their website. It is a good idea to sufficiently prepare for these tests to ensure that you pass them as one of the requirements for you to become a U.S. citizen. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the tests:

Begin Studying As Soon As Possible

The sooner you begin studying the materials provided by the USCIS, the higher your chances of passing the test. The citizenship interview will take place after about 14 months from the time USCIS receives your application. You may take some time out of these 14 months to study these materials at your own pace to improve your knowledge.

Utilize Children’s Books

Children’s books are the best sources for simple grammar that may help you with your English proficiency. Some children’s history books also give the simplest forms of U.S. history and government to help you understand this topic even better.

Utilize Visual Study Materials

The USCIS has visual materials to help you study for your tests. If you learn to grasp information better through watching and listening, the visual study materials will be of help. It is also important to stay updated on the current events that make the history of the United States, for example, knowing who the name of the current President of the United States.

Take Online Practice Tests

The USCIS also has provided simulation exams that help you prepare for the actual exams. These simulation exams will also help you know what exactly to expect during your naturalization test, thus making you more confident during the actual test. It is important to note that the simulation tests are not the exact questions that will be asked during your examination. They are created only to help you be familiar with the kind of information that you need to study for your test.

Take Notes Of Your Studies

Notes will help you to easily remember the information that you studied as a quick guide through what you have learned. The USCIS provides flashcards where you can write down some important notes.

What to Expect After Completing The Tests

The results of your naturalization test will be communicated to you on the same day you take your test. This is the same day you have your naturalization interview. You will expect two outcomes of the naturalization test; a pass or a fail.

If You Pass Your Citizenship Test

You are now one step closer to attaining citizenship. Your application for naturalization may be approved on the same day of your naturalization interview and citizenship exam. If that does not happen, the USCIS may take an average of 120 days to make a decision. If your application is approved, then you will be required to take an oath of allegiance before the United States government issues you with a certificate of naturalization.

If You Fail Your Citizenship Test On The First Attempt

An Applicant has two chances of taking the US citizenship test. If you fail the test on the first attempt, the USCIS will reschedule another date for a re-examination. This may be scheduled within 60 to 90 days from the time you took your first U.S. Citizenship interview and the U.S. citizenship test.

If You Do Not Attend Your Re-Examination

The USCIS expects you to show up for the rescheduled examination. If your fail to show up without a genuine reason, the USCIS will mark that exam as a failed attempt and your application will be denied. The USCIS may consider giving you another chance only if you show evidence of a genuine reason for missing the re-examination such as being hospitalized on the rescheduled day of the examination.

If You Fail Your Citizenship Test On The Second Attempt

The USICS will not consider your application for naturalization if you fail to pass the US citizenship test on the second attempt. You may appeal this decision by writing to the USCIS within 30 days after receiving the decision to deny your naturalization application. If the USCIS accepts your appeal, they will reschedule another test within the next three months. The USCIS officer will re-examine you on the portion of the test that you failed during the second attempt.

Exemptions Of The Naturalization Tests

As mentioned earlier, there are some exemptions to the naturalization tests depending on the age of the applicant, how long they have been a green card holder, and the medical conditions of the applicant.

Exemption Based On The Age And The Applicant’s Time As A Green Card Holder

Applicants 50 years of age and older have a few exemptions of both the English and Civics test.

English Test Exemptions

There are two groups of applicants that qualify for an English test exemption. The USCIS will not require that applicants who fall under these groups do an English test:

  • Applicants of 50 years of age and above, and have been green card holders for at least 20 years
  • Applicants of 55 years of age and above, and have been green card holders for at least 15 years

Civics Test Exemption

All applicants must attempt and pass the civics test. There are no exceptions to this test. However, applicants 50 years of age or older may choose to do the test in the language of their preference. If you decide to do the test in your preferred language, then you must be accompanied by an interpreter on the day of your U.S. citizenship interview, which will also be the same day as the US Citizenship test.

Applicants 65 years of age or older are also exempted from studying all the 100 civics test questions provided by the USCIS. People over the age of 65 have to study only 20 of the civics questions usually marked with the asterisk sign (*). On the day of their naturalization test, they will be asked only 10 of the 20 questions and must answer six of them correctly in order to pass the test.

Exemptions Due To Medical Conditions

Applicants who have a medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last for at least 12 months can apply for an exemption of either of the naturalization tests or both. These conditions include:

  • Mental impairment
  • Physical disabilities
  • Developmental disabilities

The applicant is required to file Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exemption along with Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Form N-648 must be completed by a qualified medical practitioner who can verify that the medical condition of the applicant will prevent them from completing specific sections of the tests.

Accommodation Requests

Applicants with disabilities may submit a special request to the USCIS to accommodate their medical disabilities during the tests. For example, the USCIS may make special arrangements to take the tests at a place nearer to the applicant’s home if they cannot travel so far due to their medical conditions.

Some medical conditions that may qualify for special accommodations include the following:

  • Deafness
  • Vision impairment
  • Applicants on strict medical supervisions
  • Applicants who cannot use their hands to write

If you require special accommodations, the following are steps to take as appropriate:

  • Mention the type of accommodation that you may require in your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • You may call the USCIS offices and speak to an official about the accommodations you require
  • You may contact your nearest USICS field officer who will help you with your case

Please note: Applicants who are illiterate and cannot read or write cannot be exempted on medical condition grounds. If they fall into the groups of older applicants explained above, they will only qualify for the exemptions offered for those categories.

If you need help with filing your application, including legal advice or learning how to go about the tests, you may contact an experienced immigration attorney from a reputable law firm to guide you through the process. This immigration attorney is not only available to help you understand the test, but also guide you through the preparation process.

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