Applicants for naturalization are required to pass an exam on English and their knowledge of American government and history. Although this exam may seem daunting to applicants, the USCIS reports a 95% pass rate.
The English literacy exam has both an oral and written component. According to the USCIS, applicants are expected to conform to the following standards to pass, “You must read one sentence out of three sentences correctly in English, and you must write one sentence out of three sentences correctly in English.” The standard is not overly strict.
The USCIS officers will allow pronunciation errors and word omissions that do not greatly alter the meaning of the sentence in the oral exam. Minor punctuations, capitalization errors, missing words, and spelling errors do not result in failure. Failure does occur, however, when the errors or omissions change the meaning of the sentence.
The history and civics exam is administered to applicants as well. The objective of the exam is to test the applicant’s knowledge of the benefits associated with citizenship of the United States. It focuses on the establishment of the American system of government and the purpose of the Constitution. Examples of the questions that are asked by the USCIS pertain to presidents of the United States, the Constitution, and crucial events in American history.
The applicant may be tested on events that occurred from the Revolutionary period to the present. This portion seems very daunting on the surface; however the USCIS provides ample materials for applicants to prepare. The USCIS website provides practice questions and sample tests in multiple languages. It is certainly in the applicant’s best interest to prepare for this exam. While most of the questions are fairly easy; some are somewhat more difficult to answer.
Applicants who are unable to pass the exam on the first try are allowed a second attempt to pass it within 90 days after the first attempt. The applicant may request for an extension for good cause.
Not every applicant is required to take the exam, however. Persons physically unable to take the exam due to permanent disability that makes it impossible to learn to speak, read, write or understand the English language are not required to take the English exam. Such disabilities may be due to deafness or blindness. As a rule advanced age or general incapacity to learn are not grounds for exemption. Applicants require an attestation and an N-648 from a licensed medical doctor attached to N-400 application in support of the disability.
It is also important to note that applicants older than 50 years at the date of application that have been permanent residents for more than 20 years and those above 55 years and have resided in the United States as permanent residents may take the exam in their native language.
The USCIS naturalization exam is undoubtedly daunting, but there are materials available to the applicant. Proactive applicants should make their best efforts and use the material provided by the USCIS to become more familiar with English and the knowledge of American government and history required to obtain their citizenship.