Each year, more than 700,000 immigrants become American citizens, according to the U.S. government.
And you could be one!
But what exactly does it take to become a U.S. citizen?
An article published on the Visa Lawyer Blog claims that one primary reason people are denied U.S. citizenship is because they fail their English test.
That is right—in order to become a U.S. citizen, you must first pass a government-administered English test.
It would be awful to miss out on citizenship because of a simple English test. Luckily for you, there are many free online resources to help prepare you for the U.S. citizenship English test.
If you use these resources, you can feel prepared to pass that test and become an American citizen!
What Is the U.S. Citizenship English Test?
The U.S. citizenship English test is an exam that prospective (planning/expecting) citizens must pass if they want to officially become Americans.
The English test is divided into three parts: reading, writing and speaking. There is another test as well, called the “civics test,” which covers American history and government. In order to pass both the English and civics tests, you will need excellent English skills.
These tests are given during the naturalization interview, the final part of your citizenship application process. There will be an “interviewer,” someone who asks you about your application and background and then gives you the English and civics tests.
For the English speaking portion of the test, the interviewer will ask you both general questions (such as, “How are you?”) and citizenship questions (such as, “Have you ever applied for U.S. citizenship in the past?”).
The interviewer will start assessing your speaking abilities as soon as you meet. It is necessary to answer the questions correctly and speak good English for the duration of the interview if you want to pass the speaking part of the exam.
The writing and reading tests are more straightforward (clearly defined). You will be given sentences to read aloud, and the interviewer will also dictate sentences that you must write down correctly. For both parts, you simply need to read and write at least one out of three sentences correctly.
Finally, the civics test requires you to study 100 possible questions about American government and history. The interviewer will randomly choose 10 questions to ask you, and you must answer at least six of them correctly.
This may sound scary at first, but if you use the resources below to prepare, you are sure to pass your English exam!
Do note that not everyone has to take the U.S. citizenship English test in order to become a citizen. Review this page to see if you qualify for an exemption (an allowance not to take the test).
Top 6 Free Resources to Prepare for the U.S. Citizenship English Test
Along with the U.S. citizenship English test study tools below, it is always helpful to get some general English practice, too. FluentU is a great tool for this type of practice.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
The videos are organized by level and FluentU even suggests videos to you based on what you have already learned. It is a fun and simple way to learn English as native speakers really use it. This can prepare you for any interaction with your interviewer and boost your confidence on test day.
Test-Guide is a website with 14 different U.S. citizenship question sets and practice tests from which to choose.
The question sets provide civics questions that you can answer one-by-one. You immediately get the answer and explanation after each question.
The practice tests are more like what you will experience at your naturalization interview. They randomly choose 10 questions from the civics exam and show you your results at the end of the test. The results also come with explanations.
Additionally, Test-Guide has reading and writing vocabulary lists that you will need to learn for the English test. The wonderful thing about their vocabulary lists is that they are divided into categories such as verbs, question words and place names.
The reading and writing portions of the English test usually contain civics vocabulary as well, so it is very important to study these vocabulary lists.
Finally, the website provides links and downloads for other helpful resources such as study guides and audio recordings of the tests in both Spanish and English.
US Citizenship Podcast
US Citizenship Podcast is a site with a large variety of practice resources for the citizenship test.
For starters, they have a video playlist on YouTube with more than 25 mock interviews. In other words, they have filmed videos acting out what the interview will be like. Watching them will help you know what to expect and aid you in the speaking portion of the test.
They also have material for specific questions the interviewer might ask you, such as your contact information or your marital history. There are 30 sections in total, but breaking it down into small pieces is very helpful for your memory.
US Citizenship Podcast also has a number of quizzes that you can take. Some of the quizzes have regular multiple choice questions and others have you match vocabulary words with the images that depict (show) them.
Lastly, there are many additional resource links and downloads for both civics and English knowledge.
Essa Group offers resources for sale such as study books and classes in the Washington, D.C. area for prospective citizens.
They also have an extremely helpful YouTube channel full of practice videos that are free to everyone. Their videos cover all kinds of subjects like tips for how to pass the English test and how to understand the application process.
One of my favorite videos they have posted is about the speaking portion of the exam. They go over the different questions you will be asked during the interview and also review commands that you will be given. For example, the interviewer will say things like “Please be seated” and “Please hand me your passport.”
Another video from Essa Group that I recommend shows a practice test that covers the civics, reading and writing portions of the exam. This is a great way to simulate the actual English test and see how many answers you get correct and which areas you need to practice more.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
The USCIS site is the one you should be checking frequently for updates and information about the citizenship English test. This is the official U.S. Government site for those looking to become American citizens.
They have a range of study materials for the English test including flashcards and practice exercises for understanding the commands you will be given. You can focus on specific vocabulary for the reading and writing sections.
They also have a list of all 100 potential civics questions that you could be asked. Remember that you will only be asked 10 of these during your interview, but it is necessary to study all of them.
They provide additional study materials geared toward the civics test, including written translations and audio recordings of the questions and flashcards.
Minnesota Literacy Council PDF
This PDF from the Minnesota Literacy Council is one I highly recommend downloading before your interview.
It is separated into questions the interviewer will ask you and possible answers you can give him or her. It covers everything from straightforward answers to ones that may differ depending on your circumstances.
Next to those questions, you will see appropriate responses, whether it is an action (like sitting down when you are told to) or a statement you should say out loud.
After all of the basic questions, the PDF contains reading and writing tests that you will need to practice.
You can certainly practice this mock interview alone, but it would probably be more beneficial to give it to a friend and have them play the role of the interviewer while you answer questions and follow commands.
USCitizenshipSupport covers the reading, writing and civics tests, as well as basic commands and how to make small talk (light conversation).
They provide quizzes, flashcards and vocabulary tests where you fill in the blanks of sentences.
The Commands and Small Talk sections each contain audio recordings of the sentences so that you can also practice your listening skills. Additionally, they provide you with sample responses to small talk questions like how to talk about the weather or how to respond during a greeting.
With such amazing resources available, there is absolutely no reason to show up unprepared for your English test. I wish you all the best on your exam and look forward to welcoming you as a fellow American citizen in the near future!
Camille Turner is an experienced freelance writer and ESL teacher.
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.