What are the Four Parts of the English Portion of the Citizenship Test?

In order to become a U.S.citizen, Congress has set out two main educational requirements. Successful applicants need to show that they are proficient at the English language and also have a foundational knowledge of US history and government.

For the English portion of the Naturalization exam, it is certainly not required to be fluent or flawless in terms of English skills. However, USCIS does require the applicants meet certain minimum English standards in four specific areas: reading, writing, speaking and understanding English. Overall, the first 3 elements are explicitly required by USCIS, and the fourth element – understanding English – is implied within the other three.

Reading English:

In order to pass the reading section of the English test, an applicant must successfully read a basic English sentence. She has up to three possible attempts with three different sentences. As soon as the applicant reads a sentence correctly, she will have passed the reading section of the English test.

The USCIS officer administering the test at the interview, must be able to understand what the applicant is reading. Perfection is not required, and short pauses are acceptable. Also, some words in the sentence are more important than others. USCIS calls the important words “content words” and these must be read back to your officer. However if the applicant skips over less important words (such as an article like “a” or “an”) this is acceptable and will not keep an applicant from passing the reading portion of the test).

Writing English:

The writing section of the English exam requires that the applicant successfully write a basic English sentence so that the officer understands it. The USCIS officer will dictate a sentence and an applicant will need to right down the sentence either on a piece of paper or on a computer tablet. Typically, it is much more difficult to write the sentence on a computer tablet because the stylus can be difficult to maneuver. however, USCIS officers understand that the writing test does not require perfect penmanship but basic legibility.

Applicants will have up to three possible attempts in which they are asked to write up to three different sentences. As soon as an applicant is able to successfully right one of the sentences (as long as it is within the third attempt), she will have passed the writing portion of the English test to become a U.S. Citizen.

Also keep in mind that absolute perfection is not required to pass the writing test. However, it is not allowed to abbreviate any words in the sentence, and if she writes different words,, this will also usually result I’m feeling to pass the test for a specific sentence.

Speaking English:

The third specific element of the English portion of the Naturalization exam is successfully demonstrating to the USCIS officer that the applicant can speak English. the interviewing officer assesses the applicant’s ability to speak English throughout the entire interview. Therefore there is not a specific isolated test or the officer will ask you speak something in particular – that is handled by the reading portion of the English test. The speaking element of the English test is gauged throughout the entire naturalization interview as the officer ass questions about the applicants eligibility, travel, and past immigration history.

Overall, the English speaking requirement is that the applicant needs to “generally understand and respond meaningfully” do the interviewing officer’s questions. being able to speak English proficiently is required for a citizenship applicant to take the oath. USCIS will require an applicant to develop Proficiency in speaking English unless she can show she is eligible for a waiver of the oath requirement or otherwise meets a specific exception.

Understanding English:

The fourth overall requirement in order to pass the English portion of the citizenship exam is demonstrating the ability to understand English. This “understanding” requirement is implied within the three other specific requirements: Reading, Writing, and speaking English. A USCIS officer must fail an applicant who somehow has the ability to speak, write or read certain words in English without truly understanding the heart of what those words mean. The US Congress has made the correct choice in requiring that new US citizens understand basic English because this skill is indeed necessary to function successfully within the United States.


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