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December 01, 2006

The new exam for gaining citizenship.

Questions and Answers for New Pilot Naturalization Exam

On November 30, 2006, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Emilio Gonzalez announced the release of 144 questions and answers for the pilot test of a new naturalization exam. USCIS will administer the pilot exam to about 5,000 volunteer citizenship applicants in 10 cities beginning in early 2007.

USCIS included new questions that focus on the concepts of democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. In designing the new exam, USCIS received assistance and worked with test development contractors, U.S. history and government scholars, and English as a Second Language experts. USCIS also sought input from a variety of stakeholders, including immigrant advocacy groups, citizenship instructors and District Adjudications Officers.

The pilot will allow USCIS to work out any problems and refine the exam before it is fully implemented nationwide in the spring of 2008.

During the trial period, volunteer applicants who choose to take the pilot exam can immediately take the current exam if they incorrectly answer a pilot question. To pass, applicants will have to correctly answer six of 10 selected questions. The 10 pilot test sites are: Albany, NY; Boston, MA; Charleston, SC; Denver, CO; El Paso, TX; Kansas City, MO; Miami, FL; San Antonio, TX; Tucson, AZ; and Yakima, WA.

You can read the questions - and answers - here.

When I saw this yesterday, I wondered how long before someone griped that it's too hard.

Heh. Not long.

The WaPo:

The Bush administration yesterday unveiled dozens of new questions that may be added to the nation's naturalization test, and immigration advocates are concerned that the changes could make it more difficult for millions of legal immigrants to become U.S. citizens.

Fred Tsao, quoted in the article says:

Watchdog groups such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights say they are examining the process to make sure the immigration agency is not placing a heavier burden on people who use legal channels to enter the country.

"We ourselves are going to be trying this out in our citizenship classes," said Fred Tsao, policy director for the Illinois group. Teachers will be encouraged "to see which of these questions make sense, which are too hard and which of them are off the wall."

Note, prospective citizens will have to get 6 of 10 questions, selected from the 144, in order to pass. They have to get a "D".

Mind you, some of the questions do seem to be a little arbitrary in terms of their applicability to the process, such as "Which mountain is the highest mountain in the United States?" Interesting, but, important? I have to admit, depending on how the 10 questions are selected, you could find yourself foundering on geography, but it *is* a test you can study for.

I wonder, if we administered it to every graduating High School senior, how many would pass? Which begs the question about how people value their birthright, vice something they obtain through effort.

Regardless of what you think of the test - it's still an easier path to citizenship than this one... military service.

My score on the test? As a result of my socio-economic status, I scored 99.3%. I missed question 66. It's been a looooooooong time since I worried, in any personal sense, about the answer to that question. I'm betting my son will get that one right, as I would have at his age.

Comments on The new exam for gaining citizenship.
Eric Wilner briefed on December 1, 2006 08:41 AM

Hmmm. I wonder what score the average Congresscritter would get. Many of those are based on the Constitution as written, not on the way the government operates today.

Masked Menace© briefed on December 1, 2006 09:09 AM

Heh, Just take a look at question 78.

Last answer.

Of course, stupid redneck me having not been educated in Pelosi's California I didn't realize those are the things that have my hands at the end.

Only the goverment has the right to own weapons.

BloodSpite briefed on December 1, 2006 10:07 AM

I still say that Military Service is a better path to legal immigration.

We already help educate many to obtain their GED, and while it would be an expense to teach English, it would be useful and a win win situation all around.

SangerM briefed on December 1, 2006 10:17 AM

I do not like most of the new questions, though they are a bit better than some I remember of the previous test. These are heavily biased in favor of people who know more about the United States than most native borns, even after 12 years of school. I could not have told you how many voting members of the House there are, or how many amendments to the constitution there are (without looking it up). I think a couple million American 12th grad-ers should have to take this, then we'd see if it's a valid test for new voters.

As for Q. 78. Name two rights of everyone living in the U.S.
A: Freedom of expression
A: Freedom of speech
A: Freedom of assembly
A: Freedom to petition the government
A: Freedom of worship
A: The right to bear arms

MM is right, they forgot the part about "keeping" arms, but there are more problems with that one. In fact, its interesting to see that the people who wrote the test don't understand how to use the English language precisely. The answer to q. 78 should only have two "Freedoms of," freedom of speech and freedom of the press. There is no freedom or even a right of "expression," nor a freedom of "worship," nor a freedom to petition the government, nor a freedom of assembly.

There are in Amendment One only 2 "freedoms" (speech & the press ) and 2 "rights" (a right of people peaceably to assemble & a right to petition the Government for a redress of griev-ances). The text pertaining to religion states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Nowhere does it say anything about a freedom of expression.

