Changes To U.S. Naturalization Test Expected Soon

Changes to U.S. naturalization test expected soon

New exam questions to focus on civics, principles

The California Aggie (Davis)
By: Geoff Johnson
May 7, 2007

Those looking to become a naturalized citizen in 2008 may face a different test than the current one, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services say.

Though the requirements will remain the same as the current test – applicants must answer six out of 10 randomly chosen questions correctly to pass – USCIS has been running a pilot program for 142 new test questions since February, a full list of which has been made available online.

Questions include “What is an amendment?” and “Who is the current President?,” in addition to a number of questions about the constitution itself.

Part of the reason for the new questions is the lack of a shared question base, said Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies.

“There really was no set body, no standard body of questions that immigrants had to study in the past,” Krikorian said. “In other words, there was a list of 100 questions that some examiners had informally put together.”

Krikorian said current questions rely on trivia, such as the name and number of the form one files for citizenship, or what the colors of the American flag are. Although many of the questions will remain the same, the new questions will emphasize the principles of civic government and not just the names of different offices, he said.

As an example, he suggested the final test may ask why there are three branches of government, and not just the names of the three.

John Fonte, director of the Center for Common Culture at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., said he does not expect the new questions to pose a challenge to potential citizens.

“There's already a lot of people complaining that will make it more difficult, but it's geared for the third- or fourth-grade level,” Fonte said. “You've got a lot of time to study for the test, and the answers are already available [online].”

Fonte also noted that the test could be taken as many times as was needed to pass and includes multiple-choice questions.

The goal is to obtain 6,000 volunteers across 10 cities, ranging from Albany, N.Y. to San Antonio, Texas, before the program is implemented.

Though the proposed changes to the test come at a time when USCIS has announced its intention to raise test-taking fees by an average of 66 percent, Krikorian said the proposed changes are unrelated and have more to do with the fact that USCIS does not receive congressional funding.

“I think that's a mistake,” Krikorian said. “It makes sense for immigrants to bear the direct cost of processing applications, but the immigration service can't even invest in computer technology unless it can get money from applications for it. That's one of the reasons that immigration processing is so messed up and backed up.”

GEOFF JOHNSON can be reached at