Could You Pass The Citizenship Test?

February 2011

By Tom Fehn

The U.S. citizenship test is a step immigrants must take when they apply to become a certified U.S. citizen. For years, the test has been compiled from a list of standard questions on topics that most people are expected to learn in elementary school. Whether many U.S. citizens by birth and certain political candidates could pass the test is a legitimate question.

A recent survey was done to see if the students and faculty of Mercy College, who may take for granted being a part of the United States, would be able to answer correctly some of the same questions that immigrants who take the citizenship test have to answer. A similar ten question exam was set up with 100 different students, faculty, and alumni of Mercy College to find out who could pass the citizenship test.

Out of the 100 participants, only half were able to pass the exam, compared to the 92 percent of the 7,000 people who take the test yearly to become citizens of this country.

The actual U.S. Citizenship test begins with a random 10 question quiz out of a possible 100. The participants of the exam have to get at least six questions correct, as well as answer an oral interview, in which the participants must show their basic knowledge of the English language.

Out of the ten questions that were asked for this survey, over half of the questions were answered incorrectly by over 60 percent of the Mercy participants.

“I haven’t been asked these questions in a while. It’s funny when you haven’t thought of these topics for school. Oh, how you forget,” says Mercy College grad student Marisa Bisaccia. “I’m honestly a little ashamed not getting all of them right.”

Bisaccia, who scored a five out of 10, wasn’t alone when it came to not being aware of certain topics. For example, 75 percent of the people who took the exam weren’t aware that Woodrow Wilson was the president during World War I.

The one question that seemed to stump most was that they weren’t aware that the Supreme Court has nine members, one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. Only 15 percent answered it correctly.

“To be honest, I really wasn’t aware of the ones I answered wrong,” said Mercy College senior Steve Hagan. “I was told I passed the test, but I’m a little embarrassed to get any of these questions wrong.”

Out of the ten questions that were asked for this survey, three of them were known by over 90 percent of the participants. Majority of the people were able to name one of our three different branches of government: judicial, legislative and executive. Also, 95 percent of the survey takers were aware that the Bill of Rights is first ten amendments in the Constitution.

The last question was answered correctly by every test taker. “Out of the original 13 colonies, name three.”

For legal immigrants who take the U.S. citizenship test, the effort is definitely worth it. As U.S. citizens, they can get all the things Americans are entitled to, such as Social Security, tax breaks, job benefits, scholarships, a U.S. passport, and the right to vote. Plus, if they have children 18 and younger, they become citizens without having to take the U.S. citizenship test.