September 29, 2008
Contact: Michelle Mittelstadt
Report Details Redesign Process, Examines Whether the
Government Met Its Goals
WASHINGTON – More than a decade in the making, the redesigned
citizenship test that becomes mandatory for all applicants effective
Oct. 1, 2008, has two main goals: Provide a more meaningful opportunity
for would-be Americans to demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history
and civics, and allow greater standardization in test administration.
A new MPI Backgrounder, High
Stakes, More Meaning: An Overview of the Process of Redesigning
the U.S. Citizenship Test, details the process
to redesign the test (which had not substantively changed
since 1986) and offers some policy recommendations. The report
also examines whether the federal government met its goals
with the redesign.
The most significant change to the test is the new civics portion.
As before, applicants must correctly answer six out of 10 questions
drawn from a master list of 100 civics questions. However, the
100 questions have undergone a significant overhaul with new
questions emphasizing core concepts of American democracy and
new items about geography, Native Americans, and women.
It remains unclear whether U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services was able to fully reconcile its desire to ask questions
about complex U.S. civics concepts with the requirement that
applicants need only speak, read and write English at the “ordinary
A full assessment cannot be made until the data are released
on the actual performance of limited English proficient applicants
taking the old and the revised citizenship test, the Backgrounder
The report is available online at: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/BR6_NatzTest_092908.pdf
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan,
non-profit think tank dedicated to analysis of the movement of
people worldwide. Founded in 2001, MPI provides analysis, development
and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local,
national and international levels. It aims to meet the rising demand
for pragmatic and thoughtful responses to the challenges and opportunities
that large-scale migration, whether voluntary or forced, presents
to communities and institutions in an increasingly integrated world.