US Citizenship Test: your complete guide

Gabriela Peratello

If you’re on the journey to becoming an American citizen by naturalization, and have submitted your N-400 form, one of the next steps you’ll need to take is to attend a USCIS interview which will include the US citizenship test.

This guide runs through how to find the citizenship test questions you should prepare, and what happens after the USCIS citizenship test.

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What is the US citizenship test?

An important step in the process to naturalization as a US citizen is your naturalization interview¹. You’ll meet with a USCIS officer, and will need to talk through your application, your background and why you’re applying to become a US citizen. You’ll also need to show you understand your responsibilities as a US citizen, are willing to uphold the constitution, and will be prepared to take an oath of allegiance once your application is approved.

In most cases you’ll also take a naturalization test — commonly known as the USCIS citizenship test — which is broken down into 2 parts:

1. English proficiency test
2. Civics (history and government)

The English test is designed to show you can read, write and speak basic English, while the Civics test covers questions about American government and history.

Citizenship test exemptions

While most people applying to naturalize as a US citizen must take the citizenship tests, there are some exceptions²:

  • If you’re aged 50 at the time of applying for US citizenship, and have been living as a US permanent resident for at least 20 years, you may be exempted from the English language test (the 50/20 exception). The same rule may apply if you’re 55 when you submit your naturalization application, and you’ve been a Green Card holder for at least 15 years (the 55/15 exception). In both cases you still need to take the civics test — although it might be possible to do this in your mother tongue.

  • If you’re aged over 65 at the time of applying, and have been a US permanent resident for 20 years or more you may be exempt from the English test and have some accommodation within the Civics test. This usually means you have fewer potential questions to revise in advance, although you still need to take the test.

Further exemptions and accommodations are available on the grounds of disability. You’ll have to make an application to be eligible for these accommodations, and describe the reasons for requiring amendments to the process.

How to prepare for the citizenship test

We’ll dive deeper into how the citizenship test works in just a moment. First let’s start with some smart tips on how to prepare for your US citizenship interview and test.

USCIS US citizenship test: English test

  • Check the full USCIS vocabulary list, even if you’re confident in English — some of the words are not likely ones you use every day
  • Additional guides, tuition and support is available if you need it — use a Google search to find options that suit you
  • Practise regularly if you’re not advanced in speaking, reading, writing and listening
  • The USCIS officer will assess your speaking throughout the test. If you don’t understand a question ask them to rephrase, to ensure you answer accurately
  • To pass the reading element the USCIS officer will need to see you understand the meaning of the sentence as well as how to pronounce the words
  • The writing section requires you to write clearly and legibly so the officer can understand your spelling

USCIS US citizenship test: Civics test

  • Make sure you’re using the correct question list and the most up to date answers — more on this later
  • Questions and answers are all given orally in the civics test
  • Check if you can get a language exemption if you’re not confident in English
  • Answer using the words given on the USCIS answer sheet — or as close as possible — to have the greatest chance of success
  • Additional guides, tuition and support is available if you need it — use a Google search to find options that suit you

What happens if you fail the citizenship test?

After taking the citizenship test the presiding USCIS officer will decide to either approve, continue or deny your application for citizenship. If your application is continued this may mean the officer needs more information, or you’ve missed an important document from your paperwork. If this is the case you’ll be told how to proceed, which documents or information is lacking, and how to rectify the situation. You’ll usually have 30 days to provide the missing detail or document, to have your case properly assessed and approved.

But what happens if you miss the marks on either the English or civics portion of the US citizenship test?

If you don’t pass either portion of the US citizenship test, you are offered the opportunity to retake the test between 60 and 90 days after your first attempt. You may also be eligible to use the 2020 version of the civics test instead of the 2008 version — this is covered in a little more detail below. You’ll only have to retake the portion of the test you failed.

If you fail the test a second time your citizenship application will be denied.

It’s worth noting that there is also the possibility that your application will be denied on the first interview. This is not a common outcome, and usually means there is a bar to your application, such as a recorded crime which makes you ineligible to apply, or problems with your tax records. You can request an appeal if your application is denied, although it’s advisable to seek professional advice from an immigration lawyer if you’re going to do this¹.

US citizenship test: how it works

Let’s take a look in more detail at how the US citizenship test works.

USCIS US citizenship test: English test

To pass the English test you’ll need to be able to read, write and speak in basic English. The USCIS officer will determine your ability to speak English based on the answers you give in the interview overall — there is no separate speaking test.

