Ten cities across the United States are launching a experimental citizenship test designed to make immigrants think about the answers rather than answer through rote memorization. San Antonio and El Paso began the program on 15 February 2007; the other eight cities will begin their trial runs this month.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wants 6,000 people to take the test. Immigration officials mailed letters beforehand to people eligible for the trial exam that encouraged them to take it as a "unique chance to make a contribution to your new country." Others will continue to take the current test.
Volunteers are not penalized for failing the experimental test; applicants can simply move on to the normal test afterwards.
Volunteers will answer questions on U.S. history and government. Many of the questions are designed to be concept-oriented, as opposed to questions that can be answered through memorization of historical facts.
To pass the civics section of the trial test, volunteers must orally answer six of ten questions correctly. If they fail to pass, they are allowed to take the regular test afterward.
The other cities slated to launch the trial test are Albany, New York; Boston; Charleston, South Carolina; Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; Miami; Tucson, Arizona; and Yakima, Washington.
Once the experiment is finished, the government will trim the test down to 100 questions, with input from community groups and educators.
Maria Elena Garcia-Upson, spokeswoman for USCIS said, "I want to make sure that people understand this is certainly not to make the test more difficult. We will continue to accept immigrants literally from countries A to Z. We just want to make sure that when they're (reciting) the oath of allegiance, raising their right hand at the time of the ceremony, that they understand our process here in this country and what our forefathers stood for."
According to USCIS, revision of the test is expected to cost $6.5 million.
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