The U.S. Citizenship Exam: What Should You Expect?
Are you ready for the examination?
If you’re about to take your U.S. citizenship exam, congratulations. You’ve worked hard to obtain your U.S. citizenship, and you’re finally nearing the end of your journey.
You may feel a little nervous about your upcoming exam, but you probably don’t have anything to worry about. The U.S. citizenship exam is fairly simple and reasonable. As long as you’re studying the right materials, you’ll do well.
Here’s what to expect in your citizenship exam and how to prepare.
What Is the U.S. Citizenship Test?
The U.S. citizenship exam is a test that permanent residents of the United States are required to take if they wish to become citizens of the United States.
The citizenship exam covers information about civics, like U.S. history and U.S. government. It also includes a simple English language quiz.
What Is the Current Version of the U.S. Citizenship Exam?
The current version of the U.S. Citizenship exam was created in the year 2008. It hasn’t been updated since. Several administrations have attempted to expand the scope and requirements of the U.S. citizenship exam, but they haven’t been successful.
The exam is subject to change in the future should an incoming administration successfully pursue changes.
It’s important to prepare for the version of the exam currently being offered. USCIS will always have up-to-date information regarding the exam and any possible changes. Always check with USCIS before you begin studying to assure that you’re reviewing the correct information.
USCIS shares all possible questions and the correct answers to the current version of the exam on its website. You only need to study and memorize the document they provide to prepare for the current version of the test.
Who Administers the U.S. Citizenship Exam?
The U.S. citizenship exam will be administered in person by a USCIS officer. If necessary, an interpreter or supportive professional for disability accommodations may also be present.
The exam is administered during your naturalization interview. You’ll receive your interview date after you’ve filed for naturalization and USCIS has reviewed and responded to your request. They will tell you where to go and when to go there. They’ll also include information about important documents you must bring.
Citizenship Exam FAQs: What’s in the English Section?
The Citizenship exam will quiz you on your English reading, speaking, and writing skills. The USCIS officer wants to know that you speak and understand enough English to safely navigate the United States.
The English portion of the citizenship exam isn’t designed to stump you. You don’t need to be fluent in English to pass this exam portion, but every bit of added knowledge helps. If you feel like you would benefit from the help of an English tutor or English learning program, take your time learning before you apply for citizenship.
The reading portion of the test is simple. You will be given three English sentences to read out loud. These sentences will be simple in their composition. They won’t include words you would rarely use in your everyday life.
All you need to do is read one sentence perfectly without extended pauses, substituting words, or speaking with an accent or intonation that makes it significantly difficult for the USCIS officer administering your test to understand you. It’s okay to read slowly as long as you’re reading correctly.
You will be asked to write three sentences by your USCIS officer. You have to write one sentence in a way that is easy for the USCIS officer to read and understand. The only requirement is that the sentence is clear and legible.
You aren’t allowed to use abbreviations or substitute words. Minor spelling errors or punctuation errors are acceptable as long as they don’t change the meaning of the sentence.
Poor handwriting can affect the outcome of your writing test if your writing is difficult for the USCIS officer to read. Many people type far more than they write, so it isn’t unusual to fall out of practice with penmanship.
If you haven’t written in a while, it may help to practice your handwriting before your exam.
The speaking portion of the test is the least formal portion. The USCIS officer will ask you questions about your naturalization form. The officer is checking to see that you understand the questions they’re asking and that you respond with a correct or appropriate answer. You will only fail the speaking portion if you don’t understand what the officer is asking you and can’t respond clearly.
You don’t need to speak English with an American accent as long as most Americans would be able to understand you. If you have a heavy accent, speaking slowly and taking the time to enunciate your words may help you pass the speaking portion of the test.
Citizenship Exam FAQs: What’s in the Civics Section?
The citizenship exam’s U.S. civics portion is designed to test your basic knowledge of American history and how the US government works.
A USCIS officer will ask you ten questions from a list of predetermined questions, and you’re required to answer at least six of these questions correctly. You don’t need to use the exact same words listed on the study sheet as long as it’s clear that your answer shows that you know the correct information.
For a short period of time, there were two civics tests to choose from. An updated 2020 civics exam containing 20 questions was briefly used, but USCIS has reverted to the 2008 civics test for all future exams. When studying for the civics portion of the exam, you should study the 2008 version of the test.
You’ll be randomly asked basic U.S. history test questions by your USCIS officer. Most of these questions relate to the way the United States was founded. You aren’t expected to answer any in-depth questions or explain complicated concepts. Simple answers, such as the correct years for certain events or the names of important people, are usually good enough.
Some common questions in the U.S. history section of a citizenship interview include:
- What year was the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain signed?
- When did the United States enter World War II?
- Who is considered the father of our country?
- What day is Independence Day?
U.S. Civics Questions
You’ll be expected to know every branch of the American government and the important roles within the government.
This portion of the exam will often refer to current information. You should know the names of important elected officials, like the current president and vice president of the United States. You should also know how the supreme court and other key aspects of the federal government work.
Common questions and answers in this section include:
- Who is the Chief Justice of the United States?
- What is the first amendment?
- What is the Bill of Rights?
- How many representatives are in the House of Representatives?
- Who is the Speaker of the House?
- What are the three branches of the U.S. government?
Are There Exceptions for the U.S. Citizenship Exam?
Some people are eligible to request exceptions or accommodations if they fit certain criteria. People with certain disabilities may not be able to take the citizenship exam without help. If you submit a request for accommodations or an exception, USCIS can review your request and make a determination.
If you are 50 years of age or older and have been a permanent resident of the United States for at least 20 years before filing to become a United States citizen, you don’t have to take the English language portion of the test.
If you are 55 years of age or older and have been a permanent resident of the United States for at least 15 years before filing for citizenship, you also don’t have to take the English language portion of the test.
People who qualify for an exemption from the English language portion of the test still have to take the civics portion of the test. You are allowed to bring an interpreter for the test’s civics portion. The interpreter has to be fluent in both English and your native language.
Applicants 65 years of age or older who have been a permanent resident for 20 years or more will be given special consideration on the civics portion of the test to make it a little easier.
People who are unable to complete the citizenship exam due to physical, mental, or developmental disability can request a medical exemption with a special waiver.
People with learning disabilities, visual impairment, hearing impairment, or speech impairment may not be able to take the test as it currently exists. If you need accommodations, such as assistive devices or a sign language interpreter, you can request that USCIS provides you with the accommodations you need during your exam.
If a disability makes it impossible for you to speak aloud or read written words, you may be quizzed in an alternative way.
What Happens After the Citizenship Exam?
Your citizenship process can’t move forward until your exam results have been reviewed by USCIS. They will make a pass or fail determination and inform you of your outcome. If you pass the test, you’ll continue on to the next phase of the citizenship process. If you fail, you’ll have another opportunity to take the test. You won’t need to retake the entire exam. You’ll only need to revisit the areas of the exam where you didn’t pass. If you passed the speaking and reading portions of the English exam but had trouble with the writing portion, you only need to retake the writing portion.
If you need extra help, spend more time preparing before you retake the exam. Have a tutor, friend, or family member help you study or give you a mock quiz. After you retake the exam, the waiting process starts over again. USCIS will contact you with the results of your second try.
When Do You Get Your Results?
You will know if you passed or failed the examination on the day of the interview. After all the tests have been administrated, the USCIS officer will let you know if you have passed or not. However, passing the examination is not the only requirement to having your application for naturalization.
It can take USCIS up to 120 days after your interview to inform you about the decision on your application for naturalization. If you pass the exam, they will provide you with a date for your official citizenship ceremony. You and other new American citizens will take your Oath of Allegiance together.
When Do You Take the Oath of Allegiance?
You will take the Oath of Allegiance after you pass your citizenship exam. USCIS will give you an official date that you will share with other people. USCIS will hold one ceremony for multiple new citizens in a ceremony that’s similar to graduating from university.
Everyone recites the Oath of Allegiance and is presented with their citizenship certificate. At this point, you’re officially a naturalized citizen of the United States. You’re afforded all the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.
The US Citizenship exam makes many people nervous, but it may not be as difficult as you expect.
Many people successfully pass their citizenship exam on their first try. You don’t need to be perfect. You just need to answer most of the questions correctly. If you’re nervous, take as much time as you need to study the material before you file your paperwork to begin the citizenship process.
If you need legal assistance with the process of becoming a citizen of the United States, Cohen, Tucker & Ades can help. Our detail-oriented team of immigration attorneys has been working to help immigrants live the American dream for decades.
Contact us for a consultation if you need legal advice or have questions about your eligibility for US citizenship.