Is the new naturalization (cititzenship) exam easier than the old one?

On October 1, 2008, applicants for naturalization (citizenship) will have the option of taking the current English and civics tests or the new one, now called the “redesigned test.”  USCIS has posted a chart on their website indicating when people will be required to switch to the new exam.  Essentially, if an applicant filed before October 1, 2008, he or she has the option of taking the new test or the current one.  Any applicant who files after October 1, 2008, must take the new exam.  The chart is reproduced here:


Date Form N-400 Filed* Date of Initial Exam Test to be Taken If Applicant Fails Initial Exam, Re-test to be Taken
Before October 1, 2008 Before October 1, 2008 Current Test Current Test
Before October 1, 2008 On or After October 1, 2008 up until October 1, 2009 Applicant’s Choice of -Current Test or -Redesigned (New) Test The same version of the test as the one taken during the initial examination
On or After October 1, 2008 On or After October 1, 2008 Redesigned (New) Test Redesigned (New) Test
At Any Time (i.e. Before, On or After October 1, 2008) On or After October 1, 2009 Redesigned (New) Test Redesigned (New) Test



Is the new test harder or easier than the current one?  I do not think there is much of a difference.  USCIS gives applicants the English vocabulary used on the reading and writing exam so applicants may study it ahead of time.  Applicants will have to memorize the words if they do not already know them. 


The questions for the civics portion of the exam include some new questions but many of the old questions are there.  You may find the questions here:


It is still a memorization test for those who are not already familiar with U.S. history and civics.  An applicant must study all 100 questions and will be asked 10 of them.  He or she will need to get six questions correct in order to pass.  Thus, the scoring procedure remains unchanged from the current exam.  The sample questions and answers are different in that now several possible correct answers are presented to a question.  Applicants need only know one of the answers in order to get the question correct.  Some of the questions are refreshing to see.  For instance, there is now a question about women on the exam:


Q:        What did Susan B. Anthony do? 

A:         fought for women’s rights; fought for civil rights.



There is also now a more detailed question about Native Americans:


Q:        Name one American tribe in the United States

A:        [USCIS Officers will be supplied with a list of federally recognized American Indian tribes.]
























The test is certainly more balanced that it was before.  The intention of the exam is for people to learn American history and civics and I believe the test accomplished that goal.  For those people who wish to or can only do rote memorization, they will be able to do it and still pass the exam.


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