I know the free exercise of religion can be considered freedom of worship, but the differences are subtle and important. Essentially, we have become a country that somehow construed what the constitution says to mean freedom from other people's religion at all times, eve-rywhere, if we are offended by the practice of religion. Nowhere in our Constitution does it say that people have freedom _from_ other people's religions, or that people have a right to not be offended (see the freedom of speech part). And it does not guarantee the right to have no religion at all or of atheists to not be offended. It just says the FEDERAL gov-ernment cannot make laws respecting establishment of religion (we cannot have an offi-cial national religion, we cannot be told what to practice, or where, or when, or when not to, etc. by the Federal government) or preventing others from practicing their relgions. It says nothing about what states can do, and given that it doesn't, then the last two of the first 10 amendments apply:

Amendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

I know that's a bit of tangent, but lack of precision in interpretation of the constitution is something that has caused us (and is causing us) a great many problems.


Trias briefed on December 1, 2006 11:51 AM

One would have hoped the official answers are correct.

I don't see it as hard at all. 6/10 with answers pre-available. Looking at them I would have probably passed if i did it off the cuff. The driving licence is much harder here than those questions.

Masked Menace© briefed on December 1, 2006 04:38 PM

Well Sanger, while I think you are technically correct that you have a "right" to assemble, not a "freedom" to assemble, it's probably too fine a distinction to count as wrong for non-legal environments (ie. lawyers should know better).

While technically the pitcher must be touching the pitching rubber at release of the ball, watch any film and you'll see that nobody ever is. Any umpire that ever calls it a balk (technically correct) will never work again.

Excepting the "Keep and" portion for the last answer (again, close enough to count for this) I think the exam has it exactly right. The right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. Notice also that the "right to hunt" isn't listed either.

It's that the idea that the right is only a collective right is pervasive among many democrats. The collective having the right being the National Guard (ie. the government). Why would you need to give the government (a military arm of the government no less) a "right" to own weapons when it already has the power to raise armies. What exactly did they think they were supposed to fight with? Poetry? :-)

SangerM briefed on December 1, 2006 07:56 PM

Ok, so I'm a stickler, am I, too lawyerly, eh? And you all are so smart?!? Ok, how about this question, which some of you probably think you got right:

113. Name one war fought in the United States in the 1900s.

A: World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, or Gulf (or Persian Gulf) War

ALL! WRONG! Not one of the listed wars was fought IN the United States in the 1900s! Neither Hawaii nor Alaska were states until 1959. The U.S. might have been attacked along some coastline in WWII, but the war was not fought here. The U.S. fought IN all of those wars.

You know, I was a linguist by trade once. Little things like prepositions make a BIG difference when you're translating and to a non-native speaker that can sound like a trick question. And don't even get me into idioms, which American has tons of (and now watch someone try to tell me three things wrong with my last sentence. Two of the three are not, the 3rd is iffy.)

And here's another for all you native speakers, but consider how this can be answered by a person who is translating (or even by an intelligent youngster, or by a smart-aleck like me):

54. What is one thing only a state government can do?
A: Provide schooling and education
(Private schools exist all over the place, and the Federal government runs all kinds of schools and universities, so this one isn't true)
A: Provide protection (police)
(Private protection and police companies exist all over the world, and SPs & MPs patrol near military bases, so this one isn't true.)
A: Provide safety (fire departments)
(I can provide for my own safety if I want to, thank you very much, and doesn't the Army AND FEMA do such things, like during federal emergencies? Wrong again.)
A: Give a driver’s license
(yeah, how about a CDL, which is issued by the state, but is required by the Feds to Fed standards!)
A: Approve zoning and land use
(Didn't the Supreme Court just decide something along these lines, hmmmm?, and who owns the federal lands and parks? The States? Wrong AGAIN!!!)

And WHAT kind of English is this?!
42. Who signs bills to become laws?

Let's see, do I sign a bill to become a law? Nooooo, I can't become a law, but I can sign a bill to make it a law...

See, I understand about fuzzy logic and all, and I appreciate that we need to give test takers the benefit of the doubt. I don't have a problem with the questions (even the really dumb one about the tallest mountain--who really cares?), but I do have a problem with people writing tests who haven't test writing skills or skill with the language, ESPECIALLY when the test is supposed to be taken in by people whose native language is NOT American.

And just for the record, American is distinct from English the way Mexican is Distinct from Spanish. See "The American Language" by H.L. Mencken if you doubt it. If you really care, I can suggest some other books that'll lern ya' stuff too...


Murray briefed on December 1, 2006 11:36 PM

"Which mountain is the highest mountain in the United States?"

I have no frikken idea but I can vertical step a 113 twice the height the book says it can with a full load and pick up a moving target with 30 year old M16 at 300 meters.

Who would you rather have behind the sticks, me or the book weenie?

J.M. Heinrichs briefed on December 2, 2006 01:42 PM

Mount McKinley, now generally known as Denali.

And I drove a Lynx ...


Masked Menace briefed on December 4, 2006 04:18 PM

Ending a sentence in a preposition?