In the civics section, you will be tested orally. The USCIS has designed 100 questions for this purpose and the USCIS officer will ask ten questions from those. If you are good enough to answer at least six out of ten questions correctly, you will be considered to have passed the civics section of the citizenship test.
Coming to the English section, your speaking, reading and writing ability will be judged at the interview. Three sentences will be given and you should be able to read one sentence correctly establishing your ability to understand the meaning of the sentence. Then, the officer will dictate three sentences and you should be able to write one sentence correctly. Your speaking ability, in fact will be judged by the way you respond to the questions. All these three aspects will be taken into consideration before arriving to a final decision on the citizenship test.
Elderly persons will have quite a difficult time proving their ability in knowing English or prove their knowledge of the US government. Some applicants are exempted from the test considering their old age and also how long they have been permanent residents (green card holders). There are some applicants with medically determinable physical or mental impairment. Even such persons are exempted from taking the test.
Applicants above 50 years of age who have been green card holders for at least 20 years AND applicants above 55 years of age who have been green card holders for at least 15 years need not take the English test. They, however have to still take the Civics test but can take it in a language of their own choice.
Applicants above 65 years of age who have been green card holders for at least 20 years need not take the English test. Though they still have to take the Civics test and can take it in a language of their choice, this test comparatively will be an easier version and they will be asked about 10 questions from a list of 25.
If you are requesting a waiver of the English proficiency requirement, you have to bring an interpreter. Most of the question/answers in the citizenship test remain unchanged except for a few (the names of officials holding government positions). If you are requesting a waiver based on your health condition have to file Form N-648 requesting an exception. If your case is rejected because you did not pass the English or Civics test, you can re apply as soon as you think you have enough knowledge in English or Civics to pass the tests.