January 30, 2006

Is the U.S. Citizenship Exam Too Easy?

Posted in Me, Politics at 8:59 pm by mj

Yinghua’s citizenship interview is coming up, so we went looking for questions for her to study. I figured, “Lord, if I had to remember every facet of government that was instilled in me in 7th, 8th and 10th grades, and perform flawlessy in front of a strange government employee, I’d never gain my citizenship.”

I was shocked to discover how easy the questions are.

What shocked me even more was that all questions asked during the interview come from the 100 Sample Questions [pdf] document. So you narrow your studying down to 100 questions.

What was even more amazing to me is that this list contains the answers.

I wish I’d had it that easy in middle school.

And the answers are simplistic, and simple-minded. Consider, for example, this question:

Question. What is the Constitution?

If you have any grasp on history and philosophy, or if you went to a decent school growing up, you’re probably wondering how many single-spaced typed pages are required to earn a “C”. Uh-uh.

Answer. The supreme law of the land.

Um, yeah.

Did I mention that, apparently, getting 60% of the questions correct is considered a passing score? I didn’t see that kind of grade inflation/performance deflation until college, fercryinoutloud.

The only positive thing I can say about this exam, at least from what I know of it at this point, is that it’s not multiple choice (contrary to many of the online interactive “Could you pass the U.S. Citizenship Exam?” sample tests). That counts for something.

And yeah, I do realize there are some deep philosophical dilemmas with respect to requiring knowledge of history and government in order to gain citizenship. Maybe this is the best compromise that some very intelligent people could come up with. I doubt it played out that way, but… maybe.

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