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The Trump Administration Just Made The US Citizenship Test Harder To Pass

A Colombian immigrant studies ahead of her citizenship exam at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Queens office on May 30, 2013 in the Long Island City neighborhood in NYC. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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As of Tuesday, Dec. 1, the test for U.S. citizenship will include more potential questions -- questions that will be a little more abstract, making them harder to answer.

Applicants will now be given a list of 128 potential questions in advance (before there were only 100). When they sit down for the test, a USCIS officer will ask them 20 questions from that list (they used to only ask 10). The whole process is verbal -- no multiple choice, no writing down your answers. You need to get 12 answers correct to pass.

Here's an example. The old test had this question:

The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?

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The answer to the above question is very straightforward. There's only one correct response: "We the People."

Now the question has been changed to this:

The U.S. Constitution starts with the words "We the People." What does "We the People" mean?

See the difference? Now we have a more open-ended question that could be answered in a variety of ways. It's basically an essay question in disguise. You could do a dissertation on this top.

Test-takers will have to give one of these answers to get it right: Self-government, Popular sovereignty, Consent of the governed, or People should govern themselves (Example of) social contract.

If the person taking the test answers slightly differently, it's up the USCIS officer to decide whether or not their answer meets the criteria for correctness.

Which version of the question do you think is easier?

Rosalind Gold, Chief Public Policy Officer for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, an L.A.-based non-profit that works on immigration and naturalization issues, says her organization is concerend that the new questions will make passing the test more difficult, especially for non-native English speakers:

"One of our deep concerns about the new questions and answers is that many of the [them] are abstract or use complicated English language, which will make it difficult for applicants to prepare. And it will increase the possibility that applicants could be denied citizenship because they don't answer correctly."


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