A change in the offing for the US citizenship test, double up on your English language skills


The updated test includes a speaking section to evaluate English skills

Our Bureau

St Paul, MN

With the US citizenship test getting updated, some immigrants, prospective citizens, and advocates worry that the changes will put people with lower levels of English proficiency at a disadvantage. It assumes importance from the standpoint that the naturalization test is one of the final and crucial steps toward citizenship, months-long process that needs legal permanent residency for years before applying.

In December, US authorities informed that the test was due for a revision after 15 years, with the new version expected late this year. Currently, an officer evaluates the applicant’s speaking ability during the naturalization interview by probing personal questions which the applicant has previously answered in the naturalization paperwork.

This radical change as proposed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, adds a speaking section to assess English language skills. The Immigration officer would show images or photos of ordinary scenarios depicting daily activities, weather, or food, and ask the applicant to describe the photos verbally.

It is likely to make the test a little harder for people with lower levels of English language and speaking skills, in general. For many aspirants of US citizenship, it is difficult to learn English as an adult after moving to the US, in particular the pronunciation. The new speaking section could likely result in increasing the applicants’ stress during the test.

One more proposed change would make the civics section on US history and government multiple-choice in place of the current oral short-answer format.

As per US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the proposed changes “reflect current best practices in test design” and would help standardize the citizenship test.

This brings back the memories of former Republican President Donald Trump administration’s test changes in 2020, making the test longer and harder to pass. As soon as Democratic President Joe Biden took office, he ordered to eliminate barriers to citizenship. With that spirit, the citizenship test was changed back to its previous version, last updated in 2008.

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