To demonstrate you can read English you’ll need to correctly read at least 1 of 3 sentences given to you. You can find a full vocabulary list on the USCIS website³, along with a helpful preparation handbook⁴.

To pass the writing element, you’ll also need to be able to correctly write out one of 3 sentences given to you by the USCIS officer. Find the full writing vocabulary which you need to know in the USCIS website⁵ or in the preparation handbook.

USCIS US citizenship test: Civics test

The civics test is split into sections, covering:

  • Principles of American democracy
  • System of American government
  • Rights and responsibilities
American history
  • Colonial period and independence
  • 1800s
  • Recent American history and other important historical information
Integrated civics
  • Geography
  • Symbols
  • Holidays

USCIS has a range of study materials available online. You can find a list of the 100 civics (history and government) questions⁶ below. On the USCIS you can find study guides and details for people taking the 2008 or 2020 versions of the test. Check which version of the test you’re expected to take — at the time of writing the standard is to use the 2008 test⁷ for N-400 applicants at their first interview. The 2020 test version⁸ is made available for N-336 candidates or some people attending a re-hearing. This has come about after the Biden administration made changes to the system in place during President Trump’s tenure — further changes to the system are to be expected down the line.

On the day of your civics test you’ll be asked 10 of the possible 100 questions by the USCIS officer assessing your application. Within the study guides provided by USCIS there are model answers — and these will be the answers the USCIS officer needs to hear. Although for some questions there are several possible ways to respond, it’s important to use the answers given in the preparation resources for your best chance of success.

It’s also important to make sure that you’re using the most recent resources when you prepare. Some of the answers may change due to government policy changes or election outcomes.

To pass the test you’ll need to answer at least 6 of the 10 questions asked to the satisfaction of the presiding USCIS officer.

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Frequently asked questions about the US citizenship test

The US citizenship test is a big event — so it’s natural to have questions. There are many resources out there to help you, so drawing on these to prepare and maximize your chances of success is a smart move. We’ve rounded up some of the most common concerns and questions here to get you started.

How many questions are there in the US citizenship test?

The citizenship test is split into English proficiency and civics sections. In the English test you will need to be able to read at least one of 3 sentences given correctly — and accurately write at least one of 3 sentences provided by the USCIS officer. You’ll also need to demonstrate an ability to speak basic English during the test as a whole.

In the US citizenship civics test there are 100 possible questions. The USCIS officer will ask you 10 of them, and you must correctly answer at least 6 to pass.

What should you wear to your citizenship test?

There isn’t a dress code for your naturalization interview as such. You’ll want to strike a balance between being comfortable and professional — business casual is a good aim here. If wearing a suit makes you feel more confident, go for it — if not, choose something professional looking, and avoid denim, sneakers or anything which makes it look like you’re not taking the occasion seriously.

What percentage do you need to get in order to pass the citizenship test?

In the civics section you must get 6 of the 10 questions answered correct — that makes the pass score 60%.

Will the USCIS officer let you know if you passed the test?

The USCIS officer may be able to tell you immediately if you have passed the test. However, this doesn’t always happen, as sometimes they will decide to continue your case, to seek further evidence for example. In any case, you’ll be given Form N-652, Naturalization Interview Results, which will tell you your application was granted, continued or denied.

If you’re told you have passed the interview and test, you’ll still need to take your oath to formally become a US citizen.

US citizenship test: questions and answers


Below you can find the complete list of questions and correct answers for the US civics citizenship test.

Note: if you’ve been a legal permanent of the US for 20 or more years, or are 65 years old (or older), you can study just the questions marked by an asterisk (*).

