UK Citizenship Test For Foreign Nationals Is 'Unfit For Purpose' Says Academic

The new test for foreign nationals hoping to become British citizens is "unfit for purpose" according to an academic who has gone through the process.

US-born immigration expert Dr Thom Brooks, of Durham University, said the new Life in the UK test concentrates too heavily on history and not enough on practical knowledge.

The test, which takes effect on March 25, requires people taking to learn detailed biographies of figures in British history.

There are concerns the test does not prepare people for the practicalities of life in the UK

But there is no requirement to know how to register with a GP, how to ring for an ambulance or what to do if someone is attacking your neighbour, he said.

Dr Brooks, who took the current test in 2009 which is to be replaced this month, agreed history should play an important part in the exam, which is based on the third edition of its handbook Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents.

Some of the detail in the book was too in-depth for what was required, he believed, and he highlighted a lengthy biography of Sake Dean Mahomed, a notable early Indian immigrant, and the inclusion of the facts that Florence Nightingale was born in Italy and trained in Germany.

Dr Brooks said: "The new citizenship test is unfit for purpose.

"It also too limited and goes too far to include information about British culture and history at the expense of practical knowledge."

Dr Brooks, who has a British wife, said: "I welcome the inclusion of British culture and history in the test because it is important that prospective citizens demonstrate awareness of Britain's cultural narrative.

"But the Government goes too far in making this narrative the main subject of the test.

"Britain will not be more cohesive because more have heard about the Battle of Trafalgar, but rather if future citizens understand better how to participate in daily British life and make a contribution.

"A further problem with the current and future tests is the failure to address the issue of what we expect from new citizens.

"If the test is meant to be a restrictive barrier, then a greater emphasis on globally well-known historical events and figures in popular culture may make the test easier to pass and so prove counter-productive.

"But if the test is meant to help form a bridge between present and future citizens, then successive governments have failed to consider whether the test contributes to this goal."

The Life in the UK Test, which was introduced in 2005, must be passed in order to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain, settlement or citizenship.

There are 24 questions and applicants must provide at least 18 correct answers in 45 minutes. Some 150,000 people took the £50 test last year.

Dr Brooks said there had been no consultation with people who have taken the test on how it could be improved.

"As an American academic with expertise in this area and who has successfully earned Indefinite Leave to Remain and, more recently, British citizenship, the experience of immigrants like me should be invaluable to informing how the Life in the UK test might be better revised," he said.

"To date, persons earning citizenship after successfully completing the Life in the UK have not been included in any formal feedback to inform how the test can be improved.

"Instead, it has been drafted largely in isolation from the people for whom it is designed.

"So long as the voices of all stakeholders are not considered, the test will continue to express more the ideology of current governments than meet the needs and demands of the immigrants and the public."

A Home Office spokesman said: "Putting our culture and history at the heart of the citizenship test will help ensure those permanently settling can understand British life allowing them to properly integrate into our society."

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