Citizenship Test Questions That Have Stumped Americans
There are probably a lot of things you don’t know about America, including the answers to several questions you’d face if you were going through the naturalization process. The U.S. citizenship test is an oral exam that consists of 10 questions that are taken from a total of 100 possible questions. To pass the oral exam, respondents must correctly answer at least six out of the 10 questions. Let’s see how well you would do with these 15 real questions from the U.S. citizenship test.
1. When was the Constitution written?
Did you say 1776, the same year that the Declaration of Independence was signed? It’s a decent guess and shows that you know at least some of your American history, but, unfortunately, you’re wrong. The Constitution was written and signed during the Philadelphia Convention (now often referred to as the Constitutional Convention, for obvious reasons), which took place over a decade after the Declaration of Independence was signed, in 1787.
Next: Maybe you can get this question about the Constitution right …
2. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
Before we give you the answer, here’s a fun fact. There have been around 11,770 measures proposed to amend the Constitution since it was signed in, what year? That’s right, 1787. See, you’re learning! The number is approximate since record keeping wasn’t as great back in 1787 as it is now, and also because sometimes duplicate proposals got counted multiple times. But that’s still a pretty huge number of proposals. Out of those 11,770 measures that have been proposed, only 27 have been added as amendments.
Next: Do you know our government’s contingency plan?
3. If both the president and vice president can no longer serve, who becomes president?
So far in history, we haven’t encountered a time when neither the president nor the vice president could serve, but that doesn’t mean it hurts to have a contingency plan in place, just in case. While some people think that cabinet members are next in line, it’s actually the Speaker of the House who takes command if both the President and Vice President of the United States aren’t able to serve. Then, the President of the Senate Pro Tempore would become Vice President.
Next: Order in the court… the Supreme Court that is.
4. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
The answer to this one is trickier than it might seem because the number of justices on the Supreme Court hasn’t been consistent throughout American history. In 1789, there were just six justices: one chief justice and five associate justices. The number increased to seven in 1807, then to nine in 1837, then again to 10 in 1863. The number went back down to seven in 1866, which kept President Andrew Johnson from delegating new appointees to the court. A few years later, in 1869, Congress raised the number yet again to nine, which is where it sits now. You don’t need to worry about names for the test (phew!).
Next: What do you know about secret authors?
5. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
Oh no. We knew we should have paid more attention in civics class. Fortunately, you just need to name one writer for this question, but with such a cast of forefathers, you kind of have a lot of options to pick from. We’ll give you one hint — there were three writers. Need another? Thomas Jefferson isn’t one of them. Still stumped? Ok, fine. We’ll tell you. The three writers of the Federalist Papers were Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. A fourth acceptable answer is Publius, which is the pen name they used to sign the papers since the authors were secretive and left the authorship intentionally anonymous.
Next: Ok, maybe you’ll get this Consitution question right.
6. What does the Constitution do?
Maybe you didn’t know when it was signed or how many amendments it has, but surely you can articulate what the Constitution does. Or can you? Turns out, it’s more difficult for people to answer this question than it might seem. In essence, the Constitution sets up and defines what the American government is and how it operates. It also serves to protect the basic rights of all Americans. You can read more about the Constitution here if you keep getting these wrong. (It’s OK. We won’t tell your history teacher.)
Next: It’s quite possibly the most quoted Amendment.
7. Name one right or freedom under the first amendment
How many times have you heard someone say the phrase “under the First Amendment” on a courtroom drama or even in real life? It’s an important one because first, it’s the oldest, and second, it serves as the basis for the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment protects the following rights: religion, speech, assembly, press, and petition of the government. It was added to the Constitution in 1789 and has been an essential part of our rights as Americans ever since.
Next: Let’s talk about the war.
8. Why did the colonists fight the British?
Yes, tea was thrown. But the Colonists didn’t fight the British in a battle over their bitterly delicious beverage of choice. There’s more than one answer here, and you have to give all three to pass this question. First, the colonists fought the British because they were forced to quarter the British army in their homes. Second, the colonists were fighting against taxes (hence, the tea throwing), and third, the colonists wanted to be self-governing. More than anything, the colonists wanted independence from the British government but there were several factors that led to the Revolutionary War.
Next: It’s all about the Benjamins …
9. Name one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for
Benjamin Franklin is famous for a lot of things. Fortunately for citizenship test takers, they only need to remember one thing. For the purpose of the citizenship test, answers are somewhat limited. Wearing glasses, for instance, wouldn’t count. But being a U.S. diplomat, being the first Postmaster General of the United States, writing Poor Richard’s Almanac, being the oldest member of the Constitutional Convention, and starting the first three libraries are all acceptable answers.
Next: How well do you know your presidents?
10. What war was President Dwight D. Eisenhower a general in?
If you have any idea of when President Eisenhower was in office, you might have a shot at getting this question right. As it stands, though, most Americans don’t know when he was in office, let alone in what war he served as a general. If you guessed the Civil War, you’re about 80 years too far back in history, and if you guess Vietnam, you’re a good 30 years too far. If you guess World War I, well, you’re right that he served in that war, but not as a general. President Dwight D. Eisenhower served as a five-star a general in World War II. (In case you’re curious, he served as president from 1953–1961.)
Next: It’s going to keep coming up …
11. What is the supreme law of the land?
Ok, probably the last Constitution question. Thanks to Article VI, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” This means that state and local laws can’t supersede the Constitution.
Next: Give us those beads.
12. What territory did the United States buy From France in 1803?
Here’s a hint—you can thank the French for all the good times you had at Mardi Gras last year. The Louisiana Purchase was an exchange that the U.S. made with France in 1803 for the reasonable price of $15 million. It contained more than just present-day Louisiana. Actually, the land mass was so big (530 million acres) that there are 15 current states that were once part of the deal.
Next: Power to the states.
13. What is one power granted to the states under the U.S. Constitution?
We already know that state legislation can’t supersede the Constitution (see question 11), but that doesn’t mean that states don’t get any power. Some answers that would be accepted include provide schooling and education, provide safety through fire departments, grant drivers’s licenses, provide protection through police, and approve land use.
Next: Brush up on your knowledge of the OG American states.
14. Name three of the original 13 states
You only have to get three out of the 13 original states (also called colonies) here, so hopefully you were paying at least a little attention in your high school history class. If you answered three out of any of these original 13 colonies, then you’d pass the question on the citizenship exam: New Jersey, Deleware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island.
Next: One more question and you’re done!
15. Who was the president during World War I?
We know it wasn’t Eisenhower (see question 10), so that narrows it down to, oh, about 44 or so other presidents who could have been president during World War I. We’ll give you a hint that World War I lasted from 1914–1918, so that should narrow it down for you even further. Still not sure? Fine. It’s Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson was in office from 1913–1921, so he was there for the beginning and end of the U.S.’s involvement in the war. Brush up on all of your presidents here, if this one stumped you.