After meeting the stringent residency requirements and submitting a detailed application, your biggest hurdle to becoming a U.S. citizen is the test you take during an interview with an officer of the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services. You must show the officer you can communicate in English and that you know about U.S. government, geography and history. By learning the answers to the 100 possible questions and honing your English, you can be among the 91 percent of applicants that have passed as of October 2014.
Study American History
The USCIS interviewer will ask you 10 questions about how the U.S. government operates, the Constitution, the flag, national holidays and key historical events from the list of 100 found on the USCIS citizenship website. You must answer six out of 10 to pass this verbal exam. Because you don't know which questions the interviewer will choose, you must study all of them. Some of the questions deal with the names of elected officials or presidential appointments, which means you should keep up with current events to avoid giving a wrong answer. Some applicants take advantage of free citizenship classes sponsored by local colleges or churches; others study books from their public library. You can get additional free learning tools from the USCIS website, such as civics flash cards, lessons, videos and audio recordings.
Know Your Application
The citizenship test doesn't have a special section on speaking English. However, during your interview, the way you answer questions about the information on your application and the documents you provided demonstrates how well you can speak and understand it. Know what you put on your application and be able to explain your answers to the USCIS officer conducting the interview. You can polish your skill as an English speaker by practicing with a study buddy at home or in a coffee shop. Have a friend, relative or co-worker read you the questions from Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, then talk about your answers.
Practice Reading and Writing
For the English competency sections on your citizenship test, the interviewer will ask you to read a sentence so you can show you understand its meaning, and will dictate a sentence that you must write without any abbreviations. Each section contains three sentences; you need to complete one sentence for each to pass. You can prepare by learning the words on the reading and writing vocabulary lists and flashcards USCIS created for the test that are downloadable from the agency's website.
Take Advantage of Accommodations
Studying for the civics component of your citizenship test may be easier if you review the 100 questions and answers in your native language first. The USCIS website has translated versions in Spanish, Korean, Tagalog, Arabic, Vietnamese and Chinese plus a large-print English version. If you've lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least 20 years and you're at least 65, the civics test has fewer questions -- 20 -- and you must answer six out of 10 to pass. The 65/20 exemption eliminates the English language tests and lets those who qualify choose the language for their civics test. Another exemption from the English test exists for those at least 55 who've had a green card for at least 15 years.