In this blog post, we provide you with the latest details regarding upcoming changes to the N-400 Application for Naturalization in the new year. USCIS recently announced that it is planning to conduct trial testing of a newly redesigned naturalization examination that seeks to update the civics component of the N-400 examination, and potentially introduce a new English-speaking element to the examination. Trial testing is expected to begin in January 2023 and last for a period of 5 months.
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Did you know? During your naturalization interview, you will be asked to undergo a naturalization examination which is made up of two components, an English, and civics test. During the English examination, you must demonstrate an understanding of the English language and the ability to read, write, and speak basic English. During the civics test, you will be asked to answer questions about American government and history.
As you might be aware, this year the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revealed that it received the highest number of naturalization applications since fiscal year 2008. According to statistics, approximately 1,047,000 permanent residents became U.S. Citizens in 2022, with naturalization applications rebounding to pre-pandemic levels.
What are the proposed changes to the N-400 Application for Naturalization?
Starting in January 2023, USCIS will conduct trial testing to introduce a new standardized English-speaking test as part of the requirement to demonstrate an understanding of the English language.
Additionally, the trial testing will include an updated civics examination with new content and a new multiple-choice format. The reading and writing portions of the English examination will remain unchanged.
USCIS will conduct the trial testing with volunteer community-based organizations (CBOs) that work with immigrant English language learners and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) preparing for naturalization.
Trial English Speaking Test
Trial testing of the English-speaking portion will ask participants to look at and describe three color photographs randomly selected from a bank of approximately 70 images that depict everyday life, such as daily activities, the weather, or food. The bank of images will be developed by selecting photographs that clearly depict a scenario.
After the trial, the image bank will be refined to a bank of approximately 40 images for final implementation. Applicants will be scored on the ability to respond in English using vocabulary and simple phrases that are relevant to the image.
Trial Civics Test
During the trial, participants will answer ten multiple-choice civics questions and select the best answer from the four choices presented. USCIS decided to trial test multiple choice test questions to be consistent with the industry standard and best practice and increase standardization of test questions.
Much of the trial civics content will be familiar to adult citizenship students and will be similar to the current civics test content. The trial test will also contain new test items based on a design framework that includes an external review by subject matter experts in the field of test development. Applicants will read civics test items that will be displayed on a tablet and choose the best answer from the potential answers displayed.
USCIS is planning to discontinue the verbal read-out of questions during the examination process, in favor of the multiple-choice format.
Why are these trial tests being made?
The trial testing is being done to better ensure that the English-speaking part of the English Language requirements is standardized and sufficiently tests the applicant’s ability to understand words in ordinary usage in the English language.
It will also provide an opportunity for immigration officers to assess the applicant’s understanding of English through the questions or prompts given instead of using the interview questions and Form N-400 as is currently being done.
USCIS is not conducting a trial on the current English reading and writing tests because these tests are already standardized and USCIS believes they sufficiently test the ability to read and write words in ordinary usage in the English language, respectively.
Once internal and external subject matter experts collect, evaluate, and consider all the information from the trial testing over the next 5 months, USCIS will finalize a redesigned test and notify the public through a Federal Register Notice.
As always, we will be monitoring these new developments closely and report on the final changes right here on our blog.
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