Can You Pass the Test?

A new citizenship test is being rolled out:

In October 2008 a new version of the U.S. citizenship test will be taken by all applicants. Could you pass it? The questions are usually selected from a list of 100 samples that prospective citizens can look at ahead of the interview. Some are easy, some are not. We have picked some of the more difficult ones.

NOTES: Candidates are not given multiple choices in the naturalization interview. The following questions have been adapted from the immigration service’s sample questions.

Given the concerns about the process of becoming a US citizen, this 4th of July might be a great opportunity to see if those of us who are citizens could pass the sample test.

No references allowed!



I missed the question about Maine not being one of the original states. I apologize to anyone who came from Delaware (my wrong answer).

I didn't miss any, but I imagine I've taken an American history class more recently than most folks (it was the required class I needed to finish my undergrad).  What I don't understand is why is our citizenship test is oriented around recalling historical facts rather than knowing about rights and responsibilities.


I'm sure that you've taken an American history class a lot more recently than I have so I'm pleased that you did better. I agree that this test would have been better if it focused on rights and responsibilities. Another wasted opportunity by our federal bureaucrats but I'm not certain that the objectives here were what we would put forward if we were given this task. I would really be interested in the results should this test be given to a group of recent high school graduates (and not necessarily from Orange County).

What a rookie mistake!

One man with courage makes a majority.

- Andrew Jackson

Look at the website for a more expanded explanation and some of the "rights and responsibilities" required knowledge.

"In the interest of creating a more standardized, fair, and meaningful naturalization process, the USCIS recently completed a multi-year redesign of the U.S. citizenship exam. The revised naturalization exam, 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."

George, across the nation, we do very poorly with high school and college student pass rates on the factual part. When I taught the Intro to American Politics course, each year I gave a version of the test the first day of class and the results usually averaged 60%. Most students were not taught these things.  One of my favorites was the old "trick" question, "how many members does the House of Representatives have?" The answer is 440.  Note that in the new version, they ask how many voting members there are.

So Fred, would it be fair game to revoke the citizenship of those high school graduates that can't pass the exam? It just seems to me that citizenship is much more than answering a bunch of questions that can be learned by rote. And my greatest fear is that we, as a nation, are about to cast out millions of hard working people who, by most standards, would be labeled "good citizens". I think we need to define "citizen" before we start giving citizenship exams.
Actually, there was a court case challenging the test that applicants had to take and that citizens by birth couldn't pass.  You can guess how that turned out!  Those who take the test do the prep courses and the pass rates are pretty high.
Fred, that's my point - anyone who studies enough can pass the exam. But being a good citizen means contributing to the society you live in. And I'm sure there are card-carrying American citizens who contribute little, if anything, to our society's general welfare while there are "wantabe" citizens who work their butts off, day in and day out, helping to keep this country fed, helping to keep our exports up, helping to take care of our children, etc.. When are we going to start recognizing what people do, not where they came from? I'm certainly glad that my ancestors didn't have it as tough as today's immigrants or I'd be over Sicily picking grapes or olives or collecting protection monies.

The test is only one of the requirements, and like most testing mechanisms, there are flaws.  When you look at the specifics, there are provisions that get to what you are saying.  Take a look at for the specifics about good moral character and attachment to the Constitution. Also note that some can get an exemption from the knowledge test.



Whew, I get to stay!
This is one of those times I sit back and think how lucky I was to be born a US citizen and schooled in the basics of Government 101.  Much of my thinking got clouded by the Gettysburg Address.  Written hastily on the back of an envelope only four-score and twenty years ago. 

I'll bet US Citizens would score very  poorly on a basic financial and economic literacy exam, which  has more practical impact on their  day to day well being   than the number of  amendments there are to the US Contstitution. 

(I missed one  on the MSNBC test). 

I get to stay.

Thanks, Fred, for a great 4th of July post.

Well, only missed one: number of amendments to constitution. One of my undergraduate majors was political science.....the other was history.....of course that was in the 14th century (when I was an undergrad). Taught American History for 6 years at the high school level.  Embarrassing. But, I'm confident that somewhere in my life there were 23 amendments.

Roscoe, the 27th Amendment took the longest to ratify and it deals with a topic of recent local interest!

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Proposed 9/25/1789
Ratified 5/7/1992 (the link show the date of ratification of all of the amendments by each state and the time it took)

The number of amendments, the opening phrase of the Constitution, these are elements of cultural literacy to which I assign more weight than ordinary trivia.  Remember the howls of indignation when competency testing was first introduced in the schools?  The simple math required to balance a checkbook suddenly kept seniors from graduating.  Sticking it out for twelve years no longer guaranteed a high school diploma!  End-of-grade (EOG) testing ought to include a very basic Government section in my opinion -- very basic.   The three branches, our system of checks and balances.  (The current Bush administation could use a refresher course, neh?) 

"The three branches, our system of checks and balances. (The current Bush administation could use a refresher course, neh?)"

And some legislators and jurists as well. You don't arrive at the imbalance we now seem to have without the other two branches sitting idly by.

the bozos in the State Leg & kick out the ones that don't pass. While we're at it, the immigrant-bashing sheriff of Alamance County should have to take it too.

We could certainly all stand to pay more attention to the documents that founded our country.

So here's to those who "mutually pledge[d] to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor" "that all men are created equal" and that "it is their right, it is their duty . . . to provide new guards for their future security" because their leader had "refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good . . .  obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither . . . obstructed the administration of justice . . . affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power . . . Protecting [large bodies of armed troops] by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit . . . depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury . . . transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses . . . taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments . . . [and] transporting large armies of . . . mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages" [The Pennsylvania Packet issue of 7/8/1776.] 

To wit: 

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple

Matthew Thornton

John Hancock

Samuel Adams

John Adams

Robert Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry

Stephen Hopkins

William Ellery

Roger Sherman

Samuel Huntington

William Williams

Oliver Wolcott

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris

Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Francis Hopkinson

John Hart

Abraham Clark

Robert Morris

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross

Caesar Rodney

George Read

Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll

George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton

Their actions and words were not always as inclusive as the concepts that they tapped into, but they might as easily have been speaking of a more recent man by the name of George.  Some here have questioned our local governments "for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people" but those people will get no apology from me.


. . . here's to the next 232 years of bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice . . .


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.