Cory Doctorow thinks that the questions that are on the current citizenship test for the United Kingdom are too fine-grained in their multiple choice responses.
Is it necessary to be able to rattle off the number of seats in each regional assembly? The multiple choice answers for Scotland were something like: a) 131, b) 130, c) 120, d, 100 — surely knowing the number plus or minus 20 percent is enough for daily life. The legendary difficulty of the test is largely down to this sort of fine-grained multiple choice answers; it’s important to know that women got the universal franchise in the late 1920s and the tradition is firmly established in the UK, but being able to name the exact year is beside the point, something that the test-designers clearly missed.
Apparently the British Home Secretary Theresa May is planning on changing the UK test but not necessarily for the better.
The paper says immigrants will also have to learn the first verse of the national anthem before they can become UK citizens.
Mrs May is understood to have scrapped sections of the test which dealt with claiming benefits and the Human Rights Act.
Instead potential immigrants will be expected to learn about Byron, the Duke of Wellington, Shakespeare and other historical and cultural figures.
The new version of the handbook, expected to be issued in the autumn, will include sections about key battles, such as Trafalgar, and British inventions and discoveries.
I forget what specific questions were asked of us when we applied for US citizenship, but recall that they were trivial ones. The test consists of ten questions on the history and structure of the US, administered orally, taken from a pool of 100 questions, and you are expected to get at least six right. You can see the full list of questions here. I found questions 55, 64, 70, 72, 74, 75, 80, 82, 84, 85 to be testing either highly obscure bits of knowledge (Q 85: What is the introduction to the Constitution called? A: The Preamble) or to require an absurdly brief response to a complex question. (Q 55: Why did the Pilgrims come to America? Expected answer: For religious freedom.)
This raises the question of whether such tests really serve any purpose at all. What could you possibly ask that would indicate that the person is worth admitting to the ranks of the citizenry? Presumably you want people who will be law-abiding and productive members of society. Can you really gauge this on the basis of a few factoids chosen at random?
I suspect that this test is mostly theater. Governments need to have some sort of test to show the public that they have some standards for admittance.