USCIS announced this week the release of a new naturalization exam it
claims is “standardized,
fair and meaningful.”
Q. How will the naturalization test change?
and Writing. The reading and writing portion of the proposed new English test
is similar to the existing test. Applicants will still have up to three
chances to read and write a sentence correctly in English. Now, however,
USCIS will provide applicants with study materials for the proposed test
including a civics-based vocabulary list, and the list of sentences will
focus on civics and history topics, rather than a list of sentences that
cover a range of topics.
Civics. The proposed format for the new civics test will still consist of
100 civics questions and answers. USCIS
will place these questions and answers, along with a study guide on the
Internet and elsewhere in the public domain to help applicants prepare.
Applicants must still answer six out of 10 questions correctly during
the naturalization interview.
English Speaking Test. The English speaking portion
of the test will still include the questions normally asked in the
Q. What are the new civics questions and English vocabulary list
A. USCIS will make the vocabulary list available shortly before the
Q. How were the questions developed?
A. English Items. A panel
of English as a Second Language (ESL) and other test development experts
chosen by the association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other
Languages (TESOL) developed the English items. The TESOL panel
established an English language level for the test consistent with
Department of Education reporting levels for adult basic education.
The TESOL panel also assisted in drafting and
reviewing civics questions using a content framework identified by the
Office of Citizenship from a review of government authorized civics and
citizenship texts, the U.S. Department of Education's National Standards
for Civics and Government, the current naturalization test, and the
study guide developed by a panel of experts assembled by USCIS in 2004.
[The press reported this week that one of the questions on the exam –
what is the longest river in the
– was mistakenly answered as being the
. It is the
. The USCIS has not yet made this correction nor is it clear that they
have informed examiners about the error].
Q. Why does USCIS believe the new questions are an improvement over
the old questions?
A. According to the USCIS, by weighing the questions on the new
history test USCIS will ensure that all test forms are at the same
cognitive and language level.
Q. How will the interview process change for applicants?
A. The interview process will not change.
Q. What will USCIS pilot?
A. USCIS plans to pilot 144
history and government questions and approximately 35 reading and 35
writing items. The topic areas include principals of American democracy,
system of government, rule of law, rights and responsibilities, American
History, and geography. About half (57 questions) include rephrased
versions of questions on the current exam. Pilot participants will
receive advance copies of the history and government items for
self-study. USCIS will also make public a list of the vocabulary words
that comprise the reading and writing test, but not the actual test
Q. How were the questions selected?
A. The TESOL panel assisted USCIS in drafting and reviewing civics
questions using best practices and conventional sample techniques, such
as regression analysis, currently used in private industry.
Q. Where are the test sites?
A. The pilot program will run in 10 cities that were randomly
selected based on geographic region and citizenship application volume.
The ten pilot sites are:
Q. How were the 10 pilot cities selected?
A. USCIS randomly selected a representative sample of 10 districts
by geographic region and the volume of applications that were processed
in each office to conduct the pilot.
Q. How will USCIS conduct the pilot?
A. USCIS must administer about 5,000 tests to achieve a
representative and significant study.
could begin in early 2007. USCIS currently is training the test
administrators on the new exam process.
will mail a notification to all applicants scheduled for an interview at
the pilot sites during the pilot period informing them that they have
the opportunity to participate in the national pilot program.
will receive a letter explaining the pilot and study questions.
who take the pilot but fail one or more parts will have the opportunity
to take the current test or part of the current test immediately during
the interview, thus giving them an additional opportunity to pass the
of the questions on the pilot test and the current test cover the same
subjects, so additional preparation is expected to be minimal.
pilot results have been analyzed, piloted items will be revised
Q. Must applicants participate in the pilot?
A. No. Applicants will have the choice to decline participation in
the pilot test. For those who decline, they will be given the current