February 2021 UPDATE: USCIS announced that this new version of the test will NOT be used.  Please be sure to study the 2008 version of the exam!

USCIS recently announced changes to the Naturalization Exam. They aren’t changing the language requirements, but for anyone filing on or after December 1, 2020, they’ll have to take an updated version of the civics/history test. What changes are coming?

  1. The study guide will be 128 questions instead of 100
  2. Applicants will be asked 20 questions instead of 10
  3. Applicants must get at least 12 questions correct (the passage rate of 60% does not change)
  4. The interviewing officer will ask all 20 questions instead of stopping once enough questions have been answered correctly

Some of the new questions and answers feel wrong or incomplete. For example,

Q. How long do Supreme Court justices serve?
A. For life or until retirement

But the next question is:

Q. Supreme Court justices serve for life. Why?

The acceptable answers are 1) To be independent of politics and 2) to limit outside political power. This question completely ignores the possible answer above about justices being able to retire. As we saw a few years ago, Justice Anthony Kennedy retired and it freed a seat for President Trump to fill.  Some may say that this was a politically influenced decision.

The test also asks Why did the United States enter the Korean War and Why did the United States enter the Vietnam War. The only acceptable answer to those two questions is Communism. This simple answer to a very complex question is far from complete and memorizing such a basic answer feels like a disservice to the applicant.

On a lighter note, one of my favorite new questions is Alexander Hamilton is famous for many things. Name one. Unfortunately, having an outstanding musical about him is not one of the right answers. USCIS would accept first Secretary of the Treasury, one of the writers of the Federalist Papers, helped establish the first bank of the United States, aide to George Washington, or member of the Continental Congress. 

There’s not a lot of time to file before the deadline, but if you’re worried about learning more questions, know that you have a little over a week to get your application in before you’ll be subject to the new test.