There are three parts to the English-language version of the naturalization examination. The first part is a set of civics questions. There are 100 civics questions in total, and the officer randomly chooses 10 of them in order to test you. These questions can be found online at USCIS.gov so you can study them. They have both the question and the answer in English, and they also have an audio version that you can download. I believe there is now a downloadable application for your phone as well. I recommend listening to an audio version if you can, because words can sometimes sound different when spoken aloud than what you might expect from reading them. Out of 100 possible questions they will ask you 10. All you have to do is answer six of the 10 correctly. That’s like getting a 60 percent on an examination and still passing, so as you can see they try to make it as easy as possible for people to be able to obtain citizenship.
The second portion of the test would be efficiently and effectively writing in English. They would say a sentence and you would have to first read that sentence to show that you can read English and then they would give you the answer verbally and you would have to write out the answer to the question. For instance, the question might be, “in what month do we celebrate Independence Day?” and you would have to write out the answer as a full sentence, “we celebrate Independence Day in July.” The great thing is that USCIS also provides a list of words that they will use for reading and writing so you can go in and begin to practice how to read and write those words. They’re not going to have you read or write something random; they will use words from that list.
Sometimes on the naturalization application there are words that are not used very widely. For example, instead of saying “a gun” they may say “arms,” or they may use words that don’t occur often in conversation such as “torture,” “genocide,” or “trafficking.” These words can be difficult for a non-native English speaker to pick up in a conversation when they’re not used to hearing those words in English. For this reason, it is very important that you begin the process of understanding these specific questions on the application. The number one reason that people fail to show conversational English is not the test itself; it’s the questions and answers on the application.
Many times an officer will ask a question and if you answer “yes” but you seem unsure about your answer, the officer will follow that question up with a another question about the specific information in the original question. For instance, the officer may ask if you have ever gotten married in order to obtain an immigration benefit. Some people will not understand parts of that question. If they say yes but they seem hesitant about their “yes” then the officer generally will follow up and say, “what’s an immigration benefit?” You would then have to explain in English what those words mean to you, and to a sufficient level that the officer considers your conversational English to be acceptable. There are many pitfalls but the examination is not generally where people get stuck.
How Long Does It Generally Take To Go Through The Naturalization Process?
This question really depends on where you live, which determines your USCIS district. If you come to Albuquerque for your naturalization application, that process is currently taking four to five months from application to interview to oath ceremony. The process is happening relatively quickly at the moment, but there have been times where people were waiting almost a year between application and interview. So it really depends on your USCIS district and how efficient they are on getting these applications through the system.
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