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Preparing for the U.S. Citizenship Exam with the help of adult literacy organizations

27 Jun 2024 8:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Authored by Sara Geres, Adult Education SIG Leader

Preparing for the U.S. Citizenship Exam with the help of adult literacy organizations

As the Program Director of a Community Based Literacy Organization (CBLO) in south west Virginia I regularly see adults that are approaching the eligibility to apply to become naturalized citizens of the United States. In addition to a lengthy application process individuals must participate and pass an exam. Adult CBLO’s across Virginia provide programs to prepare applicants to successfully pass this exam which tests the individual's civics knowledge and English language proficiency.

American History and Civics

Applicants are required to learn 100 American History and Civics questions. During the exam applicants will be asked a random series of 10 questions and required to correctly answer 6. Here is an example of questions, answers provided at the end of article:

  1. Under our constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?
  2. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the Constitution, who was one of the writers?
  3. What is one reason colonists came to America?

CBLO Citizenship Preparation classes teach learners the context behind these questions and provide opportunity to practice and drill USCIS expected answers.

Reading and Writing

To demonstrate sufficient English literacy skills applicants must pass the reading and writing portions of the exam. Applicants will be given a USCIS randomly selected sentence and asked to read out loud. The applicant will be given three opportunities to correctly read one sentence. For the writing section, applicants will be dictated a USCIS randomly selected sentence and asked to write on an electronic tablet. Again, the applicant will have three opportunities to correctly write one sentence.

Adults who participate in Citizenship Preparation classes are encouraged to co-enroll in appropriately leveled ESOL classes to ensure literacy levels are in accordance with USCIS expectations. Additionally, applicants should be exposed to and encouraged to practice the vocabulary that may be used.

Here are some example sentences:

        People in the United States have the right to freedom of speech.

        Delaware was one of the first states of the United States.

        Lincoln was the President during the first world war.

Speaking and Listening

Finally, applicants are given an oral interview based on the questions from the application, N-400 Form. These questions include complex vocabulary with legal phrasing that can be difficult for a language learner to understand.

Here are some example questions from the N-400 form:

        Have you ever manufactured, cultivated, produced, distributed, dispensed, sold or smuggled any controlled substances, illegal drugs, narcotics, or drug paraphernalia in violation or regulation of the U.S. state, the United States, or a foreign country.

        Do you now have, or did you ever have, a hereditary title or an order of nobility in any foreign country

Citizenship Preparation classes break down complex legalese into manageable concepts to ensure applicants have a real and true understanding and are able to respond swiftly and appropriately.

Through this short article you can see that becoming a citizen can be a challenging process that requires that applicants study and prepare. Adult CBLO’s that provide Citizenship Preparation classes ensure that language learners have equity in becoming a citizen of the United States through the support of structured classes.

American History and Civics answers:


        To print money

        To declare war

        To create an army

        To make treaties


        (James) Madison

        (Alexander) Hamilton

        (John) Jay




        Political liberty

        Religious freedom

        Economic opportunity

        Practice their religion

        Escape persecution

USCIS provides citizenship resources for educational programs:

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