Q1. What is exactly happening with the Citizenship test?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is revising the naturalization test to create a test and testing process that is standardized, fair and meaningful. A standardized and fair naturalization test will include uniform testing protocols and procedures nationwide to ensure that there is no variation between offices. A meaningful test will encourage civic learning and patriotism among prospective citizens. A revised test, with an emphasis on the fundamental concepts of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, will help to encourage citizenship applicants to learn and identify with the basic values that we all share as Americans.
Q2. How will the naturalization test change?
English Reading 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. The difference is that USCIS will provide applicants with study materials for the proposed test, to include 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 naturalization interview.
Q3. How are the new questions an improvement over the old questions?
Fairness: By weighing the questions on the new civics and U.S. history test we will ensure that all test forms are at the same cognitive and language level. By creating test forms at the same level of difficulty, we are ensuring that an applicant who goes for an interview in one city of the country has the same chance of passing the test as in any other city. The English vocabulary on the new test is also fairer because it is targeted at a language level consistent with the Department of Education reporting standards for the level required by Section 312 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. District Adjudication Officers are being trained to administer and score the naturalization tests in the same way nationwide to ensure uniform administration of the test.
Meaningful: Applicants will receive a study guide on the new civics and U.S. history questions so they can deepen their knowledge and understanding of our Nation as they prepare for the exam. The new items will focus less on redundant and trivial questions based on rote memorization and will focus on concepts, such as the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Some items on the current test fit those needs and required little content change, so several items from the current test will appear on the revised test. The range of acceptable answers to each question will also increase so that applicants can learn more about a topic and select from a wider range of acceptable answers. And finally, the reading and writing test will provide a tool for civic learning because the vocabulary list is civics-based.
Q4: Will the interview process change in any other way?
No, the interview process will not change.
Q5. What is the pilot program?
As part of the test redesign, USCIS will conduct a pilot program in ten cities beginning in January 2007 to ensure the agency has all the information necessary before the new test is fully implemented nationwide in 2008. During this pilot, USCIS will carefully analyze the new test questions to make certain that the questions are fair and work as they were intended. USCIS will also collect information about testing procedures, to include feedback from DAOs, to help refine the testing procedures and facilitate the smooth transition to the new naturalization exam.
Q6. Where will these pilot test sites be?
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: Albany, NY, Boston, MA; Charleston, S.C.; Denver; El Paso, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Miami; San Antonio, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.; and Yakima, Wash.
Q7. What is the purpose of the pilot?
A pilot is a crucial component of any test design process. A pilot ensures that the draft test items, scoring rubrics, and administration processes are appropriate, not too difficult, and elicit the responses we expect.
Q8. Do Citizenship applicants have to participate in the pilot test at these chosen sites?
No. Applicants will have the choice to decline participation in the pilot test. For those who decline, they will be given the current test.
USCIS will continue to meet with local immigrant service providers, advocates, and ESL teachers in pilot sites to gain their support so that they can encourage immigrants to participate in their government and make this a successful pilot.