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Passing the English and civics tests

Most applicants will need to understand and answer questions in English and to read and write a short sentence in English. They also need to correctly answer six questions on a ten-question test about US civics and history.

Who does NOT have to read and write English

If you are over fifty-five years old and have had a green card for at least fifteen years or are over fifty and have had a green card for at least twenty years, you can be interviewed and answer the civics and history questions in your own language and you do not have to demonstrate your ability to read and write. In addition, applicants whose disability prevents them from being able to show their English proficiency can be exempted from either part of the testing or given a modified procedure based on their disability. Disability waivers are very hard to obtain and require an expert medical opinion. See our disability page for more information.

Citizenship civics and history test

Everyone except for a limited number of disabled applicants has to pass the civics and history test. As noted above, older applicants with long residence may take this exam in their own language.

You will be asked ten questions randomly selected from a standard list. You to answer at least six questions correctly to pass. Take some time to study the questions on the list you will be tested on. Fortunately, whether in English or in translation, diligent study over of few weeks should be enough for you to take the exam with confidence.

You can find the questions here. Applicants over sixty-five have their questions selected from a twenty-five question list. For the new test, the twenty-five questions are marked with asterisks (the star * sign) on the question list.

The reading and writing exercises

If you completed high school in the US or another English-speaking country, you probably have little to worry about in the reading and writing portions of the exam.

However, even if English is not your first language, and you are uncomfortable writing in English, the new testing system gives you a good chance of passing the test. The sentences that you will be asked to read and write write use words that relate to US history and civics, and USCIS has given you complete vocabulary lists to study from. If you take the time to recognize how these words sound and to learn how they are spelled, you should be able to pass the reading and writing exercises.

Vocabulary for the new writing test


• Adams
• Lincoln
• Washington


• American Indians
• capital
• citizens
• Civil War
• Congress
• Father of Our Country
• flag
• free
• freedom of speech
• President
• right
• Senators
• state/states
• White House


• Alaska
• California
• Canada
• Delaware
• Mexico
• New York City
• Washington
• Washington, D.C.
• United States


• February
• May
• June
• July
• September
• October
• November


• Presidents’ Day
• Memorial Day
• Flag Day
• Independence Day
• Labor Day
• Columbus Day
• Thanksgiving


• can
• come
• elect
• have/has
• is/was/be
• lives/lived
• meets
• pay
• vote
• want

OTHER WORDS (what USCIS calls function words)

• and
• during
• for
• here
• in
• of
• on
• the
• to
• we

OTHER WORDS (what USCIS calls content words)

• blue
• dollar bill
• fifty/50
• first
• largest
• most
• north
• one
• one hundred/100
• people
• red
• second
• south
• taxes
• white

Samples sentences to read or write

These samples are similar in difficulty to those used by USCIS

Presidents’ Day is in February.
Congress meets in Washington, D.C.
Alaska is the largest state.
George Washington is the Father of Our Country.
Independence Day is in July.
The White House is in Washington, D.C.

Second chance

If you do not meet the English or civics requirements on your first try, you get one additional chance at no charge. Your second interview should take place within two to three months.


Comment from HADI SAQI
Time: January 2, 2009, 1:05 pm

You have given a comprehensive write-up. I will pass the test as highlighted by you. I am 74 years old. My sons and daughters they work and take care of me and my wife. I have not worked in the United States in the last 14 years of my stay. As I have not earned anything in USA I have not paid Income Tax. My son and daughter are Tax Payers. My question to you:


Yours sincerely


Comment from cywp1Michael
Time: January 2, 2009, 5:00 pm

Being supported by your children should not be a problem in applying for citizenship. Even accepting public assistance (like SSI) should not be a problem as long as you have honestly reported that you are a permanent resident.

Good luck with your application.

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