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How much do you know about being a U.S. citizen?

Jen’s Jots: A civics test challenges one’s knowledge of American government, history and values.

Jennifer Kiel

November 30, 2023

3 Min Read
Close up of approved and rejected stamps and an American flag on a table
CIVICS TEST: The U.S. civics test is designed to test one’s knowledge on American government, history and values. Could you pass it? mediaphotos/Getty Images

Being born a citizen of the U.S., I’m given certain inalienable rights. When you immigrate into the country, applicants must prove they should be given these rights.

Among other requirements, it includes being able to speak, understand, write and read general English, as well as pass the U.S. civics test.

Being a writer, I think I’ve got the English covered, but this prompted a question: What’s in this civics test and could I pass it?

Can you pass a U.S. civic test?

The test is designed to test one’s knowledge of American government, history and values. The questions are developed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. There are 100 questions, of which 10 are randomly selected and orally asked by an officer. Applicants must answer at least six correctly to pass.

There are many questions about how our government operates, U.S. history, rights and obligations of citizens — and few on geography, symbols and holidays.

I decided to test myself. I won’t tell you my score, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well I did — as well as disappointed in several questions I missed. It was not a perfect score by any means.

I’ll share my ignorance on a few questions I missed:

  • Who was the president during World War I? (Woodrow Wilson) Shame on me for not remembering this.

  • Who did the U.S. fight in World War II? (Japan, Germany, Italy) I got a partial answer in identifying two of the three countries.

  • When was the Constitution written? (1787) I didn’t realize it was that many years after gaining our independence.

  • How many amendments does the Constitution have? (27)

And, then I got to a few questions I think are worth pointing out. These questions had multiple answers, even though the test only asks for one or two:

Question 53. What is one promise you make when you become a U.S. citizen?

Answer. Give up loyalty to other countries. Defend the Constitution and laws of the United States. Obey the laws of the United States. Serve in the U.S. military (if needed). Serve (do important work for) the nation (if needed). Be loyal to the United States.

Question 55. What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?

Answer. Vote. Join a political party. Help with a campaign. Join a civic group. Join a community group. Give an elected official your opinion on an issue. Call senators and representatives. Publicly support or oppose an issue or policy. Run for office. Write to a newspaper.

Question 58. What is one reason colonists came to America?

Answer. Freedom. Political liberty. Religious freedom. Economic opportunity. To escape persecution.

Together, they identify what is expected to live here, what it offers and what U.S. citizens can do if they want their values to be heard.

Our forefathers were remarkable men. Great thought went into drafting our “supreme law of the land” — the U.S. Constitution. That’s actually the first question on the test — something to reflect on as we enter an election year.

The civics test was certainly an educational exercise. I think all Americans should take it.

Here’s the link to the questions and the answers: civicsquestions.com.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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