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United States announces revised citizenship test

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United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the 100 questions and answers that make up the "civics component" of the new naturalization test. USCIS will begin administering the new test to citizenship applicants in October 2008 -- giving them one year to study.

According to USCIS, the revised naturalization test will emphasize "fundamental concepts of American democracy, basic U.S. history, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship."

During a four-month period in early 2007, more than 6,000 citizenship applicants volunteered to take a trial version of the new test at 10 USCIS sites across the country. 100 questions were chosen after USCIS, a panel of history and government scholars and English language teachers conducted a review of the responses to the 142 questions.

"We are very proud of this new test and the open manner that we worked with our stakeholders throughout this entire process," said USCIS Director Emilio Gonzalez.

"Together, we developed a test that will encourage citizenship applicants to learn and identify with the basic civic values that unite us as Americans," he added.

Other top immigrant destination countries have been pushing their citizenship tests -- such as Australia and the United Kingdom -- in an effort to emphasize integration through education to those seeking naturalization.

In the case of the UK, the test recently became a requirement for those seeking permanent residence. The new Australian citizenship test was recently passed by the Australian Parliament.

Following the trial run of the test, USCIS refined the questions and answers, dropping several and adjusting others to increase clarity, resulting in the 100 questions that made the cut.

"The range of acceptable answers to questions will increase so that applicants may learn more about a topic and select from a wider range of responses," USCIS said in a press release.

An example question given was "What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?" The applicant may respond with a variety of answers -- such as speech, religion, assembly, and press.

USCIS conducted the pilot during real citizenship interviews. Volunteers who participated in the trial test achieved a 92.4 percent overall pass rate on the first try. The pass rates by test component were civics (93.7 percent), reading (99.8 percent) and writing (99 percent).

Following the pilot, a secondary review by USCIS and a group affiliated with English language teachers concentrated on making sure the questions were clear to those with beginning English language skills.