For many years, the US has had the same basic citizenship test. It has an English language section that tests whether you have some conversational English skills and some writing skills. It also has a civics test. That part sees whether you know about US history and whether you know how the government functions.
However, for some time now, people have talked about how there’s a change coming. Changes to the US citizenship test in 2024 should be upon us in just a few short months.
You should know about that, especially if you need your US citizenship and feel that you’ll likely take the test next year. We will talk about the coming changes right now. The US government has made some of these changes known.
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First, you should know that the Department of Health and Human Services has been trying out these new tests for a while. No one looking for a green card has actually taken one, but they’ve been fine-tuning these changes for a while. The DHHS officially announced them last December, but they’ve kept the details mostly under wraps.
The DHHS has targeted late 2024 as the time when they’ll roll out the new tests. There’s no overemphasizing how much this matters. The test has remained the same for decades, and this new revamp or restructuring could change everything for applicants.
Speaking Test Changes
For one section, the test currently features a tester answering questions in English. That is why you must learn at least conversational English before you take the current test. Anyone who knows virtually no English probably can’t pass this section, though you can get exemptions in certain rare instances.
The new test apparently will feature pictures, though. Rather than the person conducting the test asking questions that the applicant will answer, they must instead look at some pictures and describe what they see.
It’s unclear whether this new version will make things easier or harder for the test taker. Probably, that depends to some extent on what the pictures show.
You would assume the picture will not show anything too complex, but it’s anyone’s guess. It seems the test taker will see three images that the tester will choose from a much larger random pool. That pool will have about 70 choices.
The Large Pool Discourages Cheating
If someone does not speak English or they barely speak it, the large picture pool might trip them up if they try memorizing any answers. If you are taking the test, and you’re not sure what image will come up, then presumably, you can’t memorize any simple words or phrases that you can regurgitate at the proper time.
The pictures will apparently show the weather, food, daily activities, etc. That makes sense. The test tries to determine whether someone can understand and converse in basic English, so describing the things around them falls into that theme.
Concerns Regarding This Change
Some applicants might not feel like this change will make a huge difference. After all, if you speak basic English, you can probably describe a plate of bacon and eggs or some storm clouds gathering outside the window.
What if you have a visual impairment, though? In that case, how can you describe the pictures without visual prompts from the person who’s showing them to you?
There’s an additional concern. Maybe you have someone who’s describing one aspect of the picture while ignoring another. They might feel like they’re answering the question correctly, but the person grading them might penalize them.
It seems as though the person who’s grading the test taker will have to use their best judgment. Who’s to say they’ll be objective and fair, though?
Also, say that you have a picture of some traditional American food. The person taking the test might speak at least decent English, but who’s to say they know that specific food?
Maybe they see an activity taking place in the picture, like a couple of kids playing baseball. Do they know the game of baseball, or do they come from a country that primarily plays soccer, cricket, or something else entirely?
We Won’t Know About the New Test Until It Arrives
When you think about these kinds of concerns, it’s not surprising that some individuals who might take the citizenship test in late 2024 have some worries. It’s not clear whether those fears will prove unfounded or not.
The test is in the pilot mode, so it could still have some alterations in the several months leading to the official change late in 2024, if indeed it happens like the Department of Health and Human Services anticipates. They’re still making adjustments, and the final version might not completely resemble what’s under discussion now.
You would hope that those giving the test would understand the challenges these new images might present to someone who doesn’t have the best eyesight. They must also consider anyone who speaks English relatively well but who doesn’t know about every aspect of American culture yet.
The new test, when it comes out, should include a sense of fair play. Without that, certain testers might turn away some would-be US citizens who can’t accurately describe the scenes, at least not to the tester’s satisfaction.
Until the new tests come out, all this could just become so much meaningless speculation. However, some immigration attorneys have already sounded the alarm.
They’re telling anyone who can take the test in the months leading into 2024 that they should study diligently and take the test while they can before it changes. These lawyers know the current test and exactly what’s on it. It’s a known commodity. The new test sounds potentially more difficult.
If you take the test now, after studying for it, you should pass if you know the civics section and you can speak English fluently, or at least relatively well. Who knows whether that will be the case in eighteen months?