Citizenship Test Under Fire After In-depth Study

The test taken by all foreigners to gain their U.S. citizenship has recently been shown to be more about luck than about actual citizenship ability, according to a recent study performed by researcher Paula Winke at Michigan State University.

Winke’s study administered two mock versions of the civics portion of the citizenship tests to 414 U.S. citizens and non U.S. citizens. Winke’s main aim for the study was to see if the questions that are administered would be easy for citizens to answer but more difficult for non-citizens who haven’t studied for the assessment.

Her results, however, found that 77 of the 100 possible questions that are used for the civics portion were equally difficult for both groups tested, and 13 questions were easier for non-citizens to answer.

Winke’s initial theory for her study’s findings is that the U.S. Naturalization Test has not collected and published much of its data, and therefore has less clout over its reliability as a measure of citizenship “fitness.”

“There’s a lot about accountability in testing and education these days. I think the same applies to our government,” Winke said. “As educators, we have to prove that every test under No Child Left Behind is reliable and valid, so why isn’t the government doing this for the civics test?”

Current U.S. Naturalization test procedures prompt those vying for citizenship to correctly answer six out of 10 questions that are asked by an immigration services representative to pass the civics portion of the exam. These 10 questions are picked from a current pool of 100 questions, which, according to Winke, vary in their ability to test the civics knowledge of an average American citizen.

The study’s results are particularly disheartening due to the fact that the immigration and naturalization test underwent a major overhaul in 2008 that cost upwards of $6.5 million.