U.S. citizenship test adds more questions, draws criticism

PHOENIX — An updated U.S. citizenship test will require applicants to answer more questions than before and could slow down the number of tests held each day, experts said.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency on Friday announced the updated test now has 128 civics items to study and will require applicants answer 20 questions instead of 10. To pass, applicants must answer 12 correctly, or 60%. That’s the same pass rate as before.

The new test also removes geography questions and alters prior ones, such as requiring applicants to name three branches of government instead of one. It also changes the answer to a question on whom U.S. senators represent from “all people of the state” to “citizens in their state,” which has drawn criticism over its accuracy.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the D.C.-based, nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said that the changes to the naturalization test would possibly triple the amount each Citizenship and Immigration Services officer spends testing applicants.

Pierce said that under previous rules, applicants could potentially only answer six of 10 questions if they gave all the correct answers, but now applicants must respond to 20 questions even when they already got 60% of them correct.

“These changes reduce the efficiency of this already struggling agency,” Pierce said, referring to its citizenship application backlog. “The administration is adding hundreds of thousands of more minutes to these naturalization exams.”

Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Dan Hetlage said the new test “covers a variety of topics that provide the applicant with a more well-rounded testing experience.”

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