Section 312 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that most applicants for naturalization demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including the ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage of the English language, as well as a knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics). This document provides a general description of how the English portion of the U.S. Naturalization Test is evaluated and scored by Officers of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These evaluation and scoring guidelines will not change with the implementation of the redesigned naturalization test.
SPEAKING: An applicant’s verbal skills are determined by the applicant’s answers to questions normally asked by USCIS officers during the naturalization eligibility interview. USCIS officers are required to repeat and rephrase questions until the officer is satisfied that the applicant either fully understands the question or does not understand English. If the applicant generally understands and can respond meaningfully to questions relevant to the determination of eligibility, the applicant has demonstrated the ability to speak English.
READING: To sufficiently demonstrate the ability to read in English, applicants must read one sentence out of three sentences in a manner suggesting to the USCIS officer that the applicant appears to understand the meaning of the sentence. Applicants shall not be failed because of their accent when speaking English. A general description of how the reading test is scored follows:
. Reads one sentence without extended pauses
. Reads all content words but may omit short words that do not interfere with the meaning of the sentence
. May make pronunciation or intonation errors that do not interfere with the meaning of the sentence
. Does not read the sentence
. Omits a content word or substitutes another word for a content word
. Pauses for extended periods of time while reading the sentence
. Makes pronunciation or intonation errors that interfere with the meaning of the sentence
WRITING: To sufficiently demonstrate the ability to write in English, the applicant must write one sentence, out of three sentences, in a manner that would be understandable as written to the USCIS Officer. An applicant shall not be failed because of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation errors unless the errors would prevent understanding of the meaning of the sentence. A general description of how the writing portion is scored follows:
. Has the same general meaning as the dictated sentence
. May contain some grammatical, spelling, punctuation, or capitalization errors that do not interfere with the meaning of the sentence
. May omit short words that do not interfere with the meaning of the sentence
. Numbers may be spelled out or written as digits
. Writes nothing or only one or two isolated words
. Completely illegible
. Writes a different sentence or words
. Written sentence does not communicate the meaning of the dictated sentence
According to regulation, applicants who fail the English literacy and/or civics test during their first examination will be rescheduled to appear for a second opportunity to take the test (8 CFR 312.5).
The English language requirement may be waived for an applicant who on the date of filing the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, was over 50 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years or was over 55 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 15 years. If either exemption applies, the applicant is not tested in English and may take the civics examination in the applicant’s language of choice. An applicant who, on the date of filing the application, was over 65 years old and has been a permanent resident for 20 years is not tested in English and qualifies to take a simpler version of the civics test in the applicant’s language of choice. Also, both the English language and civics requirements for naturalization are waived for applicants who are unable to comply with these requirements because of a medical or physical impairment. To achieve a passing score on the civics test, applicants are required to answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly.
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