All foreign nationals applying to become British citizens are now required to show that they have an appropriate level of knowledge of the life and language of the UK before they can acquire citizenship. Proof that they have acquired sufficient knowledge is achieved by taking a test. The exact type of test which will have to be taken will depend on the applicant’s English language skills at the time they make their application.
The test should be taken before applying for British citizenship or for indefinite leave to remain. Citizenship tests are generally taken in English. However, applicants taking the test in Wales may take it in Welsh and applicants in Scotland may choose to take the test in Scottish Gaelic.
Applicants who already have reasonable English language skills will be required to take the “Life in the UK Test”, commonly known as the Citizenship Test. Other applicants satisfy the requirements by taking a course of combined English language and citizenship classes. To work out what standard of English they have applicants can take an assessment test at their local college of further education or at a “learndirect” centre.
The UK Border Agency has a dedicated website about the citizenship test and the combined English language and citizenship classes course called ‘Life in the UK Test’.
Preparing for the Citizenship Test – The Life in the UK Test
All the questions in the test are taken from a handbook called “Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship” which is currently in its second edition. The book is available from The Stationary Office website or from ordinary bookshops around the UK and currently costs £9.99.
Candidates must make sure that they read and absorb this before taking the test – in particular they should focus on chapters 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Whilst the questions are about life in the UK as a whole there will also be questions specific to the part of the UK in which the test is being taken – whether it is England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.
“Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship” is the only official manual for the citizenship test. Other manuals and study guides are available to buy but these are not authorised by the UK Border Agency and candidates should not rely on them. In addition to studying the official manual the ‘Prepare for the Test’ part of the ‘Life in the UK Test’ website also contains useful material.
Taking the Citizenship Test
Candidates can find their nearest test centre by inputting their post code into the ‘Find a Test Centre’ search tool on the ‘Life in the UK Test’ website. The local test centre should then be contacted to arrange a time to take the test – the test date will be between one and four weeks after the appointment is made.
Everyone taking the test will have their identification checked including full personal details and Home Office reference number. Candidates will also need to have photo ID with them. The fee for the test is £34. This may be paid on the day of the test or in advance, candidates should check with their local test centre to find out if it has any special rules about how the fee is paid.
The Citizenship Test
The test is taken on a computer and there is a set time limit for answering 24 questions about life in the UK. Before the main test starts candidates have time to take a practice test so that they can get used to the way the computer program works. Candidates have 45 minutes to take the main test and the pass mark is around 75%.
Candidates will receive their result as soon as they have completed the test. If they pass they will be given a pass notification letter. This letter must be attached to the completed application for citizenship, or indefinite leave to remain, before it is sent to the Home Office. If applicants for citizenship lose this letter they may have to take the test again to get a new one.
Candidates who fail will have to wait at least seven days before they can re-take the test.