USCIS Reverts to Earlier Citizenship Test, Plus FAQs on Both Versions

USCIS announced that it would be setting aside the 2020 civics test in favor of the 2008 version test for naturalization beginning on March 1, 2021.

From USCIS: 

On Dec. 1, 2020, USCIS implemented a revised version of the civics test for naturalization (2020 civics test). Due to recent policy changes, some applicants required to take the 2020 civics test may now have a choice to take the 2020 test or the 2008 civics test. Please note that beginning on April 19, 2021, USCIS will only offer the 2008 civics test at the initial interview appointment regardless of filing date.

USCIS determined the 2020 civics test development process, content, testing procedures, and implementation schedule may inadvertently create potential barriers to the naturalization process. This action is consistent with the framework of the Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems, which directs a comprehensive review of the naturalization process to eliminate barriers and make the process more accessible to all eligible individuals.

The 2008 civics test was thoroughly developed over a multi-year period with the input of more than 150 organizations, which included English as a second language experts, educators, and historians, and was piloted before its implementation. USCIS aspires to make the process as accessible as possible as directed by President Biden’s request to review the process thoroughly.

The civics test is administered to applicants who apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization and is one of the statutory requirements for naturalizing. Applicants must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, principles, and form of government of the United States. The decision to naturalize demonstrates an investment in and commitment to this country. USCIS is committed to administering a test that is an instrument of civic learning and fosters civic integration as part of the test preparation process.

Applicants who filed their application for naturalization on or after Dec. 1, 2020, and before March 1, 2021, likely have been studying for the 2020 test; therefore, USCIS will give these applicants the option to take either the 2020 civics test or the 2008 civics test. There will be a transition period where both tests are being offered. The 2020 test will be phased out on April 19, 2021, for initial test takers. Applicants filing on or after March 1, 2021, will take the 2008 civics test.

To help determine if you are required to take the 2008 civics test, or if you can choose between the 2008 and 2020 civics test, follow these two steps:

1)    Check your filing date, also known as a “received date” on your N-400 notice at the top left corner (see sample notice to the right).
2)    Once you have your received date, go to the table below and find which scenario applies to you based on your filing and initial examination dates

Which civics test will I take?

Applications Filed on or After December 1, 2020 and Before March 1, 2021
Date of Initial Exam (Interview) Civics Test Version on Initial Exam, Re-exam, or N-336 Hearing
Before April 19, 2021 2020 Civics Test or 2008 Civics Test (applicant’s choice)
On or After April 19, 2021 2008 Civics Test

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I expect at my naturalization interview if I am taking the 2020 version of the civics test?

If you have the option and choose to take the 2020 version of the civics test, you will need to study 128 questions about American government and history. You must answer correctly 12 of the 20 questions (or 60%) to pass the 2020 civics test. All questions on the test are asked orally.

If you decide to take the 2008 civics test, you will need to study 100 questions about American government and history. You must answer correctly 6 of the 10 questions (or 60%) to pass the 2008 civics test. All questions on the test are asked orally. 

Has the English test changed?

No. The naturalization test has two components: an English and civics test. The English portion has not changed. Whether you are taking the 2008 or 2020 test, you must demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including the ability to read, write, and speak basic English.

  • Speaking: A USCIS officer will determine your ability to speak and understand English during your eligibility interview on Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
  • Reading: You must read out loud one out of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to read in English.
  • Writing: You must write one out of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to write in English.
What if I fail the naturalization test?

Applicants are given two opportunities to pass the naturalization test. If you fail any part of the naturalization test at your first interview, you will be retested only on the portion of the test that you failed, between 60 and 90 days from the date of your initial interview.

Note: Please refer to the information in the table above to learn more about which test you will take at your second appointment.

What if I qualify for the 65/20 Special Consideration?

Certain applicants, because of age and time as a lawful permanent resident, are exempt from the English requirements for naturalization and may take the civics test in the language of their choice. Further, the 65/20 applicants are given special consideration and only have to study 20 designated test questions. For more information about the 65/20 special consideration and other exceptions, see our Exceptions and Accommodations page.

If you qualify for the 65/20 special consideration, you will only need to study the civics questions that are marked with an asterisk found at the end of each question regardless of which version of the civics test you are taking. (Refer to the table above to determine if will need to take the 2008 civics test or be able to choose the 2008 and 2020 test.)

To pass the 2020 version of the civics test as someone who qualifies for the 65/20 special consideration, the USCIS officer will ask you to answer 10 out of the 20 civics test questions. You must answer at least 6 out of 10 correctly to pass the 2020 version of the civics test.

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