Are You Smarter Than An Applicant For U.S. Citizenship?

Happy Independence Day! It’s the Fourth of July, a day to celebrate our country’s birth. Most Americans are too busy grilling or setting up fireworks displays to stop and think about the real meaning behind the holiday. Some citizens, however, are fully aware of the day’s meaning and rejoice that they can celebrate it as a citizen. In this category are newly naturalized citizens who may just be smarter than a native born citizen because they have had to pass a test to become a citizen.

Naturalization, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), is a way a person who was not born in the U.S. voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen.If you are born in this country, you don’t have a choice in the matter; you are automatically a U.S. citizen even if you don’t know squat about your home country. Naturalization extends to the new citizen the same rights, benefits, and responsibilities as native born citizens have, including the right to vote. Unfortunately, for many citizens, having the right to vote and actually exercising that right are two different things.

Each year USCIS, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, welcomes approximately 680,000 citizens through naturalization. To no one’s surprise, Mexico is the country from which most new U.S. citizens come. And nearly half of all  new citizens live in three states–California, Florida, and New York. But these new citizens didn’t simply fill out some paperwork, pay a fee, and become citizens. Oh, no! The process is way more complicated than that.

In order to be naturalized, an individual has to meet certain basic requirements. He must, among other requirements, be 18 years or older, be a permanent resident of the U.S. (think green card) for five years, and be able to read, write, and speak basic English. In addition, and the kicker, the applicant must pass a test on U.S. history and government.

The civics test administered by USCIS isn’t a pop quiz and is not multiple choice. From a list of 100 set questions, an USCIS officer will randomly select ten questions which are read to the applicant in English. Six of the ten questions must be verbally answered correctly  in order to pass the test. Applicants are  aided in exam preparation by being given access to the list of the 100 questions (and answers!) for the exam. Apparently most applicants do study because in 2016, the overall pass rate for the civics test was 91%.

While applicants fare well on the test, native born citizens would likely fail if they took the test. In fact, a poll conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies found that 64% of American citizens would not pass this test. Yikes! How hard can the test be? Well, let’s take a look at some of the questions, and you can determine for yourself.

Of course applicants are expected to know something about the physical makeup of the country to which they desire to swear allegiance. Therefore, several geography questions are asked. Can you answer these select questions?

Name one of the two longest rivers in the United. [One answer is pretty  obvious, but I’ll bet not too many of us can name BOTH.] ANSWER: Mississippi and Missouri Rivers

What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States? [You have to know your east from your west to answer this question.] ANSWER: Atlantic Ocean

Name one of the 13 states which border Canada. [Hint: If you are directionally challenged, Canada is our NORTHERN neighbor.] ANSWER: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Alaska

Name one of the 4 states which borders Mexico.  [A border wall may be coming to one of these locations…..] ANSWER: California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico

OK, geography may not be that difficult. How much American history do you remember? Try your hand at answering these questions.

Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? [I love questions about authors!] ANSWER: Thomas Jefferson

Name three of the original 13 states. [I took Georgia History in the 8th grade and I am therefore positive of one of the answers.] ANSWER: New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina

When was the Declaration of Independence signed? [If you miss this, you need to be hitting the history books rather than the beach or pool today.] ANSWER: July 4, 1776

Who was the U.S. President during World War I? [Remember, there were TWO world wars. World War I came first.] ANSWER: Woodrow Wilson

What countries did the U.S. fight in World War II? [Think of a World War II movie like “Tora, Tora, Tora” if you get stumped.] ANSWER: Germany, Italy, and Japan

In my opinion, the most difficult section of the citizenship test is the questions about the U.S government itself. Unless you live under a boulder (forget a rock), you should know who the country’s current president is and with which political party he is affiliated. Beyond that, the sample questions below might be a bit more challenging.

How many voting members are there of the House of Representatives? [It isn’t a math test, but you do need to know some numbers.] ANSWER: 435

Who is the current Speaker of the House? [HINT: She’s a she.] ANSWER: Nancy Pelosi

For how long do we elect senators to serve? [HINT: It isn’t lucky seven.] ANSWER: 6 years

How many Supreme Court justices are there? [HINT: If you read a recent blog of mine, you’d know the answer.] ANSWER: 9

Who becomes president if the president and the vice president cannot serve? [This is the person who’ll be running the country if Donald Trump and Mike Pence are both taken out.] ANSWER: The Speaker of the House (who, as we saw above, is currently Nancy Pelosi)

Who is now the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? [You have one of nine justices from which to choose] ANSWER: John Roberts

How many amendments are there to the U.S. Constitution? [HINT: It has to be more than one since “amendments” is a plural word.] ANSWER: 27

How’d you do? Are you smarter than an applicant for U.S. citizenship? All 100 questions (with the correct answers) on the U.S. citizenship test can be found online. A fun thing to do on the Fourth would be to look at these 100 questions and see how much you know-or maybe don’t know. Be a responsible citizen on Independence Day and every other day of the year by being in the know about our country and how it is run. Light up the sky with fireworks today to celebrate the USA and light up your brain with knowledge about our country.


Do you think you have a good working knowledge of how our country’s government operates? If naturalized citizens must have the knowledge tested on the civics test, shouldn’t a natural born citizen know this information as well? Based on the questions above, is the civics test too hard? too easy?