Naturalization Applicants are required to establish that they can read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language. In addition, they are also required to prove that they have enough knowledge and understanding of basic US history and government,also known as Civics. The USCIS decided to alter the naturalization test with two basic objectives in mind. While the first was to have a uniform and consistent process for all applicants taking the test, the second intention was to have an effective civics test that will have a clear impact on judging an applicant’s knowledge of US history and government.
The main idea behind introducing the new test is to stress the importance of the founding principles of US democracy along with rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. The new test is also aimed at encouraging civic learning and attachment to the US nation. The new test was brought into use on October 1, 2008. Applicants who had filed the citizenship form prior to October 1, 2008 had the opportunity to either take the old test or the new test. From October 1, 2009, the new test was made mandatory for all naturalization applicants.
Between October 1, 2008 and June 30, 2011, nearly 1,570,000 new naturalization tests were held throughout the country. Applicants who took both the tests (English and civics) fared well with the overall national pass rate being declared as 92 percent (as of June 2011). Per the numbers gathered from October 1, 2008, applicants’ performance remains consistent when compared to that of the old test. According to the data released by the USCIS’ internal case management systems, the pass rate of 92 percent is more or less similar to the old test, which was 91 percent, per 2008 statistics.
Moving forward, the USCIS has decided to periodically furnish information about the national pass rate of applicants taking the new naturalization test. The numbers given earlier were gathered from the internal case management systems that are used to monitor naturalization applications. Figures are collected to provide a general assessment of how applicants fare in the new test.
All the figures arrived at are determined only on an applicant’s initial test. It is based on applicants taking the new citizenship test between October 1, 2008 and June 30, 2011. The results of the test for every individual are manually entered into the case management system. As it is entered manually, there are chances for some errors to occur. USCIS is taking every single effort to avoid/cut down on any errors that occur during entering the data manually. However, small errors are unavoidable and the irony is that those errors will certainly have an impact on the national pass rate that is released.
Applicants failing the test will be given two opportunities to take the English and Civics tests again. If they fail in any of the tests at the interview, they will be tested again on the portion of the test they failed (English or Civics) and it will generally be between 60 and 90 days from the date of the initial interview.