Last week, USCIS released a new citizenship civics test. ProLiteracy has examined the test changes in order to evaluate possible implications for our network of students studying for and seeking U.S. citizenship. Those who apply for naturalization after December 1, 2020 will be required to take the new test.
A summary of changes to the test:
- The total number of study questions has increased from 100 to 128.
- The number of questions asked on the test has increased from 10 to 20 (with 60% still required to be answered correctly).
- 40 of the current test questions are the same while the remaining 88 are new or re-phrased.
USCIS is providing an opportunity for the public to submit comments about the test changes through December 14, 2020. ProLiteracy has submitted comments, and we encourage service providers to comment as well. ProLiteracy’s goal is to ensure that ALL of those who apply for naturalization have a fair opportunity to study for and successfully pass the citizenship civics test. ProLiteracy’s comments are centered around the following principles:
- Some of the re-phrasing of existing questions requires a higher level of English comprehension, thereby making it harder for low level English language learners to respond correctly.
- The increase in the number of study questions and the number of questions asked in the test takes more time and puts increased demands on students, which makes students’ path to citizenship even more difficult.
- Little justification has been given by USCIS on the reasons for changes to the test. Our understanding is that the new test was piloted with a relatively small number of applicants, whereas in the past, new tests were developed over a period of six years with input from experts and a four-month long pilot with over 6,000 volunteers.
- Lengthening the test and making it conceivably more difficult will lead to an even longer backlog at USCIS—adding to an already-historic backlog of applications for naturalization.
- Changes to the test, in addition to the 2020 increased fee for application, make the challenge of attaining citizenship insurmountable for many students.
USCIS has created a web page with detailed information about the test changes and instructions for submitting comments. We encourage you to reference ProLiteracy’s submitted comments and analysis by other national experts in developing your own comments. Our efforts aim to prevent the new citizenship test changes from prohibiting low-level English speakers from pursuing their dream of becoming U.S. citizens.
In addition, New Readers Press, which offers citizenship prep materials, has developed some guidance to help instructors.