Applicant Performance on the Naturalization Test
Section 312 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires that naturalization applicants must demonstrate an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language, and have a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government (civics). To meet the requirements of Section 312 of the INA, applicants must pass a naturalization test to become naturalized citizens. The naturalization test consists of two components – an English and a civics component.
As part of a multi-year redesign, the naturalization test was modified to achieve two basic objectives:
- A uniform and consistent testing experience for all applicants
- A civics test that can effectively assess an applicant’s knowledge of U.S. history and government
The new test’s content emphasizes the founding principles of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship while also serving as an important instrument to encourage civic learning and attachment to the country.
On October 1, 2008, USCIS began administering the new naturalization test. Up until October 1, 2009, applicants who had filed for naturalization before October 1, 2008, had a choice of taking the old test or the new test. On October 1, 2009, following a one-year transition, the new test became mandatory for all naturalization applicants. The pass rate above represents the cumulative pass rate of applicants who took the new test since it was fully implemented on October 1, 2009, through August 31, 2015.
From October 1, 2009, through August 31, 2015 more than 4,495,000 naturalization tests were administered nationwide. For those applicants taking both the English and civics tests, the overall national pass rate as of August 2015 is 91 percent.
Background on the Data
USCIS plans to provide information on a monthly basis on the overall national pass rate of applicants who were administered the naturalization test. The data reflected above were taken from internal case management systems used to track naturalization applications and have been gathered to provide a general snapshot of how applicants are performing on the naturalization test.
The overall national pass rate is determined based solely on an applicant’s first test within the current naturalization application. The data represent applicants taking the new naturalization test from October 1, 2009 through August 31, 2015. Please note that test results for each applicant are manually entered into the case management system and some errors may occur during manual entry. Although every effort has been undertaken to eliminate any errors made during manual data entry, errors may exist that would impact the publicized national pass rate.
As a final step in the test redesign process, USCIS conducted a series of records studies to evaluate applicant performance on the test. These studies identified an overall pass rate of 95.8 percent for the new test during fiscal year 2010, the first full year when the new test was administered.
A Records Study Comparison Report analyzed pass rate data for the old and new tests as well as pass rate data from a previous records study (from fiscal years 2003 and 2004). This report captured, analyzed and compared applicant performance by demographic characteristics in three categories: gender, age and region of nationality. The studies show that applicant performance on the new test improved compared to the old test. Based on the results of the fiscal year 2010 records study, applicant performance is generally consistent with the pass rate reflected in USCIS’s ongoing analysis of internal case management data.