The Citizenship Test: What You Need to Know to Pass

18 October 2021

Many green card holders dream of becoming U.S. citizens, but fear of the citizenship test keeps them from taking action. If you are one of the millions of green card holders eligible for U.S. citizenship, don’t let the citizenship test stand in your way. With commitment to studying and practice communicating in English, you can pass the test.

The citizenship test may not be as hard as you think, and there are many resources to help you study. Did you know that 91% of applicants pass the citizenship test on their first try? We want you to be among them, so we prepared this guide to the citizenship test.

Here, we give an overview of what to expect on the citizenship test and how to study for the exam.

What Is the Citizenship Test?

If you are applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must take the U.S. citizenship test during your naturalization interview at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. It tests your knowledge of U.S. history and government as well as your ability to speak, read and write English.

Demonstrate English Proficiency

First, the citizenship test evaluates your ability to communicate in English. This portion of the test contains three parts:

  • During your interview, the USCIS officer will evaluate your English speaking and listening skills as you answer questions about your application.
  • You will be given three sentences printed in English and you must correctly read aloud one of the sentences.
  • You must also correctly write one of the three sentences in English.

If you don’t understand a question, ask the officer to repeat or rephrase it. Showing that you understand English is an important step to passing the citizenship test.

How to Practice English Proficiency

Study for the citizenship test by practicing reading, writing, listening and speaking in English. Ask a native English speaker to help you practice conversational English.

Your local library, community college or community center may offer citizenship classes. There are also many online resources to help you study. USCIS publishes several study guides, all available online, including reading vocabulary and writing vocabulary lists and cards that you can print.

Answer Civics Questions

The second part of the citizenship test is the civics test. At your interview, the USCIS officer will ask you 10 oral questions in English about U.S. history, government and civics. The 10 questions come from a list of 100 questions, so if you study all 100 questions, you won’t have any surprises on your exam day.

You need to answer six questions correctly to pass the test. If you answer six questions correctly before all 10 questions are asked, you will not need to answer the rest of the questions.

You may have heard that the citizenship test was changed in 2020, and applicants had to study 128 possible questions instead of 100 and correctly answer 20 questions instead of 10 questions to pass the test. However, those changes have been reversed, and as of April 19, 2021, everyone now takes the older 10-question version of the test.

What to Study: Sample Test Questions

You can find a list of the 100 questions you should study on the USCIS website. USCIS provides printable civics flashcards as a helpful tool. You should memorize the answers to these questions. Knowing the answers to all 100 of these questions will give you confidence that you can pass the test.

Here are a few of the questions from that list that could appear on your citizenship test:

  • What does the Constitution do?
  • What is an amendment?
  • Name your U.S. Representative.
  • What are two Cabinet-level positions?
  • What are the two major political parties in the United States?
  • What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?
  • Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

Test Exemptions and Accommodations

The citizenship test is usually in English, unless you are allowed to take it in your native language for one of these reasons:

  • You were 50 or older when you filed the naturalization application (Form N-400) and have lived in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for 20 years or more; or
  • You were 55 or older when you filed Form N-400 and have lived in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for 15 years or more.

Note: You may count the total time you lived in the U.S., so you may be able to take the test in your native language even if you were not continuously living in the U.S. for 15 or 20 years. If you are exempt, you are allowed to take the civics test in your native language, but you must come to your citizenship test with an interpreter who is fluent in both English and your native language.

If you are 65 or older and have lived in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for 20 years, you can take a simpler version of the civics test. You will only need to study 20 possible questions, which are marked on the full list of 100 questions.

If you have a disability, such as being blind or deaf, you may ask for accommodations when you fill out your naturalization application. If you cannot travel because you are disabled, USCIS may let you take the citizenship test at your location.

What happens if you fail?

You have two chances to pass the citizenship test. If you fail any portion of the test, you will get an appointment to take another test 60 to 90 days later. You should expect different civics questions on your second test, but they will still come from the same 100 questions. Your second test will only cover the parts of the exam that you failed on your first try.

Sign Your Citizenship Application

After you pass your test, you will have one more step to complete your interview. You will sign your naturalization application to affirm that everything on the application is true. Be prepared to explain any differences between your naturalization application and your supporting documents.

You will also sign the section saying that you are willing to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. When you take this oath at your naturalization ceremony, you must renounce citizenship to other nations and make other promises.

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