As America turns 247 this month, one can’t help but reflect on its history and founders. Nobody is thinking about those things more than immigrants studying for their citizenship test, which can be a challenging undertaking.
“They are required to study 100 different questions, as well as read one out of three possible sentences in English, then they have to write,” says Alexandria resident Jill Miller, a retired elementary school teacher who tutors aspiring U.S. citizens. “We take for granted we don’t have to pass this test; we have asked friends and family to answer some of the questions, and they cannot!”
To become a citizen, individuals are asked up to 10 questions from a pool of 100 potential questions about U.S. government and history. At least six of the 10 must be answered correctly to pass the naturalization exam.
Some of the facts are straightforward, like when do we celebrate Independence Day? Or, where is the Statue of Liberty? But there are plenty of curveballs that might even stump lifelong citizens.
“I wouldn’t pass,” says Herndon resident Amy Zettler, who was born in the United States.
Test-takers, though — eager to embrace the American dream — dig deep to learn the country’s history and pass the exam. “It definitely required a lot of memorizing,” says Leida Mejia, an Aldie resident who passed the citizenship test over a decade ago after emigrating from El Salvador. “The test is overwhelming and too long, especially for someone who didn’t go to school here.”
When was the Constitution written?
Who was president during World War I?
Answer: Woodrow Wilson
What is one promise you make when you become a U.S. citizen?
Answers: Give up loyalties to other countries, defend the Constitution and U.S. laws, obey U.S. laws, serve in the U.S. military (if needed), serve (do important work for) the nation (if needed), be loyal to the U.S.
The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
Answer: For those who haven’t seen the Tony Award–winning Broadway musical Hamilton, the answers are Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, or Publius — the pseudonym the three men used when they wrote the 85 essays that make up The Federalist Papers.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has all 100 questions and answers posted online. See how well you do.
This story originally ran in our July issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine.