The British Home Office has updated the information that British citizenship applicants have to study. The new version of the British citizenship test and the accompanying guide, "Life in the UK," are an update since 2007, placing more emphasis on history, people, and British achievements — both historical and current.
The test’s online sample questions can also be a good guide for those of us who are simply curious about how much we know or who want to study up on British culture before we travel to the UK.
Take a peek at the questions
For those serious about taking the test, or about their knowledge of British life in general, a study booklet is available via download from the Life in the UK website. The site’s free online practice test includes a range of sample questions, but not the answers — you’ll have to find those on your own.
The real test consists of 24 multiple-choice questions, and test takers are allowed up to 45 minutes to answer them. You have to answer at least 75 percent correctly to obtain a new British passport. In 2012 alone, there were more than 150,000 people taking the exam, with a current pass rate of 70.9 percent.
Applicants who do not pass the citizenship test must wait at least a week and pay another £50 to take the test again at one of 65 centers throughout the country.
New focus, new questions
The current version of the test is new as of March 25. The previous sample test questions included rather obscure questions from categories such as details of UK government and employment regulations. Questions covered the number of parliamentary constituencies, how many people age 19 and under live in the UK, what percentage of people in the UK in 2001 said they were Muslim, and in which 19th-century year women got the right to divorce.
According to an online survey run by the Guardian newspaper in Britain, many native Britons said they might not know these answers. A humorous exchange between talk-show host David Letterman and British Prime Minister David Cameron in September 2012 indicated that the prime minister would also fluff test questions posed to him on British music and history.
The focus of the updated test is quite different, as Cameron indicated it would be when he announced that the revisions were planned in October 2011: "We are going to revise the whole test … and put British history and culture at the heart of it."
As Minister for Immigration Mark Harper said, “We’ve stripped out mundane information about water meters, how to find train timetables and using the Internet. The new book rightly focuses on values and principles at the heart of being British.”
The new test includes questions on famous British figures such as William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Winston Churchill and even the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. There are questions on historical treasures, traditions, holidays, customs and events. You can find sample questions on various websites for fun, and a revised online sample test will no doubt be live on the official site soon.
by Laurie Jo Miller Farr