American Government

Segment A: Principles of American Democracy
1. What is the supreme law of the land?
    the Constitution
2. What does the Constitution do?
  • sets up the government
  • defines the government
  • protects basic rights of Americans
3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
    We the People
4. What is an amendment?
  • a change (to the Constitution)
  • an addition (to the Constitution)
5. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
    the Bill of Rights
6. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?*
  • speech
  • religion
  • assembly
  • press
  • petition the government
7. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
    twenty-seven (27)
8. What did the Declaration of Independence do?
  • announced our independence (from Great Britain)
  • declared our independence (from Great Britain)
  • said that the United States is free (from Great Britain)
9. What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
  • life
  • liberty
  • pursuit of happiness
10. What is freedom of religion?
    You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion
11. What is the economic system in the United States?*
  • capitalist economy
  • market economy
12. What is the “rule of law”?
  • Everyone must follow the law
  • Leaders must obey the law
  • Government must obey the law
  • No one is above the law
Segment B: System of Government
13. Name one branch or part of the government.*
  • Congress
  • legislative
  • President
  • executive
  • the courts
  • judicial
14. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
  • checks and balances
  • separation of powers
15. Who is in charge of the executive branch?
    the President
16. Who makes federal laws?
  • Congress
  • Senate and House (of Representatives)
  • (US or national) legislature
17. What are the two parts of the US Congress?*
    the Senate and House (of Representatives)
18. How many US Senators are there?
    one hundred (100)
19. We elect a US Senator for how many years?
    six (6)
20. Who is one of your state’s US Senators now?*
    Answers will vary.
    Note: District of Columbia residents and residents of US territories should answer that DC (or the territory where the applicant lives) has no US Senators.
21. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
    four hundred thirty-five (435)
22. We elect a US Representative for how many years?
    two (2)
23. Name your US Representative.
    Answers will vary.
    Note: Residents of territories with nonvoting Delegates or Resident Commissioners may provide the name of that Delegate or Commissioner. Also acceptable is any statement that the territory has no (voting) Representatives in Congress.
24. Who does a US Senator represent?
    all people of the state
25. Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
  • (because of) the state’s population
  • (because) they have more people
  • (because) some states have more people
26. We elect a President for how many years?
    four (4)
27. In what month do we vote for President?*
28. What is the name of the President of the United States now?*
29. What is the name of the Vice President of the United States now?
30. If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
    the Vice President
31. If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
    the Speaker of the House
32. Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?
    the President
33. Who signs bills to become laws?
    the President
34. Who vetoes bills?
    the President
35. What does the President’s Cabinet do?
    advises the President
36. What are two Cabinet-level positions?
  • Secretary of Agriculture
  • Secretary of Commerce
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Secretary of Education
  • Secretary of Energy
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Secretary of the Interior
  • Secretary of Labor
  • Secretary of State
  • Secretary of Transportation
  • Secretary of the Treasury
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  • Attorney General
  • Vice President
37. What does the judicial branch do?
  • reviews laws
  • explains laws
  • resolves disputes (disagreements)
  • decides if a law goes against the Constitution
38. What is the highest court in the United States?
    the Supreme Court
39. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
40. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?
41. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?
  • to print money
  • to declare war
  • to create an army
  • to make treaties
42. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?
  • provide schooling and education
  • provide protection (police)
  • provide safety (fire departments)
  • give a driver’s license
  • approve zoning and land use
43. Who is the Governor of your state now?
    Answers will vary.
    Note: District of Columbia residents should answer that DC does not have a Governor.
44. What is the capital of your state?*
    Answers will vary.
    Note: District of Columbia residents should answer that DC is not a state and does not have a capital. Residents of US territories should name the capital of the territory.
45. What are the two major political parties in the United States?*
    Democratic and Republican
46. What is the political party of the President now?
47. What is the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives now?
Segment C: Rights and Responsibilities
48. There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.
  • Citizens eighteen (18) and older (can vote).
  • You don’t have to pay (a poll tax) to vote.
  • Any citizen can vote. (Women and men can vote.)
  • A male citizen of any race (can vote).
49. What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?*
  • serve on a jury
  • vote in a federal election
50. Name one right only for United States citizens.
  • vote in a federal election
  • run for federal office
51. What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of speech
  • freedom of assembly
  • freedom to petition the government
  • freedom of religion
  • the right to bear arms
52. What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?
  • the United States
  • the flag
53 What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?
  • give up loyalty to other countries
  • defend the Constitution and laws of the United States
  • obey the laws of the United States
  • serve in the US military (if needed)
  • serve (do important work for) the nation (if needed)
  • be loyal to the United States
54 How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?*
    eighteen (18) and older
55. What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?
  • vote
  • join a political party
  • help with a campaign
  • join a civic group
  • join a community group
  • give an elected official your opinion on an issue
  • call Senators and Representatives
  • publicly support or oppose an issue or policy
  • run for office
  • write to a newspaper
56. When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?*
    April 15
57. When must all men register for the Selective Service?
  • at age eighteen (18)
  • between eighteen (18) and twenty-six (26)

American History

Segment A: Colonial Period and Independence
58. What is one reason colonists came to America?
  • freedom
  • political liberty
  • religious freedom
  • economic opportunity
  • practice their religion
  • escape persecution
59. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
  • American Indians
  • Native Americans
60. What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?
  • Africans
  • people from Africa
61. Why did the colonists fight the British?
  • because of high taxes (taxation without representation)
  • because the British army stayed in their houses (boarding, quartering)
  • because they didn’t have self-government
62. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
    (Thomas) Jefferson
63. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
    July 4, 1776
64. here were 13 original states. Name three.
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
65. What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
  • The Constitution was written
  • The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution
66. When was the Constitution written?
67. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the US Constitution. Name one of the writers.
  • (James) Madison
  • (Alexander) Hamilton
  • (John) Jay
  • Publius
68. What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
  • US diplomat
  • oldest member of the Constitutional Convention
  • first Postmaster General of the United States
  • writer of “Poor Richard’s Almanac”
  • started the first free libraries
69. Who is the “Father of Our Country”?
    (George) Washington
70. Who was the first President?*
    (George) Washington
Segment B: 1800s
71. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
  • the Louisiana Territory
  • Louisiana
72. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s
  • War of 1812
  • Mexican-American War
  • Civil War
  • Spanish-American War
73. Name the US war between the North and the South.
  • the Civil War
  • the War between the States
74. Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
  • slavery
  • economic reasons
  • states’ rights
75. What was one important thing that Abraham Lincoln did?*
  • freed the slaves (Emancipation Proclamation)
  • saved (or preserved) the Union
  • led the United States during the Civil War
76. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
  • freed the slaves
  • freed slaves in the Confederacy
  • freed slaves in the Confederate states
  • freed slaves in most Southern states
77. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
  • fought for women’s rights
  • fought for civil rights
Segment C: Recent American History and Other Important Historical Information
78. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.*
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • Korean War
  • Vietnam War
  • (Persian) Gulf War
79. Who was President during World War I?
    (Woodrow) Wilson
80. Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
    (Franklin) Roosevelt
81. Who did the United States fight in World War II?
    Japan, Germany, and Italy
82. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
    World War II
83. During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?
84. What movement tried to end racial discrimination?
    civil rights (movement)
85. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?*
  • fought for civil rights
  • worked for equality for all Americans
86. What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?
    Terrorists attacked the United States
87. Name one American Indian tribe in the United States
  • Cherokee
  • Navajo
  • Sioux
  • Chippewa
  • Choctaw
  • Pueblo
  • Apache
  • Iroquois
  • Creek
  • Blackfeet
  • Seminole
  • Cheyenne
  • Arawak
  • Shawnee
  • Mohegan
  • Huron
  • Oneida
  • Lakota
  • Crow
  • Teton
  • Hopi
  • Inuit

Integrated Civics

Segment A: Geography
88. Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.
  • Missouri (River)
  • Mississippi (River)
89. What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?
    Pacific (Ocean)
90. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
    Atlantic (Ocean)
91. Name one US territory
  • Puerto Rico
  • US Virgin Islands
  • American Samoa
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Guam
92. Name one state that borders Canada.
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • Montana
  • Idaho
  • Washington
  • Alaska
93. Name one state that borders Mexico.
  • California
  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
94. What is the capital of the United States?*
    Washington, DC
95. Where is the Statue of Liberty?*
  • New York (Harbor)
  • Liberty Island
    Also acceptable are: New Jersey, near New York City, and on the Hudson (River).
Segment B: Symbols
96. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
  • because there were 13 original colonies
  • because the stripes represent the original colonies
97. Why does the flag have 50 stars?*
  • because there is one star for each state
  • because each star represents a state
  • because there are 50 states
98. What is the name of the national anthem?
    The Star-Spangled Banner
Segment C: Holidays
99. When do we celebrate Independence Day?*
    July 4
100. Name two national US holidays
  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

Becoming a US citizen can be a long journey — but if you’re preparing for the US citizenship test, you’re almost at the destination. It can be a daunting prospect — but there is a lot of support, information and guidance out there for you, from test preparation resources to advice on how to handle the day itself. Draw on all the help you can get — with this guide as a starting point — to make sure your interview and test are as smooth as possible. Good luck!


  1. USCIS - The naturalization interview and test
  2. USCIS - Exceptions and accommodations
  3. USCIS - Reading vocabulary
  4. USCIS - M-1122
  5. USCIS - Writing vocabulary
  6. USCIS - Questions and answers
  7. USCIS - Civics practice test
  8. USCIS - The 2020 version of the civics test

Sources checked on 08.26.2021

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