US Citizenship Test: FAQs
One of the requirements of applying to naturalize as a US citizen is passing the US citizenship test.
The test is used to assess applicants’ knowledge and understanding of English and civics, specifically:
- The English language, including an ability to read, write and speak English.
- The fundamentals of the history, the principles, and the form of government of the United States.
Who needs to take the US Citizenship Test?
If you have submitted an application for naturalization, unless you qualify for an exemption or waiver, you will need to take a US Citizenship Test.
Certain applicants, due to age and time as a permanent resident, are exempt from the English requirements for naturalization and may take the civics test in the language of their choice.
An applicant may qualify for an exception from the English requirement, civics requirement, or both requirements. The following exemptions apply:
- If you are age 50 or older and have resided in the US as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years at time of filing you will be exempt from the English language requirement, but will still need to take the civics test. You may, however, take this test in your language of choice using an interpreter.
- If you are aged 55 or older and have resided in the US as a lawful permanent resident for at least 15 years at time of filing, you will again be exempt from the English language requirement, but required to take the civics test.
- If you are aged 65 or older and have resided in the US as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years at time of filing, you will be exempt from the English language requirement, but you will be given special consideration in respect of the civics test. Here, you will still be required to take the civics test but you will be given a specially designated test form and, as above, will be able to take this test in the language of your choice.
- If you have a medical disability exception, using Form N-648, you may be exempt from the English language requirement, the civics requirement, or even both.
Under the final exemption, the English and civics requirements do not apply to naturalization applicants who are unable to comply due to a ‘medically determinable’ physical or developmental disability or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months.
Illiteracy is not a valid reason to seek an exception to the English and civics requirements. In addition, advanced age, in and of itself, is not a medically determinable physical or developmental disability or mental impairment.
A licensed medical professional must complete the form and certify, under penalty of perjury, that the applicant’s medical condition prevents the applicant from meeting the English requirement, the civics requirement, or both.
When and where do I take the US Citizenship Test?
The US Citizenship Test forms part of your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The test will therefore take place during the course of your interview with a USCIS officer.
What is the format of the US Citizenship Test?
The US Citizenship Test comprises two elements:
- English language proficiency, which is determined by the applicant’s ability to read, write, speak and understand English, and
- Knowledge of US history and government, which is determined by a civics test.
Your ability to speak and understand English will be determined by your interviewing officer during your eligibility interview for naturalization. This will be based on your ability to respond to questions normally asked in the context of the interview, for example, relating to eligibility or questions provided in the naturalization application.
For your reading test, you will be required to read aloud one out of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to read in English, whilst for your writing test you must write one out of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to write in English.
The civics test covers important US history and government topics, comprising of 100 questions in total, although you will only be asked 10 of these questions during your naturalization interview.
What is required to pass the US Citizenship Test?
As a naturalization applicant, where you do not qualify for a waiver of the English language requirement, you must only demonstrate an ability to read, write, speak and understand words in ordinary usage.
Ordinary usage means comprehensible communication through simple vocabulary and grammar, although this can include noticeable errors in pronouncing, constructing, spelling and understanding completely certain words, phrases and sentences.
You can ask for any words to be repeated or rephrased, and you can still meet the English language requirement even if you make some errors in pronunciation, spelling and grammar, or do not understand every word or phrase that you are questioned about.
In relation to the civics test, out of the ten questions that you will be asked orally during interview you must answer correctly six to pass. For an applicant aged 65 or over who has lived in the United States for a period totalling at least 20 years as a lawful permanent resident, they will only be asked questions from a specially designated test form.
The USCIS officer should also give what’s known as ‘due consideration’ on a case-by-case basis in choosing subject matters, phrasing questions and evaluating responses to questions asked during the civics test. This should be based, for example, on age, background and level of education.
Can you re-sit the US Citizenship Test?
You will be given two opportunities to pass the English and civics tests per naturalization application: the initial examination and the re-examination interview.
If you fail any portion of the test during your first interview, you will be retested on the portion of the test that you failed between 60 and 90 days from the date of your initial interview. On re-examination, you will only be retested on those areas that you previously failed.
What happens if I fail the US Citizenship Test?
In the event that you fail to pass any portion of the US Citizenship Test after two attempt, USCIS will deny the naturalization application based upon your failure to meet the educational requirements for citizenship. The officer must also address any other areas of ineligibility in the denial notice.
Unless excused, any failure to appear at the re-examination for testing, or to take the tests at an examination or hearing, counts as a failed attempt to pass the test.
How to prepare for the US Citizenship Test?
The Reading Test Vocabulary List on the USCIS website will help you study for the English reading portion of the naturalization test. The content focuses on civics and history topics. Similarly, there is a Writing Test Vocabulary List.
There are also other study tools to help you prepare, and you can buy USCIS products and publications online.
What happens when I pass the US Citizenship Test?
In the event that you pass the US Citizenship test but before becoming a US citizen, as an eligible naturalization applicant you must take an oath of allegiance in a public ceremony, reciting this orally in front of those present.
During the naturalization interview, you will be asked to sign the naturalization application to acknowledge your willingness and ability to take the Oath of Allegiance and to accept certain obligations of United States citizenship.
Under certain circumstances, however, an applicant may qualify for a modification or waiver of the oath, for example, because of religious beliefs the applicant is opposed to bearing arms in the armed forces.
In such cases, an officer draws a line through the designated modified portions of the oath and the applicant is not required to recite the deleted portions.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.