New Citizenship Test

A FEW weeks back we published the list of U.S. history and civics questions provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) as a study guide for those pursuing naturalization. The list consisted of 96 questions and answers on various historical topics and current events that applicants could expect to be asked during the naturalization interview.

This test is given orally by the USCIS examiner, who asks the citizenship candidate 10 questions taken from the list. The candidate must answer six of them correctly in order to pass. (There is also an English language and writing component to the exam that must be passed in order for citizenship to be conferred.)

Some time back the USCIS undertook a process to redesign the list of questions that a candidate must be prepared to know. This effort was undertaken, according to the agency, "in the interest of creating a more standardized, fair, and meaningful naturalization process . . . the revised test, with an emphasis on the fundamental concepts of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, will help encourage citizenship applicants to learn and identify with the basic values we all share as Americans.

"The major aim of the redesign process is to ensure that naturalization applicants have uniform, consistent testing experiences nationwide, and that the civics test can effectively assess whether applicants have a meaningful understanding of U.S. government and history."

The new list of questions becomes official on October 1 of this year. Those who file their naturalization paperwork before that date have the option of continuing to use the old 96 questions as a study guide, provided that their initial USCIS interview takes place prior to October 1 of 2009. Those filing after October 1 of this year will have to take the new exam.

What's the difference between the old and new lists? The new one is 100 questions, which is no big deal, but some of the questions are, shall we say, more comprehensive, so the naturalization applicant will have to study harder.

Several of the oldies are still on the list, such as who is the current president, what month do Americans vote for a president, and what is the name of the national anthem?

The new questions will definitely require extra thought - and, let's face it, that's not a bad thing, considering the prize on offer. In fact, many Americans would have difficulty coming up with the correct answers, or at least would have to put their thinking caps on.

One of the new questions asks the applicant to name one state that borders Canada - how many Americans can name them all? (The correct answers are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Alaska.)

Can you name one U.S. territory? (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.)

Name one American Indian tribe in the U.S.? (There are a bunch of acceptable answers, among them the Cherokee, Iroquois and Seminole.)

Before he was president, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in? (World War II).

Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states? (Provide schooling and education; provide protection (police); provide safety (fire departments); give a driver's license; approve zoning and land use.)

To check out the new citizenship test questions, visit http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/100q.pdf